How the Blacks in Tech Summit inspires innovation and growth for Black technologists
2020 has left many people feeling understandably disconnected while working remotely. Virtual events and conferences, like the Blacks in Tech Summit hosted in October, are especially impactful for connecting, networking and building community across the distance. Blacks in Tech is a Business Resource Group (BRG) at Capital One. Each year, they host a week-long celebration of innovation and inspiration, where associates connect, learn and focus on future aspirations. At the second-ever virtual Summit, held this year, attendees enjoyed a robust schedule full of high-caliber, insightful guest speakers, chances to practice mindfulness and dynamic learning break-out sessions. There was also a new series of Blacks in Tech awards introduced this year to recognize excellent contributions and members from the community.
Whole-self development, career growth and strengthening each other
The Summit is a forum for Black technologists and allies to connect with each other to learn and continue to advance in their careers through networking and collaborating. “The Blacks in Tech Summit creates a community feel at work where we are building, teaching and strengthening each other,” says Shannon, Director of Technology and inventor at Capital One. Black technologists from across the enterprise, including product managers, designers, software engineers and tech leaders, attend the Summit every year. Many allies, who may be interested in learning what innovation is happening in the Tech space or are excited to hear the insights shared during the event, also join.
The main focus of the Summit is empowerment, especially for those that are looking for colleagues and leaders in whom they can see themselves and with whose stories they can relate. “This event shows how Capital One is definitely ahead of the curve in terms of our inclusion,” says Mikela, Manager of Software Engineering at Capital One and an award winner at the Summit. “It definitely made me realize that they're listening, and that they are putting action behind what they heard. The Blacks in Tech Summit was a great way to network and be recognized amongst your peers. Having these types of trainings and summits really helps build your professional character and empowers you. It was a great educational experience and a great networking experience.”
The strong community that Blacks in Tech provides is at the heart of everything the BRG does, especially this inspiring event. “The framework was to have the community come together, where you could feel like you belong, where we pay special attention to the needs of the Blacks in Tech community,” says Maureen, VP of HR technology at Capital One, who was the executive leader of the Summit. “It’s about propelling forward towards more success. There's a growth mindset that's rooted in all the conversations.”
Diversity is celebrated in an inclusive culture
Another focus of the Summit was highlighting the innovative contributions of Black technologists specifically. One session that stuck out for Mikela was the ‘Master Class: Our History in Technology,’ led by Tharren, Director of Enterprise Architect at Capital One. His session covered the legacy of Blacks in tech, including the important role that Black innovators play in the tech industry and the profound advances they've made for and in society.
“It was unlike any textbook or classroom experience that I've ever been a part of, because I had no idea how impactful certain people were in the tech space,” Mikela shared. “There's so many patents that we use everyday that were impacted by Black technologists that we're not aware of. It was really encouraging and exciting to see people highlighted who look like me,” she added.
The Summit also highlighted notable achievements and advances within the walls of Capital One. “I believe the Summit is a celebration of Black contributions in the tech world and Black associates' contributions to Capital One,” says Shannon. This included a much anticipated, and first ever, Blacks in Tech awards program.
A chance to recharge and celebrate!
Of course, everyone also needed a chance to let loose and recharge during all of the excitement and impactful discussions. So, there were a variety of fun sessions, like some at-home dance breaks with a DJ or daily yoga mindfulness practice, The Blacks in Tech Slack channel also provided some fun with a stream of hilarious memes being shared. Overall, the whole energy of the Summit was meant to keep attendees encouraged and upbeat. Even in a virtual environment, associates were able to connect and celebrate being their authentic selves.
“The Summit is one point in time and is purposefully a check in and a launch,” says Maureen. “The check in is, ‘How are you doing? We care about you.’ When people feel loved and they feel trust and they feel psychologically safe, they will open up, and then they're willing to take what you have to give them. It was all about caring about our associates and allies—a love letter. The launch part is: there's more to do, and don’t give up. There are paths for you and we will partner and support you on those paths.” Feeling inspired and keeping their goals and aspirations in mind, associates left the event ready to tackle important work and feeling the support to achieve great things. Thanks to the work of Business Resource Groups like Blacks in Tech and these inspiring events, all associates can find their place, feel a sense of belonging, and invest in their growth.
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