Franklin Reed is a driving force in the philanthropic relationship between TEKsystems, one of the largest technology services firms in the world, and Creating IT Futures. He is TEKsystems’ director of inclusion and diversity and has served on the Creating IT Futures board for the last two years.
Reed recently connected with Colleen Crino, Creating IT Futures Chief Development Officer, on the Technologist Talk podcast to discuss the ways his organization supports our youth and adult programs along multiple dimensions in cities across the country.
Here's an edited transcript of their conversation:
Colleen Crino: It is my very distinct pleasure to welcome one of the most thoughtful leaders that I know… Franklin Reed [who] has consistently contributed a wealth of insight about tech career-pathing, on-boarding new talent into the industry, and what it means to have a diversity lens in tech. First, if you can tell us a little bit more about your position [at TEKsystems] and why diversity and inclusion is a priority as an organization?
Franklin Reed: I would say about 60%, 65% of my work is focused internally, not only ensuring that we're building a diverse workforce. But also, that this workforce is coming into an environment that allows people to contribute their absolute best, and we have the privilege of accessing the rich diversity of their experiences.
But the remaining 35% to 40% is engaging our customers. It is incumbent upon us to understand the diversity-related goals of our customers to ensure that we're building as rich and diverse of a pipeline as possible to make them available to our customers.
We believe that I&D (we refer to it as inclusion and diversity) is important for four primary reasons:
The first is that we have richer and deeper connections with one another, richer and deeper connections with our consultants, and then also with our customers. It also positions us to be different. It's a differentiator when we can go into the market and we reflect the diversity in the communities in which we live and serve and support. But also having an environment that allows people to be authentic ensures that is going to support an innovative approach that we want to bring to solving our customer's problems.
And so, those are the four primary reasons are connection and differentiation, authenticity and innovation, and those four things together should result in better business.
If I had to add my own reason why inclusion and diversity in my team's role is important is it is just the right thing to do, to put your money where your mouth is in terms of reflecting your community and having a wide-open door for individuals of different backgrounds and experiences to not only come in, but to come in and thrive and achieve their goals, is the right thing to do.
Colleen: What talents do you feel you bring to your role in TEKsystems – around this mission and these four pillars?
Franklin: I believe that my strengths around being creative and not approaching some of the challenges that we experience with this cookie-cutter approach is important. And it's because at the end of the day, although my title is director of inclusion and diversity, I'm ultimately driving organizational and behavioral change.
When you're dealing with people, people aren't cookie cutouts. And so, your ability to be creative is important. Partnered with this creativity, I have an incredible sense of comfort, even dealing with ambiguity. I can move forward with a plan without having everything baked, building the plan as we go.
And… I recognize that inclusion and diversity, although many organizations position it as separate things, the things that I'm driving don't operate in a vacuum... I understand that I'm part of a system. I like to describe it as I'm part of this raging river called TEKsystems that's going in one direction. What I can't be is, I can't be trying to swim upstream.
I have a strong sense of empathy that enables me to build relationships. So that when the time comes where I need to challenge or push back or question, I've got this relational equity that I can leverage that brings people in, as we move forward towards a shared goal.
Colleen: Share with us how you were first introduced to Creating IT Futures. How did you first become acquainted with us?
Franklin: Our relationship started in Minneapolis with our operations there and the work that Creating IT Futures is doing [through IT-Ready] to support not just the community, but also in providing [tech] talent.
We needed to continue to access pools that gave us access to talent. We had this incredible desire to increase diversity within the pool or access more diverse talent within the pool. We wanted to also make a connection with an organization that was driving change and amplify that change. And then, we wanted to be a bridge to under-represented talent, since we're the largest provider of technology staffing, meaning we have the jobs.
Creating IT Futures just aligned with all these goals. As we've expanded West into Phoenix and Portland and other locations, we now can engage our local recruiting partners in those various cities to participate to a much greater degree in the [IT-Ready] classroom and ensuring that those students have a relationship with technical recruiters in the marketplace. And we make sure that our customers know what our relationship with [Creating IT Futures is] so that they understand where we're procuring talent and amplifying your message and your mission.
For us, the relationship has scaled as Creating IT Futures has scaled. It's a combination of not just the work, but it's a combination of the mission, the vision, the openness to feedback that you have demonstrated, your willingness to be innovative in your approach to connecting to the community. You're very transparent.
And the experience is consistent, which is so important for us. As a company with 130 offices, we're engaging customers that have multiple locations across the country, and so consistency for us has put us in a position to be the leader that we are. That's what we look for when we partner with other organizations, and that's what we found. A student that goes through [the IT-Ready] program in Charlotte is just as good as a student that's going to go through a program in Chicago, as Phoenix or Portland or wherever. What we look for is what our customers look for, and that's why this relationship works.
Colleen: So, what's next for TEKsystems and Creating IT Futures?
Franklin: We are going to continue to do everything we can to support the programs that introduce more highly qualified technologists into the workforce.
We're also going to continue to support girls entering technology careers and look for continued opportunities to ensure that they see technology as a viable career option. Supporting not just the Women in Tech Summit, but also TechGirlz. And so, we're excited about coming alongside Creating IT Futures in the launch of a parent resource center.
Often, parents become an unsuspecting barrier because they may not completely understand all that's necessary as they guide their students into potential technology careers. They may not understand the long-term viability of a technology career. They may not understand the demand for technologists. As a result, they may not be presenting a tech career as an option for their students. This parents resource center, we believe, is critical and necessary to remove any unintended hurdles and barriers for girls and young kids of color from entering technology [careers.]
Hear the full podcast conversation between Franklin Reed of TEKsystems and Colleen Crino of Creating IT Futures here: Episode 42 – Talking with Partners: How TEKsystems Works with Creating IT Futures
Technologist Talk is an award-winning podcast produced by Creating IT Futures, CompTIA’s tech workforce charity, where we talk to business leaders, workforce professionals and talent developers about shaping the careers of today’s and tomorrow’s technology workers.