Flatiron School, a world-renowned institution that trains students in modern professional skills like software engineering, data science, and more, recently announced they were renewing their John Stanley Ford Fellowship. After launching in 2020, the fellowship continues to support Black tech professionals by providing them four-month-long apprenticeships at leading tech companies. Each apprenticeship offers on-the-job training, ongoing mentorship, and access and opportunities to the tech community. At Wunderkind, we’re proud to announce that we are one of 13 leading technology companies partnering with Flatiron School for their John Stanley Ford Fellowship. We sat down with Wunderkind Diverse Talent Strategy Lead Tahlia dos Santos and WKND Talent Partner JennieAlexandra Brachocki to discuss why this initiative is so important and why diversity matters in tech.
Wunderkind: Tell me more about the John Stanley Ford Fellowship
Tahlia & JennieAlexadra: Many people don’t know this, but black tech professionals make up just 7% of the high tech sector, according to EEOC data. This is a staggeringly low amount. In response to this, Flatiron School launched the John Stanley Ford Fellowship to support the advancement of Black tech professionals. Ford was a pioneer in the earliest days of computing. He was the first Black software engineer in America—hired by IBM in 1946 with a distinguished career spanning 37 years. Launched in 2020, the program supports the advancement of Black tech professionals by offering apprenticeships with leading companies that provide on-the-job training, ongoing mentorship, and access and opportunities to the tech community.
Through this fellowship, Flatiron School and Wunderkind are partnering in an effort to increase racial equity in tech. This year, the JSF Fellowship is relaunching with a mix of 13 new and renewed partners like IBM, Citi, & FanDuel. We’re so proud to say that Wunderkind is also a member of that list.
WKND: How did the partnership with the John Stanley Ford Fellowship come about?
T & JA: We’ve enjoyed a great relationship with Flatiron School over the years and have been working w/ them especially around hiring entry and mid-level technical talent. Their team approached us about joining their prestigious cohort of partners and not only were we very honored — this initiative was right in line with our equity, diversity & inclusion (EDI) goals and values.
WKND: Why is this partnership so impactful?
T & JA: With Black professionals making up only 7% of the high tech industry, we join (and commend!) the tech companies endeavoring to change that inequitable ratio. We’re hiring across virtually every team here, and our EDI goals are aggressive. Partnerships like the John Stanley Ford Fellowship not only remove barriers for Black tech professionals, but remove barriers that make it harder for companies to hire as well—notedly, very high placement fees. Through this fellowship, graduates and soon to be grads are fed right into our traditional hiring pipeline. Additionally, the fellowship removes some of the many barriers Black tech professionals face when launching their respective careers by providing much-needed mentorship to help fellows find their path and gain crucial sponsorship throughout their journeys.
WKND: What do we hope will come of partnership from JSF?
T & JA: Wunderkind is committed to hiring at least two of Flatiron School’s Black alumni— though we don’t want to stop there! With our entry and mid level open roles at an all-time high, we’d love to hire as many fellows as we can.
This is important because diverse companies are also high-performing companies. Gartner found that inclusive teams improve team performance by up to 30% in high-diversity environments. In a Boston Consulting Group study, companies with diverse management teams had a 19% increase in revenue compared to their less diverse counterparts. We hope to not only continue to grow our relationship with Flatiron, but also continue to grow our diversity here at Wunderkind through aggressive EDI goals and metrics, as well as partner & collaborate with other organizations that support EDI in tech.
WKND: Why is diversity so important to the success / culture of a business?
T & JA: Empirically, business does better where diversity thrives, as is shown by the stats from Gartner and Boston Consulting Group that we mentioned in the question above. Think about this: what if you’re trying to innovate with a group of people who are super similar to you? Who is going to come up with a better, more robust product and vision: 5 people with similar knowledge & experience, or 5 people with different backgrounds, ideas, and lived experiences?
WKND: How does Wunderkind ensure we’re creating a fair & diverse recruiting environment/process?
T & JA: Equity, Diversity & Inclusion is an ongoing conversation that we’ll always be working towards and fighting for as an organization—but there are a few really impactful initiatives we’ve undertaken that we’re incredibly proud of. I’ll start with our internal commitments to talent & people operations:
- Companies shouldn’t just rely on posting jobs on LinkedIn, Glassdoor, etc., but also work with other platforms and programs with a dedicated commitment to D&I like Jopwell, Underdog, Stack Overflow, Handshake, and more. We’re proud to partner with those platforms and have seen a high return on our investment.
- We’re focused on diversifying our talent pools in a number of ways. This includes criteria that stipulates that we won’t make a hire until, for example, the team interviews 5 women of color (and/or other underrepresented voices on the team.)
- We also have worked to disclude gendered language, which can tend to dissuade women and people of color from even applying. We’ve made sure to only include absolutely necessary requirements for roles. We did a full audit of our wording and imagery that may alienate women and people of color—for example, a 2019 Harvard Business Review study showed that women are less engaged with companies that present a culture in which women don’t appear well-represented. For example, women ask fewer questions when organizations talk about a “work hard, play hard culture” that highlights drinking (e.g., fridges stocked with beer, beer pong games, social drink events) and favor working late into the night in the office. In many ways, this culture echoes stereotypes of a college fraternity culture.
With this in mind, one of the biggest steps companies need to take is addressing their own conscious and unconscious biases. An example that comes from an HBS Study is the belief that a younger person will be quicker and more creative than an older person. There are no grounds to prove that statement. Therefore, it’s worth the effort to uncover your own biases; once they’re recognized, “you will be able to consider whether your image of the “perfect candidate” is affected by your particular preferences rather than the actual qualifications and competencies needed for a position, and you will be able to judge candidates on their individual merits rather than on your own conscious or unconscious responses to their characteristics.”
What makes Wunderkind different is our people. This is not at all to sound cheesy, we really believe and know that our culture is the essential communal fuel that makes us unstoppable as a company and as colleagues. Our people bring their own unique identities, cultures, and experiences to work each and every day. Our SaaS products and company missions celebrate and are centered around what makes each of us… us. And that goes for our culture too. We encourage and support our colleagues to be proud of everything they are. Our nine Employee Resource Groups (from our Black, LantinX, AAPI, Queer, Neurodiverse communities and beyond!) make sure we follow through on our commitment to an equitable and inclusive workplace.
WKND: How can brands/other companies ensure they’re fostering an inclusive recruiting culture?
T & JA: For one, companies can partner with organizations like Flatiron School that place a huge emphasis on placing underrepresented talent post-grad. Tahlia had the pleasure of hearing Shijuade Kadree (Director of Diversity at Snap) speak recently and she discussed the importance of keeping “E” in Equity Diversity & Inclusion at the forefront. Organizations must confront and engage w/ Equity first and foremost before focusing on simply bringing aboard people from underrepresented communities.
Organizations should focus on building equal access to opportunities, growth, and advancement into their operational DNA, from the hiring process to compensation and beyond. Focus on practices that protect, elevate, mentor, and develop diverse communities—don’t just bring them into your company and leave them stranded. The goal is to ensure an equal, diversely represented playing field.
Interested in working at Wunderkind or learning more about our culture? Head to our culture and careers page here.
Additional ways Wunderkind works towards & has been recognized for our efforts in diversity & inclusion
- We have a Diverse Talent Strategy program led by a woman Air Force veteran and working mama. In this capacity, Tahlia dos Santos partners with diverse organizations to bring underrepresented voices to Wunderkind (for ex., Wunderkind, in partnership with the Flatiron School John Stanley Ford fellowship, supports the advancement of Black tech professionals.)
- Wunderkind has 9 Employee Resource Groups dedicated to professionally advancing our diverse communities and providing spaces for education and allyship. They include: WunderWomen (gender parity); WunderQueers (LGBTQIA+); Kinfolk (Black community + allies); Somos-Kind (Latinx community + allies); A-Fam (AAPI community + allies); AllKinds (neurodiversity, accessibility, & mental wellness); and more!
- In October 2020, Wunderkind, in partnership with the co-founder of Kate Spade, Pamela Bell and Kenneth Cole’s The Mental Health Coalition, hosted a paneled event that brought together our Black community, Latinx community, Queer community, and Neurodiverse community to discuss where our communities coalesce and diverge with respect to mental wellness challenges. We raised over $2K for TMHC.
- Wunderkind new hire onboarding includes an extensive Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion overview in which we cover actionable allyship and transparently discuss our company diversity statistics and how we plan to continue evolving and striving for equity + the many ways to personally have an impact.
- All of our Employee Resource Groups partner with nonprofits to raise funds, awareness, and encourage activism amongst our Wunderkind community.
- Wunderkind scored a perfect 100 on the Human Rights Commission Corporate Equality Index for LGBTQIA+ inclusivity.
- Wunderkind proudly holds our leadership and people team to aggressive D&I hiring goals that are tied to C-Suite compensation.
- Last year, Wunderkind hosted 3 “Actionable Allyship” sessions with Kenya Crawford, LCSW (Columbia University) to educate our colleagues and managers on how to be good allies to our Black colleagues.
- Wunderkind in partnership with Tufts University hosted several “Ally Factory” workshops for managers, created by a graduate intern, women, and people of color at the company, to help our leaders become better allies and managers.
- All Wunderkind ERGs all have an executive sponsor and a C-Suite champion to ensure voices are heard at the highest levels and important actions on behalf of our communities can be taken swiftly and with highest leadership support.
- Wunderkind signed the UN Gender Equity pay pledge to ensure everyone, regardless of gender, is paid fairly and equitably according to their level.
- In 2020, Wunderkind began seeking out Black-owned businesses to provide at least $1M free in Wunderkind services to help them grow their revenue and marketing strategies.
- Our gender parity ERG and Queer ERG, in partnership with the Wunderkind People Team, rolled out a “pronouns initiative” in Q1 of 2021 in which we added personal pronouns to employee HR profiles (optional) and began to ask all incoming candidates via applications to share their personal pronouns (optional).