DIVERSE BY DESIGN GENESIS
Welcome and thank you for visiting the Diverse by Design website. My name is Damien Howard and I currently serve as the Vice President of Social Ventures for Per Scholas. Over the last 16 years I’ve had the pleasure of taking on challenging but rewarding roles developing diverse and competitive talent for Information Technology jobs across our country. One of the most rewarding opportunities was leading the Per Scholas employer engagement team. The time I spent working closely alongside our employer partners prompted a number of conversations with employers about sourcing talent from non-traditional avenues. During these conversations we frequently discussed employer challenges around access to reliable talent and how we were working hard to address a broken educational system and a limited H1B visa program. These challenges have created a significant skills gap that will result in over 1 million unfilled tech jobs by 2020 in the United States. That number is concerning but it also presents an immense opportunity for organizations like Per Scholas and ITSMF who have, for years, identified, developed and built systems of retention for non-traditional and diverse talent.
As I continued to have these conversations, I realized that the definition of diversity varied from company to company. I also realized that some companies would use that ambiguity to their advantage so they could hide real diversity and inclusion advancement behind a cloud of confusion. As these conversations continued my frustration grew.
That frustration culminated into a fierce vision after one particularly challenging meeting with an employer. It was at this point that I decided that I had to do something! That same frustration lead me to begin thinking about how I could create a platform for decision makers to converse, collaborate and innovate all within a safe place. I did not want to simply elevate the alarming data that existed around Diversity and Inclusion. I wanted to create a vehicle to share best practices and solutions on how to achieve their diversity goals.
The vision for this convening would not leave me alone and I began to take steps to make this a reality. I realized that each of these conversations caused me reflect on my own story. I realized that I am an example of non-traditional talent and my President and CEO, Plinio Ayala, gave me an opportunity to apply myself. I personally understand how one opportunity can revolutionize your life and it’s my responsibility to build a bridge for others who just need a chance.
In August 2015 I attended a corporate give back event and I had the opportunity to sit with some thought leaders and we discussed strategies on how to take the idea to the next level. There were many ideas tossed around but I remember one leader telling me that I should start a campaign. For some reason, that made me think about starting a Movement in my own little way. Unfortunately, I did not have the right partners or a real path to success in place to make this vision a reality at the time.
About a month after that my colleague, Ken Walker, and I attended a phenomenal event that was hosted by ITSMF – Information Technology Senior Management Forum. We heard Viola Thompson speak at the event and she was brilliant! We left that event energized and ready to move forward in a very big way. When Ken and I returned we both were equally excited about ITSMF and we were eager to find out how we could partner with them. We then reached out to Errika Mallet who was super smart, energetic and dynamic. We had an amazing conversation with Errika and she asked us to come back to her with some ideas on how we could possibly collaborate.
As soon as we received approval from ITSMF on our partnership I reached out to Stephanie Le Blanc, from Google. Stephanie had just accepted an invite to sit on our New York Advisory Board and I knew she was the right person to speak with about this. I asked if she would support assist us with securing a space for a Diversity and Inclusion event and she said YES which is how we launched our first ever Diverse by Design event at the Google Headquarters in New York!
We are now moving forward with passion, intelligence and rock solid partners nationally. We believe that we are well on our way to breaking down hiring biases and working with firms to create equitable hiring practices. We want to partner with motivated companies that are willing to bring a system change to their environment and reap the deep benefits of having a truly diverse workforce!
With that said, thanks again for visiting our page and we are looking forward to collectively becoming Diverse by Design with you!