How Stripe’s Valerie Williams Thinks About Diversity and Inclusion

The pipeline problem in tech is a myth, and while the issue of diversity and inclusion garners plenty of attention, tech giants—and the industry overall—make small strides towards progress as reports show modest or stalled growth.

D&I tech executive Valerie Williams says, “It’s not that hard.”

“When people talk about the pipeline problem, they don’t look at the nontechnical roles within the industry,” said Williams, the current global head of diversity and inclusion of Stripe, an online payment software company. “It seems to be a cop out when they say they can’t find talented people of color.”

A study released last year by Glassdoor found nearly half (43 percent) of open roles at tech companies are non-technical. However, countless diversity reports reveal tech companies are still struggling to find and retain diverse talent.  

Williams, who has a degree in engineering from Georgia Tech and an MBA from Emory, has long been a champion of diversity and inclusion. She began her career at Hewlett-Packard (HP) where she worked in supply chain and helped minority business owners acquire contracts before redirecting her career towards her true passion—investing in human capital.

“With my work in supplier diversity, I found myself spending a lot of time with the people who didn’t get those contracts awarded to them—like women and people of color,” she recalled. “I wanted to help those who had been locked outside of the industry.”

In her current role at Stripe, Williams thinks about diversity and inclusion on a global scale. While some of her efforts focus on internal diversity initiatives like recruiting and employee resource groups, her external diversity projects include leveraging Stripe’s Atlas program to create more underrepresented entrepreneurs worldwide.

“Global economic access for underrepresented communities is the right move for the discussion in the industry when you think about long term impact,” she said on building Atlas–a platform making it easy for entrepreneurs everywhere to start an online business. “We can give people the tools to create wealth for themselves.”

Williams consulted on technical recruiting at Google and created talent search strategies at Russell Reynolds Associates before landing a gig as a recruiter for Airbnb in 2015.

Williams worked to make sure people felt welcomed internally. She also addressed diversity challenges on the platform. For instance, in 2015 a report showed guests with “black-sounding” names seeking rentals faced “widespread discrimination.” 

 

A 2014 analysis of some of the country’s biggest tech giants by USA Today found that people of color are grossly underrepresented in non-technical roles such as sales and administration. Glassdoor predicts the demand for non-tech workers will increase in 2019.  

“As the tech industry matures, employers will look to hire robust sales and marketing teams to transform technology into revenue,” Glassdoor wrote in their annual job market trends report.

Williams recalls this time, and the other moments that started the first rumblings of the now well documented problems most tech companies have tackling diversity internally. 

“At the industry level, we’re all facing the same issues. There needs to be more industry-wide collaboration among people who are working on issues of diversity,” she said.

Though Stripe hasn’t publicly released their diversity data yet, Williams continues to work with managers to help them build a relationship with candidates long before they step inside the office for an interview. 

“I try to get leaders to understand that hiring is an exercise of risk and that you have to put the investment in upfront and really show that you care,” she said, recommending managers organize gatherings like small dinners to get to know potential talent. 

“Yes, we can have a program,” she said. “But if we can strengthen our empathy skills, a lot of this work would not be necessary.”

The Top 7 Traits In 2019 That Will Actually Get You Hired In The Tech Industry

When preparing for an interview, writing a cover letter, or refurbishing your resume, it is not easy to stand out. Nowadays, you have to try extra hard and do your research on the type of language you should use to make a great impression in the world of tech.

Over the years, the Tech Connection team has spoken to many employers and HR professionals and have gathered some key traits companies look for when assessing candidates.

1.Do your values and goals align with the company you’re applying to?

Companies want to hire candidates who will not just thrive in their work environment but add value to the office. Before even applying to the job, go to the company’s website and read the About Us, Mission, and Meet The Team sections to see if you identify with their mission and company values. Always make sure the company matches your interest. If you are not interested in the company’s mission, most hiring managers can tell. However, when you do find a company that matches your interest, make sure to study their website and their mission extensively, which will increase the higher probability of highlighting why you would be a cultural fit. Additionally, please take a look through your resume and find ways to connect the company’s mission or goal to your own past experiences and talk about it during the interview. Companies need you.

2. Are you enthusiastic?

Employers stated in 2018 that they were looking for enthusiastic candidates who are interviewing with a company. You must show passion and excitement about the company during an interview. Make sure you apply to companies that get you excited, whether it be their mission or their work environment. Fake enthusiasm can be seen through and will not help you during your interview. By using quick meditation tactics and being well prepared, you will feel more confident and ready for your interview.

3. Are you open-minded?

Another trait employers were looking for was being open-minded whether it be your work environment, co-workers’ ideas, or alternative thinking. If you show a potential employer that you are open-minded, you are illustrating your adaptability, flexibility, and teamwork. An excellent way to showcase this to a potential employer is by highlighting an experience where you adapted to a unique situation to solve a problem. Also, if the employer asks you “Are you willing to be open to new ideas when needed to make the company thrive?” The answer should be “yes”

4. Are you willing to be flexible?

Flexibility for employers usually means someone who can respond well to quick changes or tackling a task that is typical of your role or routine. If you are in an interview, try to give an example of a success story that showcases your flexibility. An excellent example of this would be working overtime to help a co-worker with a task or taking time to learn new software that helped your previous company thrive. Employers are more likely to hire you if you are flexible in your work approach because it shows that you are reliable and a quick thinker.

5. Are you willing to go the extra mile?

In today’s workforce, candidates must be willing to put in the extra work to stand out. When preparing for an interview, be sure that you are ready for this question: “What is an example of how you went above and beyond in your last position?” It would be best if you had an example that shows that you are willing to put in extra work that will be beneficial to the company in any way.

6. Are you a self-starter?

In an employer’s eyes, an employee who is a self-starter is ambitious and self-sufficient. They are looking for candidates who do not need much help in starting a new project or just being productive without the employer’s support. Employers value someone who can take the initiative into their own hands, especially if they have many days where they are busy at meetings and not always available to help their employees with essential tasks.

7.  Can you hit the ground running?

When employers say, they want an employee that can “hit the ground running,” which means they want an employee to be quick and efficient at work right away without too much hassle. That does not mean you can never ask for help. If you do get the job, it is normal to be a bit confused about how things work, especially in the first week. To “hit the ground running” does not necessarily mean knowing how to do your job perfectly on the very first day, but know the resources you can use when you are unsure of a specific task or protocol for an assignment. Before your first day, make sure you look over your job description and the website of your organization to feel more confident on what kind of work you will be doing. When at the office, if you are unsure of a task, ask your manager or co-worker (whoever seems more available at the time). Also, it could be a good idea to create a list for yourself on what tasks are easy and what tasks you are having issues with, so you can work on the stuff that you are not so great at on your free time. Employers want an employee they do not have to constantly train and has had enough experience to be confident to start the role.

The Tech Connection is a recruitment platform that helps companies make meaningful connections to empower and engage diverse talent for their open job opportunities. Are you hiring diverse talent and need a hand? We are happy to help! Reach out to us at www.thetechconnectioninc.com

Angela Benton’s NewME Accelerator Acquired by Lighthouse

NewME, the popular accelerator for entrepreneurs of color, today announced that it has been acquired by LightHouse–the parent company of the Cincinnati based Hillman Accelerator program. 

Entrepreneur Angela Benton, a mainstay in the tech world, founded NewMe in 2011 as one of the first online programs geared toward providing support for entrepreneurs of color. She created the program after seeing a lack of diversity in the tech industry and among underrepresented entrepreneurs  who’d received funding for their ideas.

NewMe launched in Silicon Valley and moved its headquarters to Miami in 2017. Since it’s launch, the program has helped secure over $40 million in venture funding for entrepreneurs of color.

Benton posted her excitement about the sale on Instagram:

Hillman Accelerator was launched in 2016 by HelloParent founder Candice Matthews-Brackeen, former Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Dhani Jones, and Ebow Vroom. It provides underrepresented founders with seed funding, partnership opportunities, and mentorship. 

“Lighthouse’s acquisition of NewME is a win across cultures,” said Matthews. “Our accelerator expansion will enable us to reach even more underrepresented founders and their transformative businesses, which offers even more opportunities to connect all people with the disruptive technologies that enhance and define the human experience.”

The original programming created by Benton will continue through the acquisition, and she’ll stay on as an advisor.

“Candice’s passion and commitment to not only continue the work that I’ve developed with NewME but also to the minority tech community at large is unique and doesn’t come often,’’ said Benton. “Her energy and vision are exciting and I can’t wait to see what they accomplish moving forward.”

The program offers one-week long accelerators and free online resources are also available for entrepreneurs as well. 

The next accelerator begins on January 28. Apply here.

3 Ways Tech Is Fueling Success Towards Health And Fitness For Your 2019 Goals

The new year is here, which means many people are already diving into their resolutions.

Technology has played a huge role in the development of both physical and mental health for those seeking to change their lifestyles.

Here are three ways technology is affecting people towards more sustainable fitness results:

Social Media

Whether at home or on the road, the social media content we consume daily tends to follow us no matter where we go.

What type of content we consume can be the difference from those meeting their personalized fitness and health goals.

Some of the most influential fitness enthusiasts document their work ethic daily via Instagram such as former NFL player James Harrison, CrossFit trainer Elisabeth Akinwale,  or even healthy meal preparation from Kevin Curry,  founder of FitMenCook.

With free access to endless amounts of content aimed to inspire and help motivate those seeking help along their journey, it’s safe to say you become what you consume.

Wearable Technology

Wearable technology has become a top fitness trend heading into 2019 and is now known as a reliable resource in aiding better results when it comes to physical health.

Some of these items range from the Fitbit Ionic Smart Fitness Watch, which allows you to check your heart rate while active and asleep, to the Apple Watch, which announced updated fitness features earlier in 2018. 

In addition, the Fitbit has a built-in GPS to track your daily steps whether jogging or walking while storing your favorite music.

Another example is the Training Mask 3.0 which channels breathing to target respiratory muscles—making you stronger, aiding in weight loss and increasing workout stamina compared to traditional cardiovascular workout methods.

Wearable technology has now given people the advantage of tracking their activities, diet, and resourceful equipment for better results.

Innovative Machinery

Despite many people using their local gym or community track, innovative technology in exercise machinery now allows users the ability to get a satisfying workout right in the comfort of your home.

The Peloton Bike is a great example of the evolution in recent technology providing everything right in arms reach.

The bike provides a personalized private indoor cycling studio experience which also streams daily live classes from Peloton’s New York City studio directly into the machine with 24-hour access.

Overall, commitment and work ethic is essential for anyone beginning their fitness journey. As technology continues to evolve whether through social media, smart watches or advanced cycle bikes, it all plays a huge role in fueling those to reach their fitness needs long-term.

Just over 13 percent of African Americans over the age of 20 have been diagnosed with diabetes and Africans Americans are more at risk for heart related diseases.

Exercise and a more healthy lifestyle can help protect the Black community from these diseases and technology could be a new weapon in the fight to make that happen.

Kathleen Wilson-Thompson and Larry Ellison To Join Tesla’s Board

Tesla today announced it would add two new directors to its board—Kathleen Wilson-Thompson, Executive Vice President and Global Chief Human Resources Officer of Walgreens Boots Alliance and Oracle founder, chairman, and CTO Larry Ellison—to fulfill a $20 million settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

“In conducting a widespread search over the last few months, we sought to add independent directors with skills that would complement the current board’s experience,”  said Tesla’s Board of Directors in a statement. “In Larry and Kathleen, we have added a preeminent entrepreneur and a human resources leader, both of whom have a passion for sustainable energy.”

Wilson-Thompson previously served as the head of global human resources at Kellog for nearly two decades before joining Walgreens. The executive also currently serves on the board of  two U.S.-based manufacturing companies.

Ellison, said to be a “big believer” in Tesla’s mission, previously purchased 3 million shares in the auto and energy company.

Elon Musk agreed to resign as chairman of Tesla and pay a $20 million fine in September over a tweet posted in August suggesting the CEO had secured funding to take over the company at $420 per share.

The new board members officially joined on December 27.

 

This San Diego Accelerator Is Looking For Diverse Founders

A new startup accelerator in San Diego is looking for ten diverse tech founders to join its new program.

The accelerator will house entrepreneurs in a modern coworking space called Connect All,  where participants will have access to six months of free office space, workshops, and fundraising help.

“We saw a need to equalize the economic opportunities across all of San Diego,” said Reginald Jones, the CEO, and president of the Jacobs Center in a statement.

Connect All will focus on tech and science-based companies with the potential to quickly scale. 

“We’re not necessarily looking for solo entrepreneurs or mom and pop small businesses,” said Connect All’s president and CEO Greg McKee in a press release.

For companies that aren’t accepted into the accelerator or don’t meet the qualifications, there is access to free or discounted business courses at the incubator.

The program is made possible by a $2.5 million grant secured by the city of San Diego.

Connect All is now accepting applications through January  16.

 

Soulja Boy Is Jumping Into the Gaming Industry

Soulja Boy is shooting his shot at the gaming industry.

The star has released two products, a handheld and a console, that are now available on his website SouljaWatch.com.

“I know it’s new to the industry. I know they’re scratching their heads and there’s going to be a lot of talk, but hey man, I’m just a person with a dream,” Soulja Boy told Rolling Stone. “I know that I’ve been introduced to the world as a rapper, dancer, producer, but don’t just limit me to that and think outside the box and really give me a shot with this.”

The Souljagame console, priced at $199.99, will not only run games of its own such as SouljaGames, but also offers PlayStation, NeoGeo, PC, Sega, Game Boy Advance, and NES games as well according to Soulja Boy.

According to Souljawatch.com states the console already has 800 preinstalled games.

The Souljagame handheld runs for $199.99 regular price offering 3,000 games plus Switch, 3DS, Vita, NeoGeo, Game Boy Color and Advance games.

With the offerings being pretty broad, it has raised both legal and technical red flags. Souljaboy’s product is a game emulator, which means it lets users play games from a variety of different consoles. That comes with licensing concerns of it’s own but there’s also another element to all of this.

Both the console and handheld are currently on sale along with some other electronics, but it’s been pointed out that the consoles already have a considerably high markup compared to the identical non-branded versions on other sites.

“Honestly, I don’t have any worries at all, any concerns, because everything we’re doing is legit. It’s been researched. Everything has been basically confirmed that it’s a green light and we’re good. It’s partly the people from the outside looking in, that aren’t understanding the type of deals that were made behind the scenes that are worried.”

According to Waypoint, the consoles are normally sold for $90 and $60 on Amazon and are even cheaper on Alibaba.

Lawmakers Call on Amazon to Release Information About Bias in Facial Recognition Software

Congress is calling on Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to release more information about the tech giant’s facial recognition software, Rekognition, after requests from lawmakers were unmet earlier this year.

In a letterLawmakers revealed the company “failed to provide sufficient answers” regarding Rekognition’s technology and have serious concerns about the product and, most notably, who is using it.

According to Axios, Amazon confirmed it met with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials over the summer to pitch their facial recognition software.

The company has numerous government contracts—including operating private cloud services for the CIA—and is actively marketing its technology to police departments.

Several lawmakers, including Rep. John Lewis, Rep. Ro Khanna, and Sen. Edward J. Markey, all expressed their concern in the letter.

“We have serious concerns that this type of product has significant accuracy issues, places disproportionate burdens on communities of color, and could stifle Americans’ willingness to exercise their First Amendment rights in public.”

They request Amazon provide the results of any internal accuracy or bias assessments performed on Rekognition and details on how they test for facial recognition accuracy and bias.

The company has until December 13 to respond.

Lagos-based Data Technology Firm Terragon Acquires Bizense

Terragon Group, a Lagos-based data technology firm, recently announced they purchased Bizense, a Singapore-based mobile technology company, in a cash and stock deal. The deal is the first of its kind in Africa, according to the company.

The acquisition will allow Terragon to leverage Bizense’s expertise in mobile advertising and targeting technologies in key Asian markets where the Nigerian data analytics firm has consumer data research and development teams.

“This move has been a long time coming as it will strengthen the company’s technology offerings to its clients,” said Terragon co-founder Ayodeji Balogun in a press release. “We are united by a common culture of innovating game-changing mobile solutions – this is the unique differentiator.”

Terragon provides businesses insights for Africa’s mobile users with products designed to help clients connect with millions of consumers. The acquisition will help the company scale its digital transformation and data monetization service while integrating its marketing technology software.

“Terragon’s pan-African scale, extensive client base, and ambition is what excites us about joining the team,” said Bizense founder & CEO Amit Khemchandani. “The similarities between Africa and South East Asian markets, and the unmatched technology we have co-developed provides a tremendous opportunity for us to capitalize on the momentum we’ve built over the past few years.”

The digital media business raised its first venture round of $5 million earlier this year from TLcom Capital Partners Lagos, Nairobi, and London based Venture Capital firm.

Google Links With MotherCoders and Women.nyc to Diversify Tech With Moms

Google is teaming up with MotherCoders, a nonprofit helping mothers thrive in tech, and women.nyc to put on a nine-week tech training program for moms of all backgrounds in New York City.

The program is designed to set moms on a tech career path through skills training for career advancement, accelerating a startup, or re-entering the workforce.

To qualify, moms must be at least 21-years-old, have a college degree, and some experience trying to learn to code.

“There’s a huge population of very educated people, but moms tend to get pushed out of the workforce,” said MotherCoders founder Tina Lee to TechCrunch. “We end up with a lot of moms who are overeducated and underemployed. There’s no reason why moms shouldn’t be included in the diversity and inclusion initiatives going on.”

MotherCoders participants learn HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, during the program and are offered free childcare throughout the duration of the nine-week training. MotherCoders NYC will be entirely sponsored by Google.

“Creating opportunities for everyone and increasing access to CS Education is something we have in common with MotherCoders and women.nyc and we can’t wait to see the impact this program has on women across the city,” said Google NYC external affairs head Carley Graham Garcia in a statement.

The cohort begins in February 2019 and has already started accepting applications