Black Silicon Valley CEO Founded Tool to Bridge the Diversity Gap

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Eric Kelly has always been perplexed – and frustrated – by the pervasive idea among business leaders that finding skilled black talent is a challenge.

As one of the few black CEOs of a large Silicon Valley company, he fortified the staff at his hybrid cloud computing infrastructure company with African Americans and people of color, and didn’t had difficulty finding them, he said.

“The problem for the others was either they weren’t sure where to look, or they weren’t looking hard enough, or they weren’t really looking at all,” Kelly said.

Inspired to change the paradigm, Kelly founded Bridge 2 Technology, an online platform with the potential to bridge the gap between Corporate America and the talent pool of Blacks and people of color and minority-owned businesses.

The platform, which launched on Friday, took nearly two years to build. It is designed to make black applicants accessible to businesses, connect black-owned businesses with large corporations, match young employees with experienced workers for mentoring, teach small business owners how to raise capital, and conduct reviews. of their companies, among other intentions – all to allow companies looking for diverse talent and minority partners to have a wide catalog of options.

MarketWatch reported last year that only 3.7% of Google workers are black; there are less than 4% on Facebook and 7.5% at Uber.

“Over the past 30 years there has been a lack of diversity when it comes to black tech professionals and the workforce in general, to say the least,” Kelly said. “If we are serious about closing this gap, technology has to be at the forefront. “

The introduction of B2T coincides with the monthly national employment report released on Friday which determined that unemployment among blacks continues to be the highest in the country, at 7.9%, even though it has fallen from 8 , 8% in August.

These numbers explain why Kelly believes the complete new B2T platform is necessary and will be a factor in ultimately closing the tie gap. It is also significant that, according to a study by Korn Ferry, by 2030 the demand for skilled workers will exceed supply, resulting in a global talent shortage of more than 85.2 million people.

Kelly said there are three main areas of focus for B2T: strengthening economic equity; create a pipeline of minority businesses and professionals to connect with global organizations; providing mentors and sponsors to young workers or inexperienced workers to help them navigate the American business landscape.

Several Fortune 500 companies including Dell, AT&T, Hewlett Packard and the Nasdaq, historically black colleges of Morgan State, Howard University and Morehouse College, among others, and diversity-focused nonprofits like the National Cares Mentoring Movement by Susan Taylor are among the first organizations to gain early access to the platform.

“B2T understands that despite well-intentioned intentions,” Kelly said, “the right tools and the right technology haven’t existed to support diverse talent, find opportunities with companies that value economic inclusion and l equality – so far. “

“A platform like this not only creates a greater level of awareness, but also provides them with opportunities to know where future talent is located to diversify their workforce,” said David Wilson, president of Morgan State University in Baltimore. “So it’s a wonderful bridge between talent and opportunity. In the absence of a platform like this, there is a mismatch between tech companies and this desire to diversify the workforce. “

Joseph B. Hill, director of a diversity, equity and inclusion consultancy, said platforms like Bridge 2 Technology can, among other things, eliminate an excuse often heard from hiring managers. “This technology will take away the overused excuse of not being able to find talented people of color,” he said. “In HBCUs alone, there is a load of applicants that most companies never consider, even if they are filled with graduates with multiple skills. “

Morgan State, for example, is one of the few colleges in the country that offers degrees in cloud computing and mechatronics engineering, but Wilson said it was difficult to recruit top tech companies to his school.

“They don’t take these black and brown kids and take them with them,” he said. “Four percent of engineering talent in this country is black. It is shameful.

“So I went to Silicon Valley and met these companies. They recruited from eight to ten schools across the country. And yet, do you want to diversify your workforce? We train about 250 black engineers a year. Bridge 2 technology will open these doors for technology companies at HBCUs, so that they can clearly understand the incredible talent that resides beyond these doors. “

Keisha Hines of Coltrane Hyde developed the Bridge 2 technology platform. Jermel Wells / Technology Bridge 2

Keisha Hines of Coltrane Hype, a tech design firm in Atlanta, built B2T. She is also a graduate of Morgan State.

“The competitive advantage of HBCUs is that they do a lot with a little,” she said. “Just imagine if the resources are aligned, what the result will be. “

The idea of ​​B2T was conceived by Kelly before the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis which sparked a massive movement for social justice. At the same time, companies made a commitment to tackle the problems of inequity. Kelly had already shared the concept in February 2020 with a group of some of the most influential black leaders, including Al Zollar, Nasdaq board member, Frederick Royal III, managing partner at JP Morgan Chase and board member of administration of Nordstrom Shellye Archambeau, during the first Global Intellect. Summit he hosted after attendees rang the Nasdaq bell to end the trading day on Wall Street.

The enthusiasm generated by B2T left Kelly excited.

While developing the platform, Hines said Kelly gave him “an empty canvas” to create.

“The process was really about throwing a lot of stuff at the wall and then peeling off,” Hines said. “We wanted to remove the access barrier. The objective was to bring the whole of a company to a community of resources. On the other hand, someone may not understand what questions to ask when interviewing a supplier. Or an owner may not understand how to do a valuation of their business. Bridge 2 Technology will answer these questions.

“The connections made will not be unique,” ​​Kelly said. “We have created a viable, sustainable and scalable ecosystem that supports every business owner and every business supplier every step of the way. ”

Kelly used most of three years to build relationships with dozens of black organizations that have databases totaling in the hundreds of thousands. Its relationships with businesses are extensive, in both the public and private sectors, he said, adding that around 70% of the platform is focused on minority businesses to large businesses and 30% between businesses and professionals.

“There’s a mismatch between tech companies and this desire to diversify the workforce,” Morgan State’s Davis said. “So you have to create a high degree of intentionality, a bridge to these opportunities. And that’s what’s important about Bridge 2 Technology. He built the bridge.

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