Welcome to the latest installment of Q&A, our regular series of one-to-ones with some of Greater Vancouver's leading business figures.
Our subject this week is Wyle Baoween, CEO and Co-founder of HRx.
What inspires you?
I recently received an email from a senior business leader who told me that she was hiring for a role and overlooked a candidate. In that same moment, she reflected back on a conversation I had with her about our biases and questioned whether her decision was objective—and realized it was not. So she re-evaluated the application and granted the person another interview. This moment of pause gave that person a chance. This is what inspires me.
I love seeing senior leaders–who have so many competing responsibilities –prioritize equity, diversity and inclusion work. And knowing that the impact of the work we do together lasts long after our conversations and workshops.
How do you balance work and maintaining a personal life?
The truth is, there is very little balance. My work and my personal life are so connected. My wife is my business partner, my children are biracial, my family members are recent refugees to Canada, the broadcasters on the soccer matches I watch promote anti-racism – everyone in my life both professionally and personally is impacted by race, bias, privilege and other equity-related issues in some capacity. I think I just started enjoying the fact that my work is life, and my life is work, and both are intertwined in a beautifully meaningful way.
What was your first job?
My first job was working at a computer store. I took the job because I thought I'd get to play video games all day... in reality, I spent most of my days selling keyboards and mouse pads!
I then went on to become a Civil Engineer and worked in different places around the world before settling down in Vancouver to study business. My interest in systems and data has carried through to what we do at HRx - social equity with a strong focus on analytics and practical, systematic processes.
What keeps you awake at night?
I find myself constantly asking how I can bring more people into this conversation–HRx is built on the philosophy of being inclusive and calling people in, trying to capitalize on the good in people's hearts. I hate to think that there are people afraid to take the important first steps because they are worried about getting it wrong.
I have really big dreams for this company, I want it to grow and really make an impact.
Who do you most admire and why?
I get inspired by people that have a strong vision and make things happen.
Barack Obama has always been an inspiration to me. He's smart, witty, and helps people connect to the bigger purpose. That's what I strive for with HRx. We work with people from different backgrounds and with different beliefs. Some believe passionately about social equity and justice, others come with a lot of biases. But our brand is about finding those points of connection. Our work truly touches everyone - it's just a matter of helping people feel that.
What is the biggest challenge you've faced in your career?
Starting this company at a time when discussions about social equity weren't mainstream and companies didn't face the social and business pressure they do today. This was a huge risk. I started HRx six years ago because I believed in this work and I saw the potential. However, that didn't make the decision to leave a stable corporate job, while starting a family, an easy one.
Where do you see untapped potential in Greater Vancouver?
This City has a lot of potential, especially in terms of its people. We have amazing diversity in people's backgrounds, education, knowledge, just how to make all this work in a meaningful way, I think that's the potential.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement to date?
Coming to Canada was a huge achievement and one of the things I am most fortunate for in my life. I have safety and opportunity. Here I met my wife, started a beautiful family and began a business that I am very proud of. I spend my days talking about things I am so passionate about and it helps bring meaning to my life. All of that started with the decision to come here.
What do you think makes a great leader?
There are four values I always tell people that are very important for shaping great leaders: commitment, courage, humility, and curiosity. Great leaders are committed to social equity, diversity and inclusion because these objectives align with their personal values and their business's goals. They are humble about their knowledge and strengths and admit imperfections and accept feedback. They have the courage to speak up and challenge the status quo, and they are not afraid of admitting mistakes and having difficult conversations. And finally, they have an open mindset and a desire to understand how others view and experience the world.
I encourage leaders to surround themselves with, and listen to, the perspectives of other groups.
Who has helped you most in your career?
I have been fortunate to have the support of many people throughout my life. There was my father who knew that education would open up doors for me, my first manager in Canada who took a chance on interviewing someone with an unfamiliar resume but the person that has helped me the most in my career is my wife. We met in grad school and she has been by my side ever since. She helped me to navigate the difficult transition as a person from Yemen moving to Vancouver, and was the one who encouraged me to launch HRx.
What might (someone) be surprised to know about you?
I am on a lifelong mission to find the best almond croissant - a journey I hope will take many years!
HRx is a Canadian firm that provides training, consulting and data analytics to enable equity, diversity and inclusion in the workplace.