What can you do in your role to help people of color in tech achieve their career goals?

It may seem like a daunting ask, but at Button's last People of Color in Tech event (POCIT for short) on Jan 16th, we challenged a group of 40 people from the tech industry to dive deep and form some actionable strategies on this theme.

Here at Button, we have a quarterly company ritual called Retros, short for Retrospectives. In a Retro, we begin by splitting into small groups, each of which is led by a moderator. We spend the first few minutes independently brainstorming wins, areas for improvement, and ideas on post-its. Then, we share each post-it one at a time, grouping them into themes as we go. Finally, each group chooses a few key takeaways and reconvenes to share its learnings with the whole company.

At the latest POCIT event, we followed an abbreviated version of Button's Retro format and divided our guests into small, intimate groups to run through a guided discussion on the theme.

Breakout groups in progress

Armed with paper, pens, and insight, our groups came back with the following ideas to help people of color succeed in tech:

  1. Involve Leadership: Leadership is often willing to help, but may not know the best way to do so. Involving them in the conversation is a great place to start, but assigning them specific tasks is even better.
  2. Provide Training: Set up periodic training sessions on diversity & inclusion best practices for all levels, from individual contributor to executive.
  3. Connect with Affinity Groups: Job board postings are a great way to reach out, but face-to-face interactions at meetups, events, and conferences are even more impactful.
  4. Create Safe Spaces: Creating a safe environment to discuss difficult topics is key to surfacing and addressing them.
  5. Be an Ally: Advocating for all marginalized groups, not just the ones you identify with, is a force-multiplier for positive change.

Across the groups, we saw the first theme crop up over and over again: change starts from the top. But while it's easy to say that leadership must be involved, what does that look like in practice? At Button, we're lucky to have a leadership team that cares deeply about promoting diversity and inclusion, or D&I. Many of them served as moderators for this event, and something we learned from their participation is that even if a leader wants to be an ally, they may not know how.

Button Founder/CEO Mike Jaconi & Co-founder Sid Dabral close the night's event

That's where we, as individuals interested in D&I, come in. If your company doesn't have a D&I Committee, that's a great place to start. Ask your leadership team to join you in forming one! At Button, our biweekly D&I Committee meeting has fostered a safe space to discuss what we're doing well and where we can improve. It's also served as a place to generate and execute on ideas for how we can contribute to the wider D&I community, including this very event. No matter who you are or what your title is, each one of us has the opportunity to create positive change in our industry.

We were truly inspired by the openness, enthusiasm, and thoughtfulness each participant brought to the table. The discussions were frank and honest, but also highly solution-oriented. Personally, I left feeling both rejuvenated and motivated to take action.

I'd like to extend our thanks to everyone who helped make this event a success, including our incredible photographer, Delaine Dacko, our moderators, and everyone who came to share their ideas and experiences.

If you're interested in becoming apart of the Button team, check out the various roles we currently have open! And if you'd like to hear about future events related to diversity at Button, please join our mailing list. We'd love to see you there.

This piece was co-written by Button's Brian Kustera.