By: Jared Karol
Listen to the full podcast with Hadiyah Mujhid here.
Hadiyah Mujhid, founder of the company HBCU to Startup, a platform that connects students from HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) to tech opportunities, attributes many of her career decisions to the fact that her first manager out of college as a software engineer was black. Having this manager in her first role allowed her to navigate some of the difficult conversations she was having at work. She says if she had not had him as a manager she may have gone down a different career path.
So Hadiyah knows first hand the value of creating pathways for HBCU students into tech companies — not only for entry level positions, but ensuring that senior people from underrepresented groups are retained so that they can serve as mentors to the entry level people and help them navigate their careers at an early stage.
This personal experience inspired Hadiyah to find solutions to what she sees as a multi-layered problem: creating a diverse and inclusive workplace.
She thinks that many people from outside the area are not familiar with the unique work culture that has been created in the Bay Area. There is a huge emphasis here on “we work hard and play hard together as a team,” and companies are looking for a personal connection when interviewing potential hires. Many candidates from HBCUs — who mainly live in the East or Southeast part of the country — put on a more traditional level of professionalism, which may block hiring managers from seeing who they really are. The result often is that the company concludes that the candidate is not a good fit for the team.
Candidates from outside the area essentially have to adapt to an entirely new cultural reality. She founded HBCU to Startup to ease that transition. By creating online spaces for employees of startups and tech companies to talk and mingle with HBCU tech students, she is creating an environment where people who may end up working together can get to know each other ahead of time. In just over a year, Hadiyah and her co-founders at HBCU to Startup have built up a community of about 1,000 students.
In addition to the online platform to connect students with tech startups, Hadiyah and her team are rolling out a micro-internship platform that allows them to work together in a flexible way. A company can post their project-based deliverables and HBCU students can showcase their skills and talents by working on the project. Students can build up their portfolios and get a taste of what it’s like to work for a tech company. It’s a win-win.
When students land their first role, Hadiyah offers this advice: “Always make sure that you find someone because there will be situations and maybe conflicts that arise based on your identity, and it’s good to have a go-to even outside the company to talk to.” With good mentorship and the type of pathways created by HBCU to Startup, she hopes to see more and more opportunities created for HBCU students in tech.
Listen to the full podcast with Hadiyah Mujhid here or below.
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.