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(Pictured with the Eindhoven Fractal team, Suneet Khanna is at far right.)

Fractal is a global company pushing boundaries to create a more human and inclusive workplace. Building its culture based on empathy and vulnerability has created a workplace that is more open to diversity.

Suneet Khanna is the head of Fractal’s small but mighty High Tech Campus Eindhoven office. He’s a huge advocate of the company’s many diversity initiatives and has been called a male ally by many.

In listening to Suneet’s very specific examples of how Fractal is supporting women in its workplace, it is obvious these are not just empty words on a corporate report. The company has created the Reboot Program to help reintegrate women who took a career break. And unlike many workplaces where there is a line to what can be talked about, Fractal encourages people to connect on a very personal level.

Fractal provides end-to-end data analytics/ AI services to a Fortune 500 client list. Not only does it offer AI solutions for consumer-facing functions, but it also helps clients refine internal processes, accelerate product launches and create more efficient executive decision-making.

The company has 4,500 employees across the world and women now account for more than 35 percent of the workforce. This ratio is growing every year. Not only that, but 25 percent of Fractal’s executive team are women leaders.

Fractal didn’t get to these statistics passively. Rather, the company has actively recruited and supported women. Fractal not only looks for gender equality but also wants to include all types of employees, including neurodivergent and other inclusions.

Definition of male ally

Suneet has learned a lot from the women around him, listening to what they share about their experiences and lives. He believes in helping women balance personal life choices with professional goals.

When asked about his definition of a male ally, he said, “The definition is evolving. I’m also learning what it means and my understanding is a way of becoming a male ally.”

Suneet believes that being a male ally begins with empathizing more with the lifestyle of women. What are they going through in their career track, while being fully accountable for their personal and family responsibilities?

Looking around the workplace, there are many areas for improvement. From defined career tracks and professional networking to the office environment and office social behavior, Suneet says we all need to think about how we can normalize this to a woman’s situation.

“I think about how we can make it apples to apples with men,” Suneet said.

Fractal’s Reboot program

Fractal has never been afraid to implement creative hiring strategies to attract top-notch talent. The company strategically retrains recruits with strong backgrounds from other industries, even if they have no coding experience. These employees are retrained so they develop a similar skill set as a traditionally trained data scientist.

Fractal is now employing an equally creative strategy to recruit and train women after career breaks. It’s what Khanna calls the Reboot Initiative, which is now a formal program within the company.

The initiative started when Fractal did a deep dive into the career tracks of its female employees during its 25 years of operation. Why did they leave? Where did they go?

Besides those who left for other jobs, there was a large group that left for personal reasons, including having a child, dealing with a child’s illness, moving due to a partner’s transfer and founding their own startup.

The Reboot Initiative supports women, no matter their situation, to return to work at Fractal. The company works with them and supports them to find pathways for their return. This can be by retraining them in data science, offering a gradual return, giving them part-time work or providing more flexibility.

“It’s been a huge, huge success. And it's even applied to some males,” Suneet said.

The rise of AI

Fractal uses artificial intelligence (AI) as a tool for solving its clients’ pain points. In just one example, it deploys a Gen AI Bot so clients can automate employee support for HR, compliance and IT. But Fractal is also embracing the field of data science and AI in a unique way: to help retrain its hires after career breaks.

A career in AI and data science not only offers workers much-needed flexibility, but retraining can be straightforward with so many ways to learn the basics online.

“AI is so ripe for new talent. AI is practical because it's geography agnostic. It is also age-agnostic, “ he said. “It can be your second or third career. If you train yourself, in two or three months, you’re set to take on a role.”

The barriers to entry are low and employees are no longer hindered by their location. Employees can perform data science roles for almost any client from the comfort of their own homes, Suneet noted.

People who took a career break can retrain themselves and get back into a full-time role quickly through the Reboot program.

“AI allows that,” said Suneet. “Females don't have to be bound to a location. Women rising in AI makes so much sense.”

A Human-Focused Organization

It’s not only the employees coming back after a career break that need support. All employees can go through difficult personal situations.

So, Fractal believes it’s important to rethink what these employees need when going through something difficult and ask deeper questions. How do you make a colleague feel comfortable? How do you ensure a colleague does not resign because of other things going on in their lives?

Suneet has worked with people going through difficult personal situations and this openness has helped.

“What I could do was talk very openly about it,” he said. “Even just having a very open conversation to say that I've not gone through it, but I'm here to discuss it.”

Creating a supportive work environment where colleagues can be vulnerable and feel comfortable sharing tough situations allows Fractal to support all of its employees. Fractal has found many benefits in smashing the standard corporate environment and erecting human-to-human connections in its place. And the main benefit is how it creates an environment where diversity thrives.

A community of role models

Mentorship is at the heart of everything that Fe+male Tech Heroes does, but Suneet didn’t have just one role model in his life.

“There was not a single one. With a lot of moves over 18 years and across five countries, each place gave me someone to look up to, and always my wife, Neha, a culinary entrepreneur self-taught across geographies while ensuring our family’s seamless cross-continent moves” he said.

“In my childhood years, it was my father,” Suneet continued. “He was one of the leading scientists who transformed India as a hub for pharmaceutical research and development location, beyond just production.”

Throughout his career, he witnessed how people balanced their family lives with senior roles – from partners at his ex-employer, McKinsey & Company, to classmates in his Chicago Booth MBA program.

“That community was my role model,” he said, in speaking about his University of Chicago Booth School of Business MBA class in Singapore. “The average age was 37, 30 percent were females and most of the class was married with kids.”

Shaping a better future

Suneet believes in the power of AI, not only how it can help a client’s bottom line, but also how it can transform society and women’s careers and lives.

“Artificial intelligence, especially generative artificial intelligence, is going to help us. That's why I feel happy being part of Fractal because they're not just going after it because it's cool. They're bringing it to societal issues, like gender inclusion, women lifestyle improvement in rural areas and scaling talent pools.”