Spurred by months of simmering racial tensions, technology companies are joining other businesses around to country in promising to hire more Black and Latino workers. For Geno Miller, the timing couldn’t be better.
Miller is cofounder of a new company in Manchester, N.H., called Shtudy, an online employment service that connects tech companies with qualified workers of color. It also offers an assessment program to ensure that each candidate has the skill set sought by employers.
“Our entire mission is to bridge the racial wealth gap in America,” Miller said. “We feel like tech is the way to do that.”
That’s because tech jobs pay well, with salaries for skilled workers in the industry averaging $135,000, Miller said. “That’s more than the median household income of a Black family and a Latinx family combined.”
Yet even though Black Americans make up about 13 percent of the population, a 2018 Pew Research Center survey found that Black workers make up just 9 percent of all workers in STEM jobs — those involving science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. Latinos are about 18 percent of the population but just 7 percent of STEM workers.
One concern is a lack of technically trained minorities. According to 2019 data from the American Society for Engineering Education, about 4 percent of bachelor’s degrees in engineering are awarded to Black students, a number that has hardly budged since 2010. The percentage of degrees going to Latino students rose from 7 percent to more than 11 percent during the same period.
Karl Reid, executive director of the National Society of Black Engineers, said many qualified minority workers are left on the sidelines. For instance, Reid said that Black people make up about 4 percent of computer science graduates in the United States, but hold 2 percent of jobs in that field.
One big reason, according to Reid, is that many tech companies recruit from a narrow field. “Most companies would go to the same schools their executive team attended to recruit,” he said.
For many top-tier companies, that means hiring out of Harvard or Stanford or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Minority engineering grads are more likely to emerge from solid but lesser-known schools like Howard University or North Carolina A&T State University.
In recent years, the biggest of the tech giants, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter, have begun to recruit at such schools. Many other companies, however, have yet to tap these talent sources. Miller learned this after spending six months in Silicon Valley researching the employment market there.
“I learned these companies actually want to hire tech talent of color,” he said. “They just struggle to find the right places to look.”
One early success story is Mark Anderson of Oxon Hill, Md., who was referred to Shtudy through a friend. The 24-year-old was making about $25 an hour as a computer specialist. Shtudy helped him land a $43-an-hour job at Perspecta, a federal contractor that does computer support work for the Office of Personnel Management.
“If it wasn’t for them tweaking my resume and giving me interview skills and prepping me to get this position, I wouldn’t even have gotten the opportunity,” Anderson said. “They go above and beyond.”
Shtudy has partnered with the online training company Coderbyte, which conducts evaluations to confirm whether job applicants have the skills for the job-posting, such as writing code in Python. Shtudy said it will only recommend applicants of proven competence to potential employers.
Miller and cofounder Rayvoughn Millingsput together $150,000 in friends-and-family funding, including a $40,000 fellowship from Camelback Ventures, a New Orleans nonprofit that provides financial support and expert assistance to minority entrepreneurs. Both Miller and Millings are graduates of the University of New Hampshire.
Scott Garell, an executive coach for Camelback Ventures and an adviser to Shtudy, is a former president of the Internet search company Ask.com and chief executive of the online retailer Goodshop.com. At both companies, Garell said, recruitment of minorities came up short.
“We weren’t seeing a lot of the resumes,” he said. “We just hadn’t established the kind of high-powered robust pipeline I would have wanted to see.”
Garell said Shtudy could prove especially valuable to small and mid-size tech companies that don’t have the resources to expand their recruiting directly.
As for the unusual name of his company, Miller said it is a cynical take on the bind minorities face in getting hired after working so hard in school: “Study, shtudy,” Miller said. “It doesn’t really lead to the end result.”