CEO and Founder for D&A Services International Ltd. Also Governor for Barnsley College

Donavan Hutchison is the CEO and Founder for D&A Services International Ltd. Also Governor for Barnsley College.

What is your professional background, and what does your current role involve?

As the Managing Director UK for SHI Corporation UK Limited, a subsidiary of SHI International, the largest minority, woman-owned business enterprise in the USA, I am responsible for the overall UK business and execution of strategies for my business segment. Having worked in the IT industry for around 20 years or so I have worked for several organisations where I have continued to develop my skill sets which have allowed me to either assist global companies to enter the international market via acquisition or via organic approach. I have been the Managing Director for four businesses in my career but originally started mine in sales after leaving the army due to an unforeseen accident.

My focus on customers, employee engagement but also Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI) has continued to allow me to create and develop solid strategies by always working with diverse individuals with different experiences which ultimately led to more creativity and allowing me to leverage the broad skills that I have acquired over the years.

My focus is not only on running the UK but also driving education and awareness across the business on employee engagement, improving morale, increasing awareness of diversity, equity and inclusion and also ensuring that every person across the business has a voice and ultimately becomes the best and truest versions of themselves in the workplace and in life.

You are chairman of EMBRACE, and a board member of WISH. What do these groups do?

EMBRACE was created to support the growing LGBTQIA+ communities throughout SHI across the world. It started out as a committee and soon developed into an employee resource group providing education, awareness and support to the LGBTQIA+ communities both within SHI and beyond. It has become an extremely vibrant group of individuals, part of the community, but also many allies who wish to increase awareness but also help to provide awareness within this minority group. Since then, we have had many committees and ERGs (Employee Resource Groups) created to include the Hispanic and Latin X committee, Black Culture Collective and the Asia Pacific and Islanders’ committee and our recently launched group Fusion. These groups are all important in not only raising awareness and providing educational resources throughout SHI as a company but also ensure that we are executing against our goals to be as diverse as possible. The WISH Board stands for Women in SHI and is a group of passionate individuals and leaders who are committed to the training, development, acquisition and also advancement of women within SHI. As the largest minority woman-owned business enterprise and having a strong gender parity across the UK and Europe of 46% female to male employees in the IT sector is unheard of and truly progressive. This is borne out of the support that we provide through WISH to not only educate and enable more women to enter the technology sector but to also inspire and develop them into leadership roles. As an executive leadership team, we have many female leaders within the organisation and I am fortunate to be on the WISH board and extremely proud to work for a progressive, inspiring but also nurturing organisation which truly demonstrates its commitment and values to everything DEI.

How important do you think a culture of diversity and inclusion is in the workplace, and what benefits does it bring to both the individual and the corporate environment?

It’s extremely important! In many instances organisations feel that diversity is gender-specific but there are many different demographics which need to be capitalised on. By creating an environment where everyone can be the truest and best version of themselves within the workplace allows for creativity, learning and also better collaboration. By learning about the different cultures, the “why” in DEI and also helping to educate and raise awareness, we have found productivity increase through having a more diverse cultures. Active engagement and providing support for mental health is also key in helping to ensuring all employees are supported. Having strong leadership is key in driving any DEI strategy and most importantly to actively promote this and execute. Having worked in the technology industry for many years whilst it has been very progressive and more so recently it has like any industry and many organisations which market themselves as having a strong DEI strategy but lack the execution part. There are several terms for this such as rainbow capitalism and pink washing. However , it is great to see that times are changing, and the community is becoming much more diverse as it needs to be to ensure we are capturing more demographic types into the industry.

How does one go about implementing this positive culture of diversity and inclusion?

Education, education, education. It goes without saying that ensuring that everyone understands what DEI is will be crucial to the development of any organisation. By understanding the different demographics and cultures and actively embracing them, providing resources, support, benefits and training on unconscious bias would be a great start. Following this and dependent on the size of the organisation it helps to create committees and employee resource groups where individuals can have a voice, can interact with other peers in a safe environment and to converse on how to actively combat any challenges that are seen to help enable and attract talent into the organisation from the different demographics. There is a lot more that can be done but it’s ever more important to ensure that DEI doesn’t become just a marketing exercise and that leadership and management are held accountable to ensure the active promotion of any DEI strategy.

In the wider community we have seen great advances in LGBTQ+ rights in recent years. What more needs to be done?

There is always so much more that needs to be done. The reason why so many events across the globe exist still today is due to the fact that the world is not at the point where we can live harmoniously as humans regardless of gender, age, background, beliefs and so on. Education and raising awareness has increased significantly over the years and this is seen more through progressive media and normalising the conversations, providing more access to resources and support however in order to ensure that this continues people need to act commit to embracing all that is DEI but also ensure they don’t fall into the gap of rainbow capitalism or pink washing !

On a personal or professional level what has been your proudest achievement?

My proudest achievement is that of raising two beautiful and inspiring daughters who themselves continue to be the best version of themselves. As an openly gay father, husband , Guncle (I know that not an official term), leader of a business and also someone that has themselves been discriminated against for being gay I am extremely proud that my daughters, my family and all those who have supported me over the years have and always will support my efforts to help drive a better future for the younger generations. There are many things I am proud of but being a dad to my amazing daughters who inspire me every single day is by far my biggest and proudest achievement in life.

Describe yourself in three words – and what would make a perfect 2023 for you?

This is difficult as a question however I would have to go with humble, honest and caring. Having gone through many challenges myself I am committed to inspire as many people as I can to be the best version of themselves. To know that no matter what, they can achieve great things and that the world, although it can be difficult at times, is becoming more progressive than it ever has. A perfect 2023 for me would be to be able to switch off more, to spend more quality time with the family and to continue my efforts in inspiring positive change to others.