DEI Voices: Rezza Moieni - Chief Technology Officer at Cultural Infusion

April 19, 2023
DEI Voices: Rezza Moieni - Chief Technology Officer at Cultural Infusion

For the last 8 years, Rezza Moieni (MSc, BEng, CSM, ITIL) has been the CTO and Project Director at Cultural Infusion. The company was founded in Melbourne in 2002 by the CEO Peter Mousaferiadis, and has established itself as a leader in promoting intercultural understanding worldwide; reaching more than six million people.

Rezza is currently managing a diverse team of data scientists, developers, designers, educators and project coordinators. He is working on developing breakthrough educational, knowledge-based projects focusing on cultural diversity awareness and action, including world-leading platforms such as Diversity Atlas and Sound Infusion.

He has overseen the organization’s expansion into the technology innovation space over the past five years, leading Cultural Infusion to win several awards for its technological innovations.

We asked him Rezza 5 questions about his DEI journey:

Q1.  Do you think that the IT industry has its own rules when it comes to diversity and inclusion? If so, what are they? Are there any real-life cases you can share with us to support your thoughts?

It is undoubtedly true that the IT industry–and the tech industry in general–is dominated by men. This leads to a gendered pay gap and a lack of equality, particularly in higher-position levels. There is plenty of evidence to support this, and it is indeed a worry. There is, however, less research done on other aspects of diversity in this industry, such as linguistic diversity, disability status, sexuality and ethnic diversity. Sometimes, the IT team seems to become a “mates club,” and this is a risk to diversity and inclusion of others. The IT department within organisations usually provides services for the whole organisation, and by having a diverse and inclusive workforce, they can understand their customers–their colleagues–much better.

Q2. As a chief technology officer, can you describe the impact which technological advancement had on the DEI community over the last five years? Which new technologies have you implemented at Cultural Infusion?

I suspect I could talk about this for more than five hours. Technology is beautiful in and of itself, but when it is supporting the social sciences and issues of social justice, it is truly transformational. I remember in 2015, there were only approximately five thousand people on LinkedIn with a job title related to DEI–now it is more than 250 thousand.

Our latest study demonstrates [that] DEI people come from other sectors such as human resources and admin, stay in DEI (usually for less than two years), then return to other sectors. We suspect it is a lack of industry structure and a lack of tools that lead to this tendency towards shorter tenures. Nowadays, more and more DEI experts believe they need a data-driven approach to their DEI policies, and for their day-to-day work to be successful.

Tools such as our Diversity Atlas are designed to address this issue. Diversity Atlas has the most inclusive database of humanity’s various facets, with more than 45,000 ethno-linguistic religions and worldviews, and demographic attributes where people can truly express their own identities. It provides instant deep analysis for DEI admins, who can see hundreds of reports and see deep-diving key facts.

Q3. When hiring for a job, do you believe that technology actually makes the process easier or more biased? Can we say that technology will completely eliminate bias from the hiring process in the future? Do you think that by introducing new technologies at Cultural Infusion you overcame such biases?

Probably not yet, and perhaps not for a long time to come. Artificial Intelligence [AI] and Machine Learning [MI] methods need to learn patterns from us before they can be properly implemented. As it stands, they can help us extract basic data, but there is a long way for it to go before there are truly inclusive approaches learned. Two years ago, for a position for a programmer, I received ten CVs, and I decided to interview all of them. Surprisingly, the one with the lead’s strong CV had the most advanced skill sets. They were, however, unable to properly express themselves in the traditional CV format. This goes to show there is a lot of information that can only be uncovered during an interview. At the end of the day, we are all human, and we need direct communication to make many decisions.

Q4. Do you believe that fully blind hiring can substitute the conventional in-person hiring approach?

Again, probably not for quite a long time. Hiring somebody is a massive commitment, both for the employee and also to the employer. As a hiring manager, you want to ensure you find the best person for that role, and also, the employing company is able to add value for the employee. A lot of this information is not included in a CV; an inclusive approach ensures you provide equal opportunity for all.

Q5. Can you name a situation where you learned something new from a person of a different background?

Back in 2015, I had a homogenous team of young male developers assigned to me, all of the same local background. At the same point, I was starting a different project and was in the process of hiring another team of developers. I chose to hire the most diverse team. As I believe in the power of diversity, I chose to consider less their skills. The result was somewhat shocking to me–the less diverse team performed at a high standard. The team with the more diverse members struggled, always arguing to find common solutions to everyday problems.

Initially, I questioned my thoughts on the value of diversity, but then I realised a key lesson: diversity is not just about hiring the most diverse team, but instead to create and foster an equal opportunity environment. It is more important that no matter the background, all team members can have the same opportunities to shine. This is when we are most able to celebrate our successes.

To connect with Rezza: