When Leslie Miley left Twitter, he publicly shamed it for a problem that continues to plague tech companies at large: lack of diversity. As Twitter’s only black engineering manager, Miley said he fought for many candidates of color during his ex-company’s hiring process, only to face resistance from executives. And when he asked Twitter about the steps it was taking to improve inclusivity, Miley claimed to have gotten the cold shoulder.
“Diversity is important,” Twitter’s vice-president of engineering Alex Roetter said, according to Miley’s blog post. “But we can’t lower the bar.”
Miley’s exit from Twitter isn’t the first time Silicon Valley’s lack of diversity has dominated headlines. Recent internal reports reveal that Google, Apple, and Facebook are racially homogeneous, with white employees making up 60 percent, 54 percent, and 55 percent of their respective workforces.
But this dearth of minorities working in tech says more about the industry itself than the actual pool of available talent—the several hundred people of color who attended Tech808’s entrepreneurship conference attest to that. Held at New York University on Monday, this year's conference brought together students and budding entrepreneurs of color to learn the ins and outs of the industry.
“I want people to go home with a notebook full of tips, full of how-tos—step one, step two, step three,” said Anthony Frasier, co-founder of Tech808 and The Phat Startup, a media company that provides resources for entrepreneurs. “That’s what counts at the end of the day because if you leave here and all you have to talk about is ‘I’m a black person in tech,’ then I failed.”
“I think the narrative needs to change.”
The key to Tech808’s success, Frasier told NTRSCTN, goes beyond just talking about being a person of color in tech. Instead, he wants entrepreneurs to leave his conference with the necessary tools to help them circumvent Silicon Valley’s biased hiring practices, and to profit off their own ideas.
Here are four lessons from Tech808 that every aspiring tech leader of color should know: