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Job diversity often suffers when best practices are siloed, duplicated unnecessarily and when it lacks industry collaboration. The findings inspired GitHub’s pilot program, All In, an initiative that aims to partner with corporations, philanthropists and less representative universities to create a more diverse and inclusive community of developers. Recently, the first group of 30 students completed the program; all its members have been successfully placed in internship programs.

Today, Cheatham is sharing the blueprint for other companies to join the efforts. In the true spirit of open source, he spoke at Protocol about how the company launched All In, the greatest lessons it has learned and what other leaders can do to emulate the program and raise equity in re- recruit.

This lecture has been edited for clarity and brevity.

What brought you to the role on GitHub?

What really, really appeals to me on GitHub is the holistic approach they take to diversity, integration and ownership. Most of the companies you see only focus on diversity, integration, and ownership from an HR perspective, but GitHub has a holistic approach focused on it from their people, including their 83 million developers.

When you focus on [DEI] within a company, it looks different than when you focus on it for a platform of millions and millions of developers. That’s where you really start to make systemic changes, lasting changes, generational changes, and that’s what really attracts me to GitHub.

So what does open sourcing diversity look like?

I remember when I was interviewing and I told them, “I wanted to open up to diversity, inclusion and belonging.” And when I got there, it was like, “Demetris, go open source diversity, inclusion and belonging!” So I had to figure out what that meant. So after hundreds of conversations with tech stakeholders across open source, one of the things I realize is there’s a lot of doubling of efforts, a lot of programs, a lot of people trying to resolve diversity, equity and integration problems – which I don’t want to call this problem – in tech. So I said, “Instead of all of us working here in loops, what would it look like if we came together like we do in open source, like we do in software development? If we came together for approach it together? All different stakeholders, where there are corporations, philanthropists, foundations, government agencies, social sectors. ” And that’s how All In and the open-source community were created.

Can you tell us a little more about where the idea for All In came from?

Once I started having those conversations, I said: “Who are the people who are really responsible for promoting diversity, inclusion, creating a culture of inclusion?” And everyone said, “maintainers.” You can imagine [maintainers] as parallel to the managers of a team. You can have all of these corporate programs, but it’s really the day-to-day interactions within your teams, and it’s really set up by your manager. So that’s what a maintainer, kind of manager of an open-source project or an open-source community is. So, focusing on them, we want to make a pilot understand what their needs are, what training is, what tools they need.

But I had an interesting conversation that really changed a bit and changed our priorities. We met with some philanthropists in Silicon Valley, who probably have over a billion dollars in net worth, and they created a fund where they wanted to find Black founders in the open source. They reached out to GitHub because they couldn’t find many Black founders. They say because they don’t, let’s go and find maintainers that we can upskill, support and make founders of companies… and [then] they realize that there are not many people of color at the level of maintainers. They reached out to GitHub because we do a lot of GitHub education and some of our other programs. That’s when I said, “We need to start even earlier.” What would it look like if we started at the undergraduate level? We really introduced them to open source, increased their capabilities, gave them a path so that hopefully we could grow them as maintainers and eventually founders, and create more of that long-tail program. So All In was made for students.

How did you do everything in creating the program and choosing the schools and students to join?

As a North Carolina A&T graduate, I know that most companies, when they want to focus on student engagement-particularly Black tech students-they always attend some school: North Carolina A&T, Howard , Spelman, Morehouse, FAMU. They might throw Hampton away. That’s where everything focuses. But I know from growing up in the South, there are so many other institutions serving the minority with amazing talent that no one focuses on for a variety of reasons. So I said, “What would it look like if we deliberately focused on those schools?” Shaw University, St. Augustine, Winston-Salem State, UNC Pembroke, founded for the education of Native Americans in Lumberton, North Carolina. Those are the schools we chose to start the program.

But here’s another thing I know: I know that in those schools, if you graduate within the top 10% of your class, companies will still find you. But if you look at our group of students that we have in this pilot, you have students who commute two hours to school every day every road because they can’t afford to stay on campus. They were full-time caregivers, especially during a pandemic; some of them are full-time parents, military, active duty in the military, they have athletic scholarships-that’s how they pay for school. So they can’t do an internship in the summer, right? Because they train in the summer. So we want hard-working, dedicated students, the ones who just try every day.

[And] who to choose? This is not an application process. We don’t put something on a website and ask them to submit an essay. We went to their professors, we went to the chairs of their computer science departments and said, “Be careful in your classrooms; tell us the students who just deserve that opportunity. ”So we didn’t have an application process, the schools selected them, and what that was gave us buy-in from the schools also.

We have students where we’ll pick up the phone and call the professors and they’ll say, “You know, they’re in my class for an hour, I’ll call you and let you know what’s going on.” These students probably didn’t know they would be hit by this amount of wraparound support. We tell students: “Once you’re in, you’re in – we’re all in, and we’re not letting you out.”

What was the biggest learned from the first cohort trajectory?

I think one thing I do know, but the depth of it that surprised me, is that not all computer science programs are created equal. When you have a graduate with a degree in computer science, I think back then, as corporations, we assume they have [this] basic level [skills], but due to lack of infrastructure, lack of professors, lack of funding and a whole host of other things, there is only really wide gap. So most companies take for those at the top of that spectrum and just assume that those not at the top of the spectrum will take it from where, and no one will settle for that “from somewhere.”

For example, we only select sophomores and juniors for this cohort because we want them to come back at least a year. There were junior years, fall semester, they were just taking their first programming 101 course, and I remember when A&T by junior year, we were electives. There are, I think, out of 30 students, 28 of them have never heard of open source. As I know a lot of companies today, if you don’t have your code on GitHub or some kind of platform in one place, they don’t consider you. And that’s why I say not all computer science programs are created equal, and we need to take a deep dive and focus on that.

I think the easy task is focused on the top of the funnel, the certifications and the internships. But equity work, that’s hard work. That’s work that really isn’t sustained many times over. There you will not get easy ROI, [and] often you don’t get the media headlines.

For companies that may not be in the area where they have partnerships with less represented universities, what is some equity work they can start?

Not all contributions to a university need to be financial. One of the things I have seen in some schools is that their career services are severely under -resourced. What a lot of companies I’ve seen do is, “Hey, we’re going to have a resume writing workshop.” And they assume students can find them, register and show up, and then they get angry when no one shows up. You have to go and meet them where they are. So one of the things I did here on GitHub was I asked our talent acquisition team, “Can one of you get one [student’s] resume and do a 30 minute resume writing session with all the students? ”Some of these programs only have 45 students in their entire program in all four years. A talent acquisition teams in a larger company can be in the hundreds.

One of the things I always focus on with companies is: Do the things that make sense to you and your mission. Don’t try and do things outside of what you do. So talent acquisitions are focused on resumes and mock interviews. Someone in engineering, you can come in and focus on doing a technical interview with them or help them with code or something like that. Your employee resource groups focus on things that will help them understand aspects of its career development, mentoring and professional development… What are the things we all want to know when did we first start?


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