Elevating Blacks in Tech

Mark Mathewson, Managing Vice President, International & Small Business Technology, Capital One

The beauty of technology is in the art of how it is applied to make people’s lives better by solving each of our unique challenges. Our families, friends, customers, and colleagues have problems and perspectives that are as nuanced and individual as we are. This means that there is quite literally infinite opportunity for us to apply technology in meaningful and profitable ways for the greater good.

Customized solutions, however, require unique builders and multi-faceted teams that will challenge each other’s perspectives and bring ideas to life that work for a broad and dynamic audience. We can all name game-changing technologies that have improved our lives, and many of those have come from a tech industry that isn’t fully representative of the people it serves. Imagine the opportunity and growth potential that we are missing out on if only a narrow sliver of our society is represented in those who build the products that we rely on.

Mark Mathewson, Managing Vice President, International & Small Business Technology, Capital One

Throughout my professional life, I’ve built great solutions that impact many — but I didn’t do it alone. I’ve had supportive mentors, a strong network of peers, and diverse employees and partners. I’ve seen firsthand how diverse teams drive business results. If we as an industry know that to be true — and see the business case proved through research time and again like these findings from The National Association of Corporate Directors’ Culture as a Corporate Asset study — how is it that building and empowering a diverse workforce is not the top priority for every tech leader?

I believe in part it’s because tackling diversity is really hard. It’s complicated because diversity itself is intersectional. The experience of a LBGT black woman may be similar in some ways but different in others from that of a straight black man. There are an infinite number of complex variables that contribute to the challenge, but that’s what makes it interesting and worth solving. One of the things I enjoy most about this field is constantly being surrounded by and motivated by smart people who don’t shy away from, but rather run toward hard problems.

Can one person or one team or one company solve this challenge? No. But everyone can find their way to move the needle. I’m lucky to have had role models show me ways to create change for others throughout my career, and recently I’ve taken on a new initiative at Capital One: leading our Blacks in Tech program.

We designed Blacks in Tech (BIT) to amplify our focus on celebrating and increasing the representation of black engineers and leaders as we continue to grow as a tech company. After formally launching more than six months ago, our program team has been busy defining and delivering short- and long-term plans around the three areas of recruitment, development and internal community building within our base of black engineering associates. I’m encouraged about the amount of progress we’ve made in such a short period of time, including:

· Partnering with our professional recruiting teams on new channels and sources of talent

· Working with our campus recruiting teams to execute and deliver on more diversity recruiting events including sponsoring HBCU@SXSW

· Defining plans to establish our Black Coder network

· Planning BIT-sponsored community engagement initiatives

· Identifying and beginning to fill gaps in BIT development offerings, including striking a partnership with /dev/color

I’m particularly excited about the meaningful progress that we’ve made in recruiting. As we open ourselves up to broader sources of talent and focus our energy on making Capital One a destination for top technical black talent, we’re encouraged by the early results.

My excitement for what Blacks in Tech has already accomplished is only surpassed by what I know we can achieve in the future — within Capital One and beyond. While I am realistic that solving for equality in tech is a generational challenge that isn’t going to happen overnight, I am fueled by the many people of all races and genders that I am fortunate to work beside as we continue to drive meaningful change.

Interested in continuing the conversation? Join me and my fellow panelists Celia Edwards Karam, Lauren States, and Rodney Sampson for our panel “Elevating Blacks in Tech” at The Capital One House at SXSW on Saturday, March 10 at 4:30 p.m. CT. Can’t make it to Austin? Follow along on @CapitalOneTech and #CapitalOneHouse on Twitter.

These opinions are those of the author. Unless noted otherwise in this post, Capital One is not affiliated with, nor is it endorsed by, any of the companies mentioned. All trademarks and other intellectual property used or displayed are the ownership of their respective owners. This article is © 2018 Capital One.

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