3 tips from DC leaders to bring minority technologists to the table - Technical.ly DC

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Sep. 20, 2019 5:29 pm

3 tips from DC leaders to bring minority technologists to the table

Whether it's attracting a diverse crowd at meetups or making sure everyone has a seat at the table when Amazon arrives, here's what founders and connectors suggested to make it happen.
Coding.

Coding.

(Photo by Flickr user WOCinTech Chat, used under a Creative Commons license)

When you think about diversity and inclusion in tech, what comes to mind?

Maybe it’s having more women in power, or leveling out your engineering team with technologists from different backgrounds. Either way, there are a lot of moving parts that go into this discussion, so we tried to break it down a bit.

Technical.ly gathered a diverse group of tech and entrepreneurship leaders inside Mindspace on Sept. 10 at our recent stakeholder meeting ahead of Super Meetup DC. We asked them, what can the #dctech community do to attract more minority technologists?

Here’s what they had to say:

Know what it means to be diverse and inclusive.

And know the difference between these terms, because they are not the same. Take this as an example: Diversity is bringing different people to the party, inclusion is making sure you bring those same different people on the dance floor with you, and not stick to the norm.

Vid Mićević, senior entrepreneur support and impact analyst at SEED SPOT, broke the two terms down like that, and it makes sense.

Hilliary Turnipseed, founder of Hilliary Turnipseed Consulting and a talent acquisition leader, talked about how she links inclusivity with engagement.

“How are things being communicated internally and around that?” Turnipseed said. “Who has those same opportunities to the same information?”

She said it’s important for organizations to think about these questions when onboarding new employees and to knock down barriers keeping them from being inclusive, if they have any. She said being inclusive is important first, before trying to build diverse teams, so you then have certain tools and rules in place to make your teams successful.

If you don’t know where to start, take a page from Adam Mutschler’s lessons book. During our stakeholder meeting, the founder and CEO of podcast “The Founder’s Mind” and partner at The Kedar Group shared that he has been trying to go to conferences where he is considered the minority, like AfroTech, which he said is unusual for him. He said this helps him meet different people and understand them better.

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Mutschler also suggested just building relationships and bridges, and connecting as many people to each other as possible.

“Let people know the intro is possible, because a lot of people have never been asked to be a part,” he said.

Host meetup groups east of the river.

Mutschler mentioned that the tech community needs to introduce big companies like Amazon to D.C.’s Learning Zones and Opportunity Zones. The latter are part of a federal program that provides tax incentives for investments in new businesses and commercial projects in low-income communities.

This reporter even suggested that maybe we need to move some of those larger meetup groups east of the river. DC Tech Meetup, Startup Grind DC, DCFemTech and many others, we’re talking to you.

If you aren’t familiar with that phrase, we’re talking east of the Anacostia river, far Northeast and far Southeast D.C. communities. These areas are where those Opportunity Zones land. It’s been an ongoing conversation that wards 7 and 8 don’t have efficient broadband capabilities, so our meetup groups, which are often located in Northwest D.C. and advertised online, should change up their locations and how they promote their monthly meetups.

Include all tech skill levels in your discussions.

From entry level to expert, it’s important to include everyone in your discussions when there is training or hiring on the table.

Elizabeth Lindsey, Byte Back’s executive director, discussed how the diversity and inclusion organization is partnering with UiPath, a leading robotics process automation (RPA) company to promote a better pathway for more diversity in tech and allow underserved people the opportunity to land a job using RPA through a new course at Byte Back.

“It’s not just who’s going to get these engineering jobs at Amazon, it’s who’s going to get an interesting IT job, who’s going to get a manufacturing job that’s now a tech career,” Lindsey said.

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