By Jared Karol
When Marco Rogers moved to the Bay Area five years ago from Washington, D.C., it was his first introduction to startup culture. As a black man in tech, he had been recruited pretty hard, but he didn’t expect to see too many people who looked like him. It was a surprise, then, when the first person he sat down with was another black man with dreadlocks. He thought the company was messing with him and had gone out and found this guy just to recruit him.
Of course that wasn’t the case, but he says this personal story from five years ago compared to the generally more positive experiences that people have today show that quite a bit of progress has been made.
In his role as Engineering Manager at Clover Health, a technology and healthcare startup in San Francisco, Rogers is directly responsible for sourcing new technical candidates, evaluating them, and on-boarding them. Moving into management after 12 years as an engineer, his goal was always to build teams that were productive and work well together, and that were as diverse as possible. He says, “It’s really a big deal to feel like you’re welcome and represented here,” and he makes sure everyone, especially folks who look like him, have a shot at open positions.
This has not always been easy because diverse candidates tend to be less experienced — not because they’re unqualified, but because they haven’t been given the opportunities to learn and develop in their previous companies.
Rogers is changing that trajectory by instituting programs at Clover Health that focus on growing entry-level engineers into senior roles. He is creating a culture of investing in employees who are just starting out, and providing direct mentoring and training that will allow them to flourish into great senior leaders at the company.
There are exciting changes in terms of diversity and inclusion in the tech industry, according to Rogers. The fact that we’re even having these conversations illustrates his positive outlook. “Now we get to talk about the fact that nobody looks like me,” whereas before these discussions were not even happening. Still, while people are starting to get the message that diversity matters, they’re not always sure what to do in terms of creating inclusive environments once they have a diverse team on board.
He’s happy to say that the conversation is shifting toward action and not just theory. “If diversity is our recruiting and hiring challenge, then inclusion becomes our retention challenge. If you can get them in the door, how do you get them to stay?” At its heart, it’s really a culture problem we’re trying to solve. “You can’t just bring these people in if you don’t have a place where they’re going to feel welcome and valued.” Rogers is working hard to solve that culture problem with his initiatives at Clover Health.
Listen to the full podcast with Marco Rogers here or below.
Watch Marco Rogers’ talk at Tech Inclusion 2016 below.
Listen to more Tech Inclusion podcasts here.
About Change Catalyst:
Change Catalyst empowers diverse, inclusive and sustainable tech innovation — through events, consulting, research and training.
Our Tech Inclusion programs explore and develop innovative solutions to tech diversity and inclusion.
Our Startup Ecosystem programs help underrepresented entrepreneurs and investors to start, scale and fund worldchanging businesses.
Change Catalyst is a Certified B Corp, winning the “Best for the World” award for community impact in 2014 and “Best in the World” overall in 2015.