It’s no secret that Boston’s tech scene has a long way to go when it comes to diversity. Ask Jody Rose and Jeff Bussgang, and they’ll say it isn’t because there’s a lack of qualified people of color looking for jobs. Instead, companies’ hiring practices have long excluded and overlooked people from underrepresented communities.
To help bridge that gap, the pair cofounded Hack.Diversity in 2016, which spun out of the New England Venture Capital Association as a separate nonprofit this year. Hack.Diversity recruits people of color from places like coding bootcamps and two- and four-year colleges, provides them with career advice and interview coaching, and then matches them with a company in Boston for a nine-month fellowship.
Over the past five years, Hack.Diversity has connected hundreds of underrepresented tech professionals with firms such as Wayfair, Rapid7, Klaviyo, and Vertex Pharmaceuticals.
Rose, a Black woman who previously led the NEVCA, has long been aware that few people in the tech ecosystem look like her. Bussgang, a partner at Flybridge Capital who teaches at Harvard Business School, pushed her to explore a solution, and he brought the perspective of a longtime tech investor and startup builder.
Rose said Hack.Diversity is effective because it works on both sides of the hiring equation — for employers as well as job seekers.
The program teaches companies that biased hiring practices can prematurely filter out qualified candidates. Some firms have since altered the wording of their job descriptions, removed a bachelor’s degree requirement, or made their interview process more inclusive, she said.
“We hear from companies all the time, ‘How did you find these candidates?’ And we also hear stories from candidates who say, ‘I’ve applied to that company five times and never got past the submitting my application process,’” Rose said.
Rose and Bussgang believe Hack.Diversity’s work is critical to ensuring Boston maintains its position as a leading tech hub.
“If you think about what prevents our companies from scaling, it’s talent, primarily technical talent,” said Bussgang, who serves as the chair of Hack.Diversity’s board of directors. “We’re helping fill a strategic issue for Boston tech in a way that’s not charity.”
He likened the growing Hack.Diversity community to a “university alumni group that you might see at Harvard or MIT.”
“They’re going to be the next generation of founders,” he said. “We know that Hack.Diversity is changing the narrative of tech in Boston.”