e034. Diverse Representation with Earl Newsome

Earl Newsome (he/him) is the co-chair of TechPACT, a group of CIOs, leaders, and professionals in IT that are on a mission to amplify people and partnerships to reduce the digital divide and pursue representative diversity throughout the technology community by the end of the decade.


Including You Podcast Interview with Earl Newsome

Full Interview Transcript

[00:00:48] Amy: Welcome back to Including You. I’m your host, Amy c Waninger. My guest today is Earl Newsom. Earl is the co-chair of Tech Pact, a group of CIOs, leaders and professionals in information technology that are on a mission to amplify people and partnerships to reduce the digital divide and pursue representative diversity throughout the technology community by the end of the decade. He’s got his work cut out for him, and I’m so glad to have him here. Welcome to the show.

[00:01:05] Earl: Thank you Amy. Really appreciate it. And thank you for the opportunity to talk and address this hugely important topic.

[00:01:11] Amy: This is an important topic. Now, I know you don’t know this, but I worked in IT for 20 years and there is absolutely a gap in representation and in not just to get into IT, but all the way up the IT  career chain and career path, and I am so excited to talk to you about this. What was the impetus behind you starting Tech Pack?

[00:01:35] Earl: That’s a great question and let me tell the story this way. It really began probably a little over two years ago now, this idea about, coming together to think about what it can do, to resolve and to address social injustice in America, and really across the globe. It really began with Michael Smith and Janet Sherlock, who were getting together with a few other IT executives to really talk about what it can do as a sector to respond to the healthcare crisis. That initial meeting was to take place a week after the George Floyd murder.

[00:02:10] Earl: And so, as they got together, Janet asked this question and said, “I really can’t talk about healthcare crisis at this moment. I need to talk about social injustice.” And so, Michael Smith took that on as a challenge and says, maybe I should pivot the question about what can IT do to resolve the healthcare crisis, but what could IT do to really solve social injustice?

[00:02:33] Earl: And what can we do in our fair share and our part to really resolve this crisis? And I often talk about Michael being the personification of the Martin Luther King quote, that says, basically, “it’s not the measure of a person where they stand in the moments of comfort and convenience. The true measure of a person is where they stand in the moments of controversy and conflict.”

[00:02:53] Earl: And Michael tends to take stands on these kinds of topics. In fact, he’s the one who authors and creates check day in pink, which is a day where a lot of technologists get together and unite in the fight against breast cancer. And I’m happy to join him on that, as well as he reached out to me and said, let’s postulate it, what can we do as a sector to really respond to social injustice?

[00:03:15] Earl: And so, he reached out to me, we got together with a few other people, and we created the Tech Pact, and as you mentioned, the Tach Pact really has a vision where we see a world where anybody who has a passion for technology will have ability to succeed.

[00:03:30] Earl: And we’ll do that through the accomplishment of our mission, reducing the digital divide in some meaningful way over the next 10 years. And that will allow us to increase the representation of minorities and get to representational diversity, which is our goal, and move the needle in that direction to get to representational diversity through reducing the digital divide and increasing opportunities for everybody to participate in the technology sector

[00:03:54] Earl: So that’s the story of kind of the Tech Pact.

[00:03:57] Amy: Excellent. And so, what modalities are you using to further this mission? Is it education? Is it mentoring? Is it, job matching? What are you, what’s the mechanism that you’re using?

[00:04:09] Earl: That’s a fantastic question.

[00:04:10] Earl: And the way I talk about it this way is we’re using three levers to really fulfill the mission. The first lever is what I call the membership lever, and so we encourage people to go to our website, www.techpact.org and take the pledge. Then we ask you to share that pledge with your network and the mission that we’re on.

[00:04:30] Earl: So, let’s use our networking to share the power of the Tech Pact message. And the third thing is start living the pledge. And we call that the plus one. And it’s a simple thing you can do to help start living the pledge. And the way I describe the plus one modality is, add one to something that you do every day on some regular basis, and you figure out what that regular basis is.

[00:04:53] Earl: Either it’s weekly, monthly, daily, annually, you choose, and these plus one activities are this simple. Listen to a song you wouldn’t otherwise listen. Read a book that you wouldn’t otherwise read. Take someone to lunch that you wouldn’t otherwise take to lunch. Add a supplier to your– the people you work with on an everyday basis.

[00:05:14] Earl: Add a candidate that you wouldn’t otherwise see. So, we believe through that power of just plus one, combine networks. The network effect of us adding and doing a plus one could be a force multiplier to our ability to achieve our mission and vision. So, start living the plus one pledge and just start doing adding one to something that you do every day on some regular basis.

[00:05:37] Earl: So that’s the membership lever and that’s what people can do individually starting today to start living the pledge. Then the next lever is what we call the partnership. And the partnership lever is really about using our hours and dollars to fill the gaps of some really great organizations that are doing this great work.

[00:05:56] Earl: Tech Pact is like gonna create another avenue to do the work. There’s plenty of people doing this work. What they need is our hours and our dollars, and so as corporations, we can bring our corporate, giving, our corporate capabilities, right, to bear, to help these organizations that are doing this great work execute that great work.

[00:06:14] Earl: The second piece of the partnership pledge, or the partnership lever is this idea, which I call connecting the dots, and that’s using our opportunities, for internships, externships, jobs, co-ops to actually produce or utilize the resources that are produced by these great organizations in our companies.

[00:06:34] Earl: And that’s the ultimate endgame, so you know, we can help them produce the great resources with our hours and dollars in terms of mentorships and financial aid and assistance. And then we can consume those resources that they produce in terms of opportunities within our companies from either externships, internships, jobs.

[00:06:53] Earl: And so that’s the next lever, is this notion of partnership lever and working with our partners to either fill the gaps or connect the dots, and the third lever that we ask for to try to activate our mission is this notion of storytelling lever. And we ask for people to tell their stories much like this podcast, so tell your story.

[00:07:14] Earl: And we call them Ignite Sessions. And so, we wanna have individuals tell their stories of success cause we believe, if you can see it. You can believe it, then you can achieve it. And, so this concept of really trying to drive and tell stories about many executives that have achieved some amazing success in the technology sector, our folks just need to hear that.

[00:07:36] Earl: And so, they can do that through the Ignite Sessions or through a panel. So, we’ll do live panels where we do panels and people talk about what they’ve done or through some bespoke reach a report, that somebody wrote something. And then we want to amplify that through our network.

[00:07:48] Earl: And so those are the three levers, again, the membership lever, the partnership lever, and the storytelling lever. All three of those are ways that we’re going to try to drive our mission and vision forward.

[00:08:00] Amy: I think these are fantastic places to start because, okay, so first of all, the network piece is so important because who we have in our network determines how opportunity flows to us and how opportunity flows from us to others. And if we don’t expand our networks and we don’t have a good representation in our networks, all of that opportunity stays concentrated right where it is.

[00:08:27] Earl: Agreed.

[00:08:27] Amy: This notion of hours and dollars is so important because that’s really where the rubber meets the road, if we’re going to say it, then we gotta put our feet behind it. We gotta put our money behind it. And I think storytelling is so powerful because that’s how you attract more people into the membership and partnership levels, that’s how you really generate, build on that.

[00:08:48] Amy: So what kinds of results have you seen so far? In these, with these different levers and in fulfilling your mission.

[00:08:56] Earl: I will say that this, we’ve done a lot of good things. We’re on our second year, our birthday’s 10/29, so we’ll be officially 10 years old, I think on the 29th of this month.

[00:09:08] Earl: And when I think about what we’ve done and we’ve– and I’ll share with you after this, our annual report cause we produce an annual report of the number of Ignite Sessions that we’ve had, the number of panel panels that we’ve had. We’re trying to drive and increase our membership and get those, get that going and as well and so I have had the great opportunity to speak with a lot of different executives.

[00:09:29] Earl: So every time I talk with an executive, I talk about the story of the Tech Pact, especially an IT executive. And each one of those conversations continues to drive and generate interest. So, I believe, in our, we’re still in our infancy know, immediately, but I think even in our infancy we’re beginning to have an impact.

[00:09:47] Earl: In fact, we’ve launched, the tech pack here in the U.S. We’ve also had Tech Pact events in India and even in Japan, driving the global world of inclusion and thinking about, gender inclusion, thinking about ethnic inclusion and how do we drive all that up across the entire technology sector?

[00:10:08] Earl: Because technology’s an interesting thing that is global. Everyone can participate. And we can be very, we can embrace, our geekiness, as I call it in being more open. So, people expect, us take geeks to be a little weird and a little off. So, let’s go ahead and embrace everybody.

[00:10:22] Earl: There’s no reason why we can’t really adopt our geekiness and turn that into a point of openness and invite everyone to participate.

[00:10:31] Amy: Absolutely. When we’re all socially awkward together, it doesn’t feel so weird.

[00:10:36] Earl: It doesn’t feel weird at all, we’re all, we all got our own weirdness.

[00:10:39] Earl: And I would say this, I also wanna add this to, we’re also thinking about how to expand the definition of steam– of STEM, to include STEAM, and so this science, technology, engineering, and math, you make it–add art to that, so inject a little bit of fun and a little bit of art into technology, and that’s how you get the STEAM.

[00:10:59] Earl: And I really believe STEAM is the future of stem. And when we think about that, that means we’re injecting the ability to have more design. Into our technology, because technology that is designed well, gets leveraged well, gets adopted well. And so I believe this, the power of our inclusive nature helps us to even include multiple disciplines into the technology sector, which allows for us to even be better, be more human-centric, more people-centric in the devices that we use and leverage every day.

[00:11:30] Amy: Yes. And the design piece is where we can really be more inclusive with our technology, because that’s where we’re gonna see more universal design, more accessibility products and softwares that recognize diverse skin tones and diverse facial structures and, different levels of ability and that’s been a real problem in tech for a lot of years.

[00:11:51] Earl: It has been. And that’s why the design nature of this is so important, it’s gotta be designed for humans, by humans, this notion that you’re right, because there’s been the challenges with technology that doesn’t recognize skin tone or doesn’t work really well with the, with various tones or difficult to use if you’re challenged from a, hearing– whatever perspective– and so differently abled,

[00:12:13] Earl: and so as we think about how do we design tech with humans in mind. That design element to your point, becomes, increasingly important. And that’s why I believe in this notion of having these design engineers that are working in– that have the skills and abilities and, frankly, around ethnography…

[00:12:31] Earl: …so they have to be able to walk around and see it and feel this thing being in use. This whole thing about how do you drive digital anthropology. And so, they have to be anthropologists as well. And so I think that these new skills, when they get embedded into technology and the way we deliver, even S.A.P. can be cool to use.

[00:12:50] Amy: I agree. And I’ve always been excited not just about the tech, but what the tech can do for people and how people can– how people’s lives can be made better, how their jobs can be made better, how their interactions can be made better because of the technology. 

[00:13:04] Earl: I agree 100% cause it’s about improving life.

[00:13:07] Earl: And if we do things with humans in mind, we can make this whole world a better place. And that really, takes me to my next kind of, thought model. When I think about making the world a better place, one of my principles is to think about diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging,

[00:13:24] Earl: And so, when we think about the Tech Pact and we think about diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, I use this model. The first one is, Diversity is like being invited to the dance. Equity is having access to the dance floor and being able to dance. Inclusion is being asked to dance, but belonging is wanting to dance as if no one’s looking at you.

[00:13:47] Earl: So you, if we think about this, in this world of really building amazing tech and building tech, That makes people want to dance as if no one’s looking at them, then we will have really achieved an amazing world where it’s really better for human beings. And it’s better for technologists inside organizations who feel that they belong.

[00:14:07] Earl: My number one goal is to create an organization of a thousand dancers. And if we can create an organization of dancers who really feel that they can belong and really feel that they can contribute, not only their efforts that are required for them to be compliant, but they’re discretionary effort, which allows them to be great.

[00:14:27] Earl: And so, you move from compliance to greatness, when you feel like you belong. And so, let’s work within the tech pack and work within organization to drive that sense of belonging. So, we get an organization of dancers, so that we get an organization of greatness. That to me is the ultimate goal.

[00:14:45] Earl: And when we do that, we’ll build great products that make people live great lives and will address many of the things that have been challenging us heretofore. And this gives us a way of getting at those things.

[00:14:59] Amy: I think that’s beautiful and I wanna make sure that people know where they–now who all can sign the pledge? Is it tech executives? Is it anybody who works in tech? Is it anybody at all who can sign your pledge.

[00:15:13] Earl: It’s anybody who’s aligned with the mission and vision of the Tech Pact. We’re looking for people who want to try to make a difference in the technology sector. That means you could be a technologist, that means you can be an executive, that means you can be a student who’s looking for assistance and help and wants to be part of the tech community. You could be a supplier who wants to help accelerate these activities. I don’t care whoever you are, if you’re united with our goal and mission, come sign the pledge.

[00:15:39] Amy: Excellent. And that’s at techpact.org, and we’ll put it in the show notes and if people want to engage at a higher level are there opportunities to do that on the website as well?

[00:15:51] Earl: Absolutely. If they wanna engage in a higher level, we give people an opportunity to not only know about and be knowledgeable about the tech pack from the individual standpoint, but also participate with the organization.

[00:16:00] Earl: We’re a volunteer organization, and so there’s plenty of opportunities for volunteers. If you wanna tell your story as an ignite you can let us know that. If you want to be a mentor, you can let us know that. If want to be a mentee, you can let us know that. And so, there’s lots of opportunities and more coming, as we continue to develop and mature we’ll all we’ll find ways to get those that are wanting to participate and add value. We’ll find a way to leverage your interest and desire.

[00:16:25] Amy: Oh, that’s fantastic. Thank you so much for sharing about your organization’s mission and vision and what you’re doing to advance representation in tech. I am so excited about this work.

[00:16:36] Earl: Awesome. Thank you, Amy. And thank you for the opportunity to share. Again, for those that are listening I’m really passionate about this. I think the timing is now. This is our opportunity to make a difference in the world, and this is your opportunity to join me in helping them make that difference.

[00:16:50] Earl: I call on you to take the pledge, start living the pledge, sharing it with your network and adding one to something that you do every. Thank you very much.

[00:17:00] [00:18:00] Amy: That’s it for this week’s episode of Including You. Join me next week when my guest will be Christopher Bylone van Sandwyk, who at the time of our recording was a free agent and able to speak candidly about the Chief Diversity Officer role and the demands that it has on a person. And it’s a fascinating conversation that you will not want to miss.

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Amy C. Waninger Author Bio

Amy C. Waninger is the Founder & CEO of Lead at Any Level, where she improves employee engagement and retention for companies that promote from within. Amy offers assessments, advisory services, and training on essential skills for inclusive leaders. She is the author of eight books. Learn more at www.LeadAtAnyLevel.com

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