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February 20, 2024 35 mins

Ep. 153 Jehron Petty is Founder and CEO at ColorStack, a non-profit collegiate organization that helps Black and Latinx Computer Science students get degreed and hired. When he was at Cornell, he worked as an intern at google, and later turned them down for a full-time role to start his own entrepreneurial journey.

On this episode, Jehron talks with AfroTech's Will Lucas about the pipeline for Black talent, personal branding while still in school, and overcoming barriers to Black students not graduating from college.

Follow Will Lucas on Instagram at @willlucas

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:00):
I think the first thing is first, you can't you
can't get around this. You have to be good at
what you do, Like you have to invest in learning
what you're really good at and just doing that to
the best of your ability. Like that's the one thing
that that's the one impression that you're gonna make with
most people, They're gonna remember, did you say what you're
gonna do? You ran that of event and it went

really well.

Speaker 2 (00:22):
You were, you know, on time.

Speaker 1 (00:23):
You know, you communicate, Like just be a good whatever
you want to be in the world, Like, just be
good at that.

Speaker 3 (00:30):
I'm will Lucas missus Black Tech, Green Money. I'm gonna
introduce you to some of the biggest names, some of
the brightest minds and brilliant ideas.

Speaker 2 (00:39):
If you're black in.

Speaker 3 (00:40):
Building, are simply using texta security you back, this podcast
is for you.

Speaker 4 (00:49):
Jeroni Petty is founder and CEO at color.

Speaker 3 (00:51):
Stack, the nonprofit Colici organization that helps black lots of
next computer science students.

Speaker 4 (00:56):
Get degreed and hired.

Speaker 3 (00:58):
When he was at Cornell, he worked as an intern
at Google and later turned him down for a full
time gig to start his own entrepreneurial journey.

Speaker 4 (01:07):
We've had so many.

Speaker 3 (01:08):
Conversations nationwide about the pipeline for black talent and tech.

Speaker 4 (01:12):
I wanted to get an idea of its current state.
To Aran, who works on this issue every day, provides
enough date.

Speaker 2 (01:18):
When you look at the data, it's about thirty percent.

Speaker 1 (01:21):
You know, back in Latin next, computer science students or
people make up thirty percent of the population, twenty percent
of CS grads, and about.

Speaker 2 (01:29):
Ten percent of the industry.

Speaker 1 (01:31):
So there's drop offs at each level where you could
say not enough students are graduating with CS degrees to
begin with, but also from the ones that are, they're
not getting jobs in software right, they're maybe going into
it or becoming a teacher or doing something that they
weren't intending to do.

Speaker 2 (01:47):
So we're trying to solve.

Speaker 1 (01:48):
This like multi layered problem of like access to jobs, placement, retention,
and then even attraction to bring that twenty percent to
thirty percent right at the onset.

Speaker 3 (02:00):
Do you see enough black students interested in computer science?

Speaker 1 (02:06):
So I studied CS myself, right, So I was a
csgrad and so when I was on campus, the whole
reason I started doing this work was because I did
see that I did see the interest but what you
would find is that even in that intro course. At
a lot of these universities, the intro course is in
the intro course, you know, they kind of gotten so

used to these people that come in and have been
learning how to study, how to code and program from
when they were in middle school. So the professors, I
think have adapted for the wrong reasons and have now
expected so much prior knowledge where black students, Brown students
are going into these intro courses and they feel behind,

and once they get a backgrade on that first test
or project, they're dropping the class, They're dropping the major.

Speaker 2 (02:53):

Speaker 3 (02:53):
So I was reading something a different interview you were
doing it. You were talking about your personal mission that
you found many of your peers owner parts in these classes,
weren't doing well in these classes. And you talked about
this as pervasive and why is that pervasive? Like many
would say, we just aren't as talented or you know,

we don't have the proclivity for math and science. Well,
in your research and in your work, what have you
found to be the reasons why we are not ready
for these classes in so many respects?

Speaker 1 (03:24):
Yeah, I think the first thing is definitely, you know
what I just mentioned about prior knowledge, like if you
didn't go to if you didn't go to that private school,
right that had CS one on one as a freshman, Right.
I think public education is just catching up to c
US education and baking that into the curriculum for high schools.
But if you either didn't if you didn't go to
a school that had the coursework, or you had a

family friend that just was able to expose you to
that at a young age, you are coming in at
a college level feeling so behind. So there's that there's
that mental kind of barrier where you just are not
as confident when you're going into your first intro course
and everybody else seems to know everything that's already like
from day one, you're already discouraged, right.

Speaker 2 (04:08):
And then I think some.

Speaker 1 (04:09):
Other areas within on the campus where students are kind
of selling themselves short is, for example, office hours. I
was a TA for a lot of the common CS
courses at qunell and for whatever reason, you know, a
lot of students wouldn't go to office hours, right. Maybe
it's because of the same issue they're facing in classes

where they feel like if they go to office hours,
they're just going to be you know, reinformed that they're
like behind or feel like they're dumb for asking questions.
But it's a lot of those small things. We're privileged
kind of in network. Students already know that like office hours,
office hours are there, I can go talk to the professor,
I can use these resources.

Speaker 2 (04:51):
But when you feel so behind.

Speaker 1 (04:52):
And when you're not kind of in these environments already,
you just don't feel like you can participate in the
same way.

Speaker 3 (05:01):
With that response, then, is waiting until we get to
college too late to make sure that we're ready for
you know, actually getting internships to be able to get jobs.

Speaker 2 (05:11):
I don't believe so.

Speaker 1 (05:12):
I mean I think, you know, shout out to all
the orgs, Codination America on Tech that are doing that
are doing work at the high school level Black Girls Code.
I think it does. It is helpful to start earlier
and kind of get that exposure. But I don't think
it's too late. I think within when you're on a
campus that is already about discovery of oneself and really
just learning and expanding your horizons. I do think there

is hope where there are students who are still primed
for pushing their their limits and kind of expanding their
horizons and trying something new. But it does take intentional
effort at the earliest stage, that first fresh that freshman year,
because once you the way the curriculum and the major
system is set up at a lot of these schools

is you know, if you try to change your major
once you're a sophomore juniors, near impossible, right, And so
you really have to target and support those students at
the freshman level. And I'll even tell you this from
when I was at Cornell, when we were doing a
lot of work with underclassmen, we actually started doing events
that basically made other people who weren't cus feel jealous, right,

like oh, this is so cool, Like you know, all
my friends are doing this thing and they know how
to they know how Siri works, and they know how
the algorithms of YouTube and all these different social media work.
And they were like, Okay, I'll do a CS minor, right,
And that's happening at the college. All these are students
that were pre med, right, but now they're adding a
a CS minor.

Speaker 2 (06:37):
So I don't think it's too late at all.

Speaker 3 (06:39):
So as an entrepreneur, when you're going through your you
know idating process of the company. You're going to start,
the organization you're going to start. What was the decision
making process like for you when you said, you know,
I'm going to target those college students instead of building
an organization like a Black Girl's Code that actually gets
them younger, earlier in the process, so that they by
the time they get to college, they're more prepared.

Speaker 1 (07:01):
That's a good question. I think this is the lesson
that I have for that I learned from myself but
also try to share with other entrepreneurs, is that, you know,
you don't want to think too much about what you're building.
I think incremental, like solving the problem in front of
you incrementally, you kind of just stumble upon a business, right.
That's what happened for me my freshman year, I was

I got an internship at two Sigma, had a really
great opportunity there. My sophomore year, I came back to
that internship feeling very discouraged because there weren't other you know,
black interns there, or I noticed that my friends on
campus didn't get internships that summer, or weren't doing well
in their classes or were considering dropping And so I
said Okay, how can I just solve that problem? How
can I just get my friends to come with me

on all these different opportunities you know that I have.
And so that was the problem that I solved, you know,
in twenty seventeen, and then twenty eighteen was I no
longer have enough time in the day to mentor all
these students, So how can I scale that by creating
a community of peer to peer support? Okay, that was
the problem I solved in twenty eighteen and twenty nineteen
by building the club, And then from twenty nineteen to
twenty twenty, it's like, okay, well, how can I provide

this value to more students on other campuses?

Speaker 2 (08:12):

Speaker 1 (08:12):
And so it was just me incrementally solving the problem
that was right in front of me. And I think
that's how everybody should approach, you know, you know, starting
a company, right, You don't have to build a Google tomorrow.
It's just what's the smallest version of that problem that
you can solve today.

Speaker 3 (08:27):
And so to the idea that you know, not everybody specifically,
I'm talking about black people and brown people who come
into college aren't ready for the math courses and the
science courses, but what are some other barriers that keep
them from graduating? And then you know, then all went
in the opportunity to go get internships and jobs right
out of school.

Speaker 1 (08:47):
Yeah, I think there's there's so many there's a whole
pocket episode on those barriers. But I think a couple
that I know, I knew already as a student myself,
but then I learned from building color stack. One it's
just financial, right, Like some students just you know, can't
well drops, you know, drop out of school or changed

from a four year to a two year or just
be you know, indefinitely on leave of absence just because
of money.

Speaker 2 (09:17):

Speaker 1 (09:17):
So I think there's there's definitely a conversation around the
afford affordability of school, especially these private institutions versus state schools,
where sometimes just money that prevents someone from continuing. The
second thing I think about a lot is no two
CS degrees are made equal, right, you know you would

think that, yes, from a Cornell or you know, a
Kannessas State or a Stony Book university, like they all
offer computer science. So no matter which one I pick,
I should be good. The truth of the matter is
that academia has not stayed on par with industry, and
so a lot of what it takes to become a
software engineer in industry is taught out side of the classroom.

And so there are two kind of sub reasons why
you know, students aren't able to keep up. One is
if you don't have the time right outside of a
class where you're a commuter student or you're working another
job to pay for school, and you think that you know,
you can just do your classes and do homework and
be done. You know you're going to be sol when

you find out that in order to really get that job,
you actually have to do your homework, get a good grade,
but then also learn how to become a software engineer.

Speaker 2 (10:29):
And you know, when you're in.

Speaker 1 (10:30):
A privileged position of just being on campus and just
focusing on school and all that's taken care of, you
have that time, but many of these students don't. And
then then on the other hand, you also don't have
the curriculum that is tied and kind of pegged two
industry standards, where a school like an MIT or Carnegie

melon they have partnerships with these companies to build curriculums.

Speaker 2 (10:55):
That's relevant.

Speaker 1 (10:56):
But if you're going to a local school, a small
CS department, you just might be out of date.

Speaker 3 (11:01):
And so it's interesting to say that because I've had
these conversations about you know, industry and university is not
being able to stay on par or college is not
being able to stay on par with what they're educating,
and so often it comes back to hiring the professors
who can teach it because they those professors can go
to the industry and make more money than they would, you know,
working in a university or a college. And so I

wonder what your idea is on how much self directed
education we need to do, even if you're in school
for your CS degree, how much of this outside of
that to your you did talk a little bit about this,
and you know, you got a job and you got
other things to pay for the pay for that education.
How much of that self directed effort is required in
order to get the look from a big company or

a startup that you may be interested in.

Speaker 1 (11:49):
Yeah, I think I think for the most part, when
you look at a big like, the bigger the company,
the more resources they have for learning and development. So
as as long as you can prove that you can code,
just generally a lot of the bigger companies with more
infrastructure for learning and development. Like, if you do well
in your classes and you can demonstrate a basic knowledge

of coding, you'll be able to kind of secure at
least beyond their radar and be competitive for roles at
bigger companies. If you're talking about mid sized company and
especially for a startup, they're going to expect you to
come and hit the ground running. So it's going to
require you to subscribe to certain newsletters so you know
what the newest tech tech is, Like JavaScript has a

new framework like every year, you need to know what
those are. Right, You're going to have to know how
to build an iOS app if you want to work
on a team that their only product is a mobile app.

Speaker 2 (12:43):

Speaker 1 (12:43):
That's that's a perfect example of something that, like across
the board, is rarely taught in institutions. Right, Like you
might learn how to code in Python, you might learn
about databases, you might learn about machine learning, but even
something like iOS development isn't a thing that's typically taught
in schools because the professors do research and there isn't

much much research done on like mobile app development. It's
usually like database efficiency or machine learning or like programming
languages compilers, so things like iOS development, which is ubiquitous
in terms of its impact. Everybody uses their phone and
has apps. You're actually not even learning that on average
if you get a CS to be from any school
in the country, so you have to go out and

take a U to ME course or go on YouTube
or get a book.

Speaker 2 (13:29):
You just have to know.

Speaker 3 (13:30):
All that and so some other things that we talked about,
you know, with that are prohibitive for students to get
the degree and actually actually graduating. What are some of
those things that actually keep you from getting a job.
So let's say you've graduated, You've you went to a
mid level university, mid level college. You didn't go to Cornell.
Not everybody's as smart as you run. But let's say

you know, I went to a mid level school, I
got my degree, and I still can't get a job
at the company that I'm interested in.

Speaker 4 (13:59):
What are some of those reasons why, other than racism?

Speaker 1 (14:02):
Other than that, Yeah, yeah, let's start like that's already
that's the three requisite that's always there. Yeah, I think
I think you know, there's there's some there's some challenges
definitely when it comes to like exposure to companies. So,
for example, you know at certain schools, like at a

top level school, you're going to have companies flying out
to be at that career. Fair right, every company that
you know will go out and make sure they're at Cornell,
at MIT, whatever to get in front.

Speaker 2 (14:36):
Of those students.

Speaker 1 (14:37):
What I see at the mid level schools is that
it's usually like local companies, and if you're at a
small school in Michigan, there's no local tech company, right,
so your your access and your exposure to employment is
usually at best it right. At best you're learning about

some org that has a back office IT team that
you might be able to work for. You don't even know,
you aren't even talking to her. On the radar of
like pure tech pure software companies that are hiring software engineers,
which is what you study to be, right, So it's
not like, let's not confuse that you study to be that,

but the roles and the opportunities that are available to
you are more aligned for IT and other things that
are not coding. So that's one of the ways that
CLUTSA obviously bridges the gap. So no matter what schools
are going to your career for if you're a small
school in Michigan, Illinois.

Speaker 2 (15:35):

Speaker 1 (15:36):
I mean, we partner with fifty top tech tech companies
today where you can immediately get on their radar. But
that's like one of the bigger, bigger reasons.

Speaker 2 (15:43):
You know.

Speaker 3 (15:43):
I'm glad you bring up cover Stack in the way
that you have because I'm interested in you know, cover
Stack is a nonprofit Number one. What a lot of
people will ask, like, how do you make money doing this?
You know, because I mean, is this like purely altruistic
or are you attempting to like be like I want
build a billion dollar organization hot?

Speaker 4 (16:02):
Like what's the motivation behind this?

Speaker 2 (16:04):

Speaker 1 (16:05):
Yeah, for sure, there's a lot of unpact there. So
for me, you know me personally, my passion and who
I am at heart is I like to help people.
I'm a servant leader, like I just want to help
people reach their full potential. So, you know, the decision
to start color Stack was easy for me because I
knew I'd be happy every day, Like every time a

student gets a job, even if they just get a
good grade on their homework assignment, I am just fired up,
like let's go, Like I'm so happy for you, and
it doesn't matter how big we get, I'll always kind
of have that local mindset of like, if we can
help one student, we're successful. So that's just me. That
was my motivation personally obviously. So I started color Stack

May twenty twenty, so this is beginning kind of peak
of the pandemic. And so for me, I mean I
still knew rationally speaking that like, I had to make
this work financially. I had an offer at Google that
I had accepted at the time. Actually so I was
heading to Google, was to be to be an associated
product manager. And basically my calculation internally was, hey, I

know I'm not going to make the same amount that
I would make if I was a product manager in industry,
but I want to be paid kind of respect, you know,
appropriately for my time and effort working on color Stack
full time. And so I first sought out to raise
enough money to do that. So my first goal was
raised enough money to do this full time for at
least a couple of years. So we got an incubation

deal with Triple Byte, and that's that was amazing. They
were so supportive they got us off the ground, and today,
I mean we have a full time team of six
two contractors, and we fund that mainly through corporate sponsorships.
So similar to you know, even Afrotech. How you know,
you guys do an event, you have all these sponsors,
they come in and kind of try to attract talent.
We're doing the same thing kind of all year round

through events and engagement with our students and companies budget
for it. Like we're becoming a line item in university
recruiting budgets where they're like, hey, all right, we're doing
a new strategy for twenty twenty three. We got to
hit Aprotech, we gotta hit Grace Hopper, and we got
a partner.

Speaker 2 (18:10):
With color Stack.

Speaker 4 (18:12):
I love that.

Speaker 3 (18:13):
But when you go to a company and you say, look,
I'm going to help you with your black talent, there's
ninety nine people who came before you who said I
can do that, and one hundred and nine coming after
you who.

Speaker 4 (18:25):
Said I can do that.

Speaker 3 (18:26):
Like what is what is it that got them to
believe that Yo Jeran and what he's doing with color Stack,
these are who we need to be working with.

Speaker 2 (18:34):
Yeah, for sure.

Speaker 1 (18:35):
I mean I think the first of a couple of
early things that I did strategically or I under saying
do them intentionally, but they happened that they were strategic.

Speaker 2 (18:43):
The first thing was.

Speaker 1 (18:46):
Being a CS student myself. The transition from this recruiter
was trying to recruit me for their company to hey,
I'm not running a nonprofit that you can benefit like
that was such a small transition because you know, these
these recruiters were like trying to literally trying to hire
me for the new new GRAP programs, and you know,

unfortunately I said notes a lot of them have to
pick one. But it was so easy to like reach
out to them because they were already excited about me
as a candidate, to be like, hey, well I'm doing
this other thing that's going to help you and ideally
find hundreds of more knees out there in the world.

Speaker 2 (19:22):
And they were like immediately on.

Speaker 1 (19:23):
Board because I had built that trust and they already
respected me for you know, a different reason but related.
So I had tons of relationships like dual Lingo is
a good example, Square Space, some of our silver partners,
like those recruiters, I was in their pipeline. They were
trying to hire me, right, so it was easy to
kind of leverage those relationships. And then the second thing
I connected with He's on my board now Wahabhaba Lobby.

He's the founder of a community called u RX, which
is a community of university recruiters and so we connected,
we hit it off. I asked him to join through
my board and like the brand, equity and trust just
built from that as well, all the intros from.

Speaker 2 (20:00):
That as well, Like that just all helped out.

Speaker 1 (20:03):
Where a lot of the early sales I didn't have much,
but they just because of my background, because of the
people I was associated with, were able to give me
a chance, and you know, they were rewarded and long.

Speaker 3 (20:15):
You know, from from your perspective, when a company doesn't
have black talent at the levels it should, what are
they What are they missing out on? Because we often
talk about this from a justice perspective, like equality and
you know, having diversity, But what are they actually missing
out on? And I'm talking about even from financially. Are

they missing out on the revenue opportunity for having black candidates,
black talent on their teams?

Speaker 1 (20:43):
Yeah, for sure. I mean I think I think you
can you can be specific about black talent, but this
applies to all kind of intersectional identities out there. I
think the more homogeneous, right, a team is the more
blind side you have blind spots you have where you
know you're thinking the same way, right, you have very

similar experiences. You just view you view the world in
a certain way, and you're not able to really bring
in new insight and get truly creative on new product
innovation or even just how your team should operate, or
even just lessons learned. I mean there's a lot of
you know, not every you know, black student is necessarily

low income, but there are lessons learned from being, you know,
in certain situations and growing up in certain circumstances that
could help when when companies have to cut budget and
figure out, you know, innovative ways to get the profitability.
But I'm sure if you're if you're a bunch of
people who never had to deal with never to think
about money, you probably don't know what you're doing right now.
You probably you probably are trying to figure that out.

And that's just an example, right, But I think you
know that I've even learned within the space of building
a team that's primarily black, Like, there's a lot of
inter sectional value from the intersectionality where people are bringing
different to the table. That I just would never have
thought of, and that leads to better outcomes, better products,
better solutions, and better returns at the end of the day.

Speaker 3 (22:12):
You know, we've had these stats that come out that
talk about you know, ten percent of Google's national workforce
is black or Latin X or you know, talk about Apple,
you know where I think it's like a nearly half
of their global team is all white people, right, And
you know, I have the perspective that you know, I'm

not interested in asking for us he did the table,
That's just me. I'm interested in building my own tables.
And so I wonder what your take is on these
not necessarily competing approaches, But what is your take on
You're like, look, we're going to continue to beat down
the door of Google and say you need to be
hiring us, versus we're going to go build the next Google.

Speaker 2 (22:54):
Yeah, no, for sure.

Speaker 1 (22:55):
I'm so happy you brought this up because that I
have the same thesis. Like we we partner with company,
and you know, we were happy to help these students
get jobs. But my ultimate mission and our ultimate mission
at color Stack, is to give these students agency. I
had a really close friend, a mentee that became a
close friend of mine, and she a black woman from

New York and she had a terrible experience interning at
Google with me, Right, we had to take walks like
almost every day kind of.

Speaker 2 (23:24):
She was crying, like there's a really bad experience.

Speaker 1 (23:27):
Right, And you know, I could have went to you know,
the manager or talked to someone on the team be like, hey,
you guy should do this differently, or here's the impact
of this, and bla blah blah blah, but I focused
more on just investing in her. The next summer, she
worked at a company, a startup that was building a
woman coaching an empowerment platform, and obviously the team was

all woman and she had the best time of her life.
And now she's over there working at Fingla having a
great career, you know, careers, early career experience. And so
for me, it's all about agency, Like I just want
to help these students, right, I want them to become
the strongest engineers in the world so that they can
chart their own path.

Speaker 2 (24:05):
Right. Because when you to your point, if we just.

Speaker 1 (24:07):
Focused on like trying to like make these companies less biased,
less racistless whatever, that's just gonna be an endless that's
that's how we got to the point where we're still
talking about this ten to fifteen, twenty years later. I'm
not focused on that they can do that day. I'm
trying to help the students just become the best.

Speaker 4 (24:24):
I love that.

Speaker 3 (24:24):
And one of the conversations that we were talking about
in afro tech was, you know, we often talk about
getting black people into tech, but it's another thing to
keep us in tech because we don't necessarily have ecosystem everywhere,
which is why color tech is important, which is why
afro tech is important. What are some interesting ways you've
found to help those who might be in the ecosystem

but might be disengaged from the ecosystem, so we don't
lose talent that you know, could have opportunity here but
they don't see themselves.

Speaker 2 (24:54):
Yeah, for sure.

Speaker 1 (24:54):
I mean there was some study done that said something
like one of there's like a predict of retention that
has to do with like com many friends you make
in the workplace, Like if you don't make like two
or three, then you're very likely to leave that company.

Speaker 2 (25:07):
And I think you know that applies here as well, where.

Speaker 1 (25:13):
At the very least you need community, which is a
thing that Afrotech does, Like you said, this is a
thing that color Stack does. All these events and all
these ways for you to connect with other folks that
may not be at your company, because we know what
the numbers look like. But at least you notice someone
in your same role in the industry, and that leads
to further retention because you at least have that support system.

Speaker 2 (25:32):

Speaker 1 (25:32):
So, like, that's one thing that I think is important,
and I think people need to know about that. Even
if your company may not be the most ideal situation
and you can't build community, at least you can do
that across different companies through you know, company agnostic communities.
And I think the other thing that is missing a
lot is understanding what it takes to progress. I think

what happens is a lot of a lot of recent
and early career professionals stay in that entry level role,
that junior role for too long. And one is the
fault of the manager. But like we just talked about,
I'm not trying to convince a manager to be less
biased and whatever. Let's just focus on really educating our junient,

like art from our community people who are in that
junior level. Like here's what it really takes to become
that level two, level three, that senior level, that manager level.
Like what's the next step?

Speaker 2 (26:28):

Speaker 1 (26:28):
I think the breaking into the industry and that content
is great, but I really want to see over the
next five years more content and support around. Once you
get there, how do you grow? How do you continue
to progress?

Speaker 2 (26:42):
Right? Yeah?

Speaker 3 (26:44):
You know, I'm still thinking about how you got these
deals versus the people who came before you and the
people who were in line after you, and so because
a lot of it has to come down to you,
you know, like what did you learn through your journey,
whether it was in school or just upbringing, about how
to make yourself valuable while you're still in school, Like
what kind of things make you more attractive as a person,

as a professional, even that aside from turning down a
role at Google, and aside from going to Cornell and
getting accepted into Cornell and getting at getting job offered
from Google, Like what aside from those things, Like what
would you admonish other students to do to make themselves
more not just hireable, but attractive as partners to these organizations?

Speaker 2 (27:32):
Yeah? Yeah, for sure.

Speaker 1 (27:33):
I think the first thing is first, you can't you
can't get around this. You have to be good at
what you do, Like you have to invest in learning
what you're really good at and just doing that to
the best of your ability. Like that's the one thing
that you know, people are gonna that's the one impression
that you're gonna make with most people, they're gonna remember, like,

you know, did you say what you're gonna do? You
ran that of that and it went really well. You were,
you know, on time, you know, you communicate, Like just
be a good whatever you want to be in the world, Like,
just be good at that, right. I think that's where
I started. I started Cornell by just trying to be
the best CS student I can be. The second level
is about kind of networking. I hate to say networking

because sometimes it's just like people think it's like super
professional and boring and like proper, but it's really just
putting yourself out there. Within my sophomore year, I started
to like post on LinkedIn and even little things like
oh I just watched Black Panther and I just really,
you know, love the representation. It was a little article
kind of just a couple of words, but I started
to build this brand on social media based on my

interests and my accolades, that people you know, started to
recognize and understand about me and build that personal brand
so that when they think of certain opportunities, they were
able to think of me.

Speaker 2 (28:52):

Speaker 1 (28:52):
And so once you already build that skill set right
that nobody can debate, you start putting yourself out there
so that people the right person can find you, see
that and promote, you know, refer you to an opportunity
or select you for an opportunity. So I think it's like,
those are the two things that I would say, for
the most part that you got to do. And I

think the last thing is like once you get the opportunity,
it's just like doing what you say you're going to do,
following up and just seeing things through. I think the
biggest thing that students aren't doing right now, we deal
with this a lot of close stack is just they
don't close like they'll apply to this thing that we have.
They'll show up to the first event, but then three

weeks later it's like, oh hey, like I'm they're either
ghosting us or like oh hey I got busy or whatever,
and they're not kind of following through like just.

Speaker 3 (29:42):
Close you know, Yeah, it's interesting you started off talking
about you know, actually doing what you said you were
going to do and then being good at what you
actually are you know, supposed to be doing, because I
have had I had this conversation with several different people
on this podcast about you know, it's sometimes it can
be a faux pod or walk into a job too

early and talking about diversity and equity and include like
you need to hire more of us. And you just
got hired last week, bro, Like we and we hired
you the code and now now you've got your black
panther shirt on. And I mean, you know, like come on,
like actually be good at the job. And then as
you build that credibility, then you can start speaking up
on certain things. So I wonder there and there's a

balance there and and I'm sensitive to the balance of
like when you see injustice, obviously you've got to you
gotta address things appropriate least, but I think about the
ways that we want to be, you know, brother Umar Johnson.
And that's no shade on him. So early in the
journey of a professional career, when you when you haven't
proven yourself to be good at the role that they

hired you for, you speak on that.

Speaker 1 (30:48):
Yeah, it's tough, Like you said, there's a balance, right,
but I think and I want to preface that also
by saying preface is also by saying like, you know,
we we know that the current circumstances aren't right, Like
we can't change today what happened right over the past
hundreds of years. We are here today and there are

certain circumstances. So these are just ways that we can
kind of get around that. But we know, Like I
have these conversations with students all the time where it's like,
do you want to be that pioneer. I don't think
you have to be, and I don't think you deserve
to be, but someone needs to be the first black
employee at a certain company if that company is.

Speaker 2 (31:28):
Going to increase and kind of be more diverse over time.

Speaker 1 (31:30):
And so to your point, I think, you know, being
good at what you do the best as best you
can kind of just reduces any evidence, right, any unsaid
or kind of flaky evidence for not promoting you, letting
you go, like all these different things, and that still
might happen just because of racism and bias. But the

best thing that you can do for your own agency
and your career is just do the work right, because
at the end the day, as much as all this
other social stuff is present, companies want to be profitable,
do better, do better work for their customers, make great experiences,
and reward their investors. So if you can just take

care of that, right, if you can just write that code,
push that product, do the things, you have so much
more agency to add anything on top of that, to
start adding new initiatives because of that respect that you have,
that you have kind of solidified, right.

Speaker 3 (32:30):
No, I love that. I was reading an interview another interview.
You were talking about the paraphrase a statement that you
had here, and it says, you know, being a computer
science major actually forces you to think about things in
the same way an entrepreneur thinks about things. If you
remember saying that, can you speak on that and elaborate?

Speaker 2 (32:48):
Yeah? I think so.

Speaker 1 (32:52):
When I started learning how to how to code, and
friend Mady who hasn't learned how to code, it, really
you're you're trying to tell the computer what to do
at the end of the day, right, You're using this
coding language which boils down into language that the machine
that you're coding on can understand to perform some level
of computation or render a website or whatever the case

may be, right, And what I started to learn early
on is that like you have to be so detailed
to write code, Like you have to think about so
many different cases, if else, for loops, like all these
different things that boiled down to solve some basic problem
like adding two numbers. Like if you've ever written code,

you know that adding two numbers isn't like some super
trivial things like you actually have to think about a
lot of like edge cases and math that you didn't
think about before. And so I remember on this part,
I think it might've been the same podcast. I was
telling them, like, explain to me how you would how
you would you know how to make a peanut butter
and jelly sandwich. And they realized how many stings they

take for granted. And I was like, well, as a
business leader, right, as a founder, if you want to
go and build a nonprofit that supports black and LATINX
computer science students, and you tell me, and I ask
you how you're gonna do that, and you'd tell me, Oh,
we're gonna do events and we're gonna run a slack
and we're gonna get sponsors. Well, okay, let's break that

down into how you're gonna do those individual things. You
have to break those things down. You need to continue
to do that. And it just reminded me so much
of what I learned when I wrote code. So when
I come in and think about how to build a company,
I'm starting from this basis of like I've already learned
and been trained on how to be so detailed in
my solutions that I'm applying that here in the same

use case of like starting a company, where I'm thinking
about each step, each edge case, boiling it all down
to its fundamental kind of basic.

Speaker 2 (34:50):
Parts of the solution.

Speaker 4 (35:05):
Black Tech Green Money is a production of Blavity.

Speaker 3 (35:07):
Afrotech going to Black Effect Podcast Network.

Speaker 4 (35:10):
And night Hire Media. It's produced by Morgan Debonne and me.

Speaker 3 (35:13):
Well Lucas, with additional production support by Sarah Ragan, Enrolse McLucas.

Speaker 4 (35:19):
Special thanking to Michael Davis.

Speaker 3 (35:20):
Something that's a surruno learn more about my guess The
Other Tech The Trut is an innovators to afrotech dot com.
Join your Black Tech Green Money, share this with somebody,
Go get your money.

Speaker 4 (35:33):
Peace and love.
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