Are we doing enough to make Indy tech diverse and inclusive?
We all like to believe that we are the masters of our own domain and that the good fortune in our lives is the result of positive and intended choices. Of course that’s true; we are responsible for ourselves and our choices, but there’s an awful lot of “right place, right time” at play in everyone’s story as well.
My first job in tech was the result of the hiring manager having graduated from the same high school as me. It’s the only reason I was plucked from hundreds of candidates for a chance to interview for the job. If not for that arbitrary coincidence, the past 20 years of my life and career would have been very different.
Being in the right place at the right time is something that’s been on Al Carroll’s mind a lot over the past year. He’s the university activation senior manager for TechPoint’s talent programs. He speaks to thousands of college sophomores and juniors statewide—mostly during the 67-day Xtern recruiting period between Labor Day and the deadline on October 6.
Apply for the 2020 Xtern Program before October 6th.
“The reality is that the best, most talented students who we want to see heading into careers in tech are extremely busy and we can’t reach everybody in one or two campus visits during recruiting,” Al said. “That same scarcity of time and opportunity to miss people is much greater with populations like women, Latinxs and African-Americans who are already underrepresented in tech fields.”
Al boiled it down like this: if there are fewer minorities studying the sciences or STEM fields to begin with (fewer than 20% women and single digit percentages for black and Hispanic students), then there is a much greater chance to miss the minority students with the opportunity to apply for the ultimate tech internship experience (Xtern) or just to be exposed to tech careers in general.
According to the TechRepublic — The evidence is clear: A more diverse workforce leads to higher revenues and more creative teams. But despite funnelling millions of dollars into well-intentioned diversity initiatives, white men remain overrepresented in the industry compared to the private sector as a whole.
Unwilling to be deterred by the challenge, Al enlisted his TechPoint talent colleagues and eager partners at universities across Indiana to see if they could expose more minority students to careers in tech and specifically to the Xtern internship opportunity. The resulting one-day Jobs in Tech seminar drew 37 underrepresented students from a dozen different schools around the state to The Union 525 in downtown Indianapolis.
The agenda included presentations on jobs and the tech community in Indianapolis followed by breakout sessions for tech skilled vs. business skilled pathways into tech. Lunch was shared with 20 local professionals—two per table—who told students about their own journeys and what their days are like working in tech. The rest of the day was dedicated to visiting actual tech companies like Salesforce, ANGI Homeservices, Scale Computing, Springbuk and Lev.
They came by bus, in university vans and with their peers in carpool/road trip fashion to get a closer look at the tech community and, ultimately, to see if they could see themselves pursuing a career in the industry. All 37 students were recommended by university contacts who have established relationships with TechPoint. The call to action was to recommend the high-achieving students who meet the Xtern requirements, but for whatever reason have never had exposure to jobs in tech.
Cynthia Lanor, a South African expatriate and junior at Earlham College, said “I liked being able to network with peers and meet people in the tech industry here in Indianapolis. I honestly had no idea this [tech] was a thing in Indy until now.”
Froylan Avila-Baez, an IUPUI sophomore who had little to no impression of living and working in Indianapolis before attending the seminar, shifted his views to “very positive” and said it was very likely he would pursue a career in tech in Indy upon graduating. “I really liked the one-on-one conversations with the pros during lunch time and getting to know about them and what they do, and most importantly, just getting the time to make connections. I also liked visiting on-site companies, learning about them and what goes on from the inside.”
This Jobs in Tech seminar was something the talent team at TechPoint felt strongly about and they decided to give it a try quickly before the 2020 recruiting period ends. As it turns out, it became an emotional experience for the staffers seeing the Union’s gymnasium event space filled with black, Latinx and female students from around the state learning about tech and the many opportunities ahead of them.
Steven Jones, dean of professional development at Wabash College, thinks the recent Jobs in Tech seminar focused on underrepresented students actually expanded their career horizons and presented additional opportunities for them to consider. “Kudos to TechPoint for its continued commitment and intentionality to change the conversation regarding minority talent in the tech space.”
“This may sound sentimental, but it was one of the coolest things I’ve been a part of at TechPoint,” Al said. “I knew it was a good idea and that there was value in it for us, for the community and for the students themselves, of course. I didn’t expect the level of excitement and genuine joy from the students and the pros and people from the community who helped make it all possible.
“Taking a few extra steps to make sure the underrepresented students are fully aware of possible internships or jobs in tech and making them feel welcome is well worth the effort. I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of an impact we can have through this kind of proactive event and other outreach efforts.”