Ricardo Sanchez
Coder, Photographer, Youtuber, Blogger

#tech

We need more color in tech leadership roles

Last month I wrote about the need of sponsoring more women and minorities in tech. The post was inspired by a tweet from Lara Hogan and it also inspired the Diversity in Tech Meetup here in Austin, TX.

Why aren’t there more blacks and Hispanics in tech? The reason to me is quite simple because there aren’t enough people of color in tech leadership roles. That is why. It isn’t difficult to find people of color who have the skills and passion. However, if you are not involved with blacks and Hispanics, of course, it will be difficult to find them, I grew with them, I hang out with them, they are my friends, they are my family, and I am one of them.

There is also the idea that the problem has to do with not enough black and Hispanic students graduating with tech degrees. This isn’t true. While the percentage of black and Hispanic students majoring in computer science and engineering is lower than that of white and Asian students, the truth is that the number of black and Hispanic students hired by tech companies is much lower than the number of them graduating from college with tech degrees.

Those who enter the candidate pipeline fall out somewhere along the way — and the culture and recruiting methods of tech companies seem to have a lot to do with it. — The New York Times

The issue is that blacks and Hispanics who enter the candidate pipeline, fall through the cracks somewhere along the way. You see, the issue for many of these candidates is the lack of other black and Hispanic people in tech companies. Most people do not feel comfortable being the only one person in the team who isn’t like the others. This also affects women, the number of women in tech jobs is also very low when compared to that of white men.

If companies want to increase the diversity in their teams and want to hire more blacks and Hispanics, they need to do it from the start instead of doing it as an afterthought. For established companies, they should seriously consider hiring blacks and Hispanics into tech leadership positions, it will be an advantage for these companies. You see, as minorities, diversity comes naturally to us. It is what we know, it is our life. When we think of minorities, we think of people who are in fact, the majority of people in our lives.

At the Diversity in Tech Meetups, most attendees are black, Hispanic, and Asian. About half of them are women. And a good percentage have identified as LGBT. There are also people of different ages, from recent college graduates to people who have decades of experience in the workforce. It is a very diverse group.

Most black and Hispanics might feel in disadvantage when they see the small percentage of people like them who work at tech companies. I have felt like that before, but since I don’t get intimidated easily, I have been able to find a small level of success while working in tech. Most people of color don’t feel comfortable working at companies where diversity isn’t embraced, and the numbers are there to confirm it.

This is why we should hire more people of color in tech, and into leadership positions. We want more blacks and Hispanics to feel welcome when they obtain a position in tech. And to help them stay, we have to provide a diverse environment in which they and everyone else can thrive. This is one-way companies can help to start changing their workforce and their culture into something that it is more diverse.

More color, and diversity, in general, is good for business.

Sponsoring and promoting women and minorities in tech

The other day I saw the following tweet from Lara Hogan and it inspired me to do something about it.

The first thing that came to mind was what is the difference between mentoring and sponsoring, then I read the article, and while its focus is about women being over-mentored instead of sponsored, the article painted a clear picture about the differences between the two.

In short, the idea is that while women and other underrepresented minorities are being mentored more than ever, the number of them being sponsored is still low. Sponsoring within the context of helping them get a job, get a raise, a promotion, funding, etc.

This article and the tweet made me think about ways that I could help sponsor women and other underrepresented minorities to get their foot into tech and succeed in it.

Many years ago I was sponsored by a small business owner in Minnesota who believed in me. At that time I was a young Hispanic man who had just graduated from a technical school, didn’t have any professional experience, and couldn’t even speak English clearly (I am still working on it). This person knew that I didn’t have the experience but he saw something in me, he trusted me and took me under his wing. The way he sponsored me was by hiring me to take care of his small office local area network (LAN), maintaining the computers in it, and taking me with him to see his clients where I learned about the business, sales process, and how the business worked. Within a year, I was writing software, meeting with clients to explain the technical side of the projects, and helping with hiring and other tasks.

By the time I left this job to move to Texas (Minnesota winters are long and harsh), I had developed a few web applications, a couple of desktop apps, and an automated process which helped increase the revenue of this business and it also created new revenue streams and offerings to new and existing clients. I acquired experience and self-confidence. It was a win-win.

Today, while I am not in a position to hire or promote someone, I can help others get more exposure and self-confidence. As an organizer of a meetup group and a techie, I can sponsor underrepresented minorities by promoting them, their businesses, and their ideas with the rest of the Austin tech community.

I think we can all agree that diversity in tech (and everywhere) is not only beneficial for the people in these minority groups of which I am part of, but it is also beneficial for the company and people who work around them. A company who embraces diversity and inclusion in the workplace will have the advantage of having access to a variety of viewpoints, increased adaptability, and new perspectives and ideas.

There are already many organizations and programs to help bring underrepresented minorities to a level where they can compete for a job or start a business. However, there is still a lot of work to do to help them get to the finish line, or near it. Once people gain the skills and are ready to start a business or apply for a job, we can still do something to help them get a job, a promotion, a meeting with an investor, etc.

I can help by providing a framework and a platform for underrepresented minorities to expose themselves, their experience, their ideas, and their businesses. There is also a new list on Github that I created today where people can add themselves, a short bio, and a link to their website, business, etc. The goal is exposure and promotion.

This will at the very least increase their exposure and help them create those connections that are indispensable in any industry to succeed.

This is what I can do today.