Schibsted promises that inclusion and diversity will permeate every aspect of the organization. To spearhead this effort, they have enlisted Sumeet Singh Patpatia, who finally, in September 2021, landed the dream job that seamlessly combined expertise and passion.
Something was missing
Patpatia is a business economist from BI with additional education in art and design. For twelve years, he had a great time at work. He was skilled, traveled extensively, and achieved a lot. At Telenor, he worked on transformation processes and cross-border synergies. At Rambøll, his job included generating enthusiasm for digitization and establishing an innovation accelerator for customer insights and design thinking.
However, something was missing.
-I have always enjoyed my job, had a great time, and been very fortunate. However, at the same time, I have always envied my friends who have jobs that keep them up at night because they are so passionate about what they do. I haven't experienced that until now.
Broad span in life
The position of Director of Diversity at Schibsted is Sumeet's dream job. Here, he gets to utilize all of his expertise, both gained as one of the very few with a non-Norwegian background during his upbringing in Bogstad at Oslo west, and from being a part of the Sikh temple in Alnabru as someone from Oslo west.
-I have had to navigate a broad span in life. I constantly transitioned from the quintessentially Norwegian existence in Bogstad to the authentically Indian experience of being in the Sikh temple. The flexibility acquired from moving in and out of such distinct spaces has given me the diversity competence I possess.
The sudden connection
His upbringing led him to a project he describes as "an idealistic hobby-based endeavor." Sumeet Singh Patpatia is the man behind The Norwegian Turban Day.
-"What started small now involves 3-400 volunteers and attracts 20-30,000 people every year. For us, Turban Day has always had a clear goal, and we can point to tangible results. Acceptance of Sikhs and acceptance of the turban have grown in society because of our project," says Patpatia.
Turban Day became the project he was passionate about, the one that kept him awake at night and allowed him to utilize many of his skills.
-"Suddenly, I saw the connection between what I was doing as a hobby and what I was engaged in the business world. I suddenly saw the similarity between working with movement in business and creating movement in society," he explains.
Aiming to be the best place to be different.
He has witnessed many examples where working with diversity in business is treated as an add-on, something separate from the core value creation work within organizations.
-"It has been a nice-to-have thing. Suddenly, I realized the immense potential in understanding how diversity can create value. And then I had no doubt about what I should work on. Now, I am pursuing my vision and dream, which is for Norway to become the best place in the world to be different."
In Schibsted, he aims to transform diversity within the workforce into a superpower.
-"Schibsted is the best place to work on this. They have a level of maturity in their approach to diversity work that allows me to bring my entire dream to work every single day."
What challenges do you find most exciting in your role in 2022?
-"My challenge is to connect diversity work to task completion in Schibsted. If we fail to do so, diversity leadership becomes merely a social side project separate from core operations. We dedicate resources to it and understand that it is a leadership responsibility. My position should be redundant by 2030, as this should be business as usual by then. So, my job is to provide Schibsted with the tools and design the processes. As a leader, you simply have to dedicate time to this in daily operations. I cannot do it alone."
Creating genuine belonging
When asked to define what effective diversity leadership entails, Sumeet explains a three-step process.
-"First, diversity needs to be established through recruitment and prioritization. Then, leadership must possess the right skills to leverage this diversity in day-to-day operations. And for that to happen, genuine belonging must be fostered for those who do not belong to the majority. Minorities must be invited in, given a voice, and share the space. However, for that voice to be heard, it is crucial that those who are invited feel psychologically safe enough to bring their whole selves and not feel the need to assimilate," he explains.
Diversity is intended to lead to productivity and increased innovation, that is the goal. However, it requires competence, explains Patpatia.
-"Leading a diverse team is undoubtedly more challenging than leading a team of entirely similar individuals. As the range of diversity widens, it demands more from leadership. Time and resources are needed to create positive friction.".
No longer possible to hide being outdated
Sumeet is optimistic on behalf of Norwegian businesses but believes there is still a long way to go.
-"There is still a path ahead, but I believe the new talents, the best ones emerging from colleges and universities now, are looking for sustainability, diversity, and inclusion. Additionally, everything has become so transparent that it is no longer possible to hide being outdated. Just make a few phone calls, and you will know everything about how things are progressing."
No one should believe that having a picture on the website featuring people from different ethnic groups is enough, according to Patpatia.
-"What you do in-depth and the culture the organization represents are becoming increasingly important."
Now that you finally have your dream job, do you lie awake at night thinking about work?
"Yes, I can't stop talking about it with friends or even at home. Unfortunately."