DiversityInc founder and chairman Luke Visconti
DiversityInc founder and chairman Luke Visconti

Event Recap: “Strengthening Opportunities for Hispanic STEM Students,” a Panel Discussion Featuring DiversityInc Founder Luke Visconti

On June 18, DiversityInc founder and chairman Luke Visconti participated in a panel discussion held by the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) aimed at identifying the challenges Hispanic students face in obtaining advanced science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degrees and exploring how, through our alliances, we can strengthen those pathways. 

Visconti, who’s also on the HACU corporate and philanthropic council as well as the boards of New Jersey City University Foundation (NJCU) and the Rutgers Foundation, was joined by Stephane Lunan, tax technology partner at Deloitte Tax LLP; and Lindsey Silva, Ph.D., senior manager, microbiology global QC technology at Genentech.

The discussion was moderated by Jeanette Morales, HACU executive director
of student & PK-12 services.

Among the highlights of Visconti’s comments on helping Hispanic STEM students get ahead:

  •  “The sooner your company is engaged in young people’s lives, the sooner you can offer that invitation to learn more about what you actually need. It’s a very effective way of getting people on board.”
  • “Our big corporations have a responsibility to teach young people what it means to work there, what the benefit is for them and what they need to learn in college.”
  • “The most fundamental things about going to school are taken for granted by wealthy people, and not taken for granted by people who are financially underleveraged. So, it’s important for us in corporations who are interacting with students to think about the philanthropic needs of the community.”
  • “If we want talent that will serve us over a career, colleges also need to better communicate the needs of their students who are financially underleveraged — and that’s disproportionately Black and Latino.“ 
  • “More corporations need to support HACU’S efforts, because that translates directly into more talent in the STEM pipeline… Dip into your pocket a little more deeply, send HACU a few more dollars so they can fund scholarships and mentorships.”
  • “If you understand the best things your school is producing in terms of majors and concentrations, communicate that to industry partners who need those people… Send a note to the CEO and say, ‘This is what we have — who can you connect us with to make sure our students are aware of the opportunities at your wonderful company?’” 
  • “It’s about understanding what you’re really good at, then communicating that to a very discrete number of companies. You don’t want to blanket the world, because it’s impossible to follow up.”
  • “I encourage corporations to be very strategic in their philanthropy. If a school has strong math majors, and there’s a corporation nearby that hires math majors, I would encourage them to endow a scholarship… That way they can advise [the school] on how to better prepare their students for the employment world.”
  • “It’s a partnership. If the university is doing a good job of preparing the students, they’ll be hired — if the corporations know they exist.”
  • “Prepare your students to make a good impression… Every kid in Princeton is prepared for [an important] meeting. They know how to wear their blazer, shake hands — how to present themselves. Our students need to be as ready as other students from more affluent homes, so they’re corporate-ready.”
  • “It just takes that little bit of mentoring — arm around the shoulder, ‘Do this, don’t do that’… The school can get that process started.”
  • “Hiring managers need to be held accountable for hiring a diversity of candidates… for seeing beyond just the typical things we’ve looked for in the past.”
  • “To be realistic, we have to be prepared to meet the culture in the company we wish to work for… We have to say, ‘How can I fit in so I gain traction for my career without losing my authenticity?’ There’s a balance, and I think it starts with the candidate picking the right place to go — because they’re not all the same.“

And here’s a look back recapping the full event discussion:

 

Morales: I want to thank everybody for joining us today. My first question is to Dr. Silva: Can you share an example of an effective partnership you have with a college or university that helps you meet your diverse STEM workforce needs? What makes this partnership effective? And what things have gotten in the way? 

 

Silva: So, first of all, thank you for the opportunity to discuss what Genentech is doing to diversify STEM, especially in biotech. For me, personally, grassroots efforts are really valuable, and we’ve done this with the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science [SACNAS] national organization. Approximately five years ago, many of us at Genentech participated in SACNAS while we were in our undergraduate and graduate degree programs. We realized there was a gap many students have experienced in more of an academic setting, and they weren’t really aware of opportunities in biotech, especially for internships and early career positions. So, we established our professional chapter in, I believe, 2016, and focused on targeted recruitment for the internship programs that we have every summer, as well as seeing how we can better engage with graduate students for our rotational and postdoctoral programs.

So, I think because we were once SACNAS students ourselves, and we know that many students are very interested in alternative careers to academia, we were very successful in partnering with the local university Bay Area chapters, and we have invited them to Genentech so they could can learn about what biotech is. When I was a student, I didn’t even know what a “biologic” was. And now we have such a diverse and growing portfolio, we really need a workforce that can drive this innovation. So, what has been very successful is that we’ve met many of these students who took on internship roles during the summer; we’ve kept in touch with them, and when they’ve graduated they’ve been accepted into the rotational programs and postdoctoral programs, and we’ve even been able to convert some of these into full-time employee positions. So, at least our metrics have been growing over time.

And I would say probably the challenges and the pain points are when we think about mid-year, mid-career recruitment. For some of the positions, you do need some direct biotech experience, and not everyone might have that, and it can be challenging to get your foot in the door. So, at least we’ve had some successes for entry-level positions, and we’re trying to see what we can do for better recruitment at mid-career as well as thinking about higher-level director-and-up positions.

 

Morales: Ms. Lunan, can you give us an example of an effective partnership that you have with a college or university that helps you meet your diverse STEM workforce needs? 

 

Lunan:  Absolutely. So, at Deloitte, we actually have a broad recruitment program on campus. And as you can imagine, we are looking for outstanding science, technology, math, engineering, accounting, tax and information services experts — not experts, but recruits from campus to come into our team and serve our clients in the STEM sciences areas. What we’ve really done is had a focus, a diversity and inclusion [D&I] focus, of identifying outstanding candidates on campus who can come in and fill the ranks and grow in their career. And so when we’re looking at a number of colleges, we’re really focusing on those colleges and universities who do both, who have outstanding programs both in STEM sciences and in DE&I [diversity, equity and inclusion], so we can accomplish both goals.

So, one of the things that we do throughout our campus hires is, we work with different components of the expertise around the STEM scientists, with professors and different team members within those programs, to identify who we should hire and bring on board into our program — those who have that competency, who have that knowledge through their learning on campus and through the university, but also have a DE&I profile so that we can promote them and help them grow and build careers within Deloitte. 

 

Morales: Mr. Visconti, can you tell us how your company helps strengthen pathways to step graduate education? 

 

Visconti: I think Dr. Silva touched on the real opportunity, which is, we deal — through my philanthropy and my philanthropic roles — with students before they reach the college campus. So, for example, Rutgers Future Scholars starts in eighth grade. And these are children who go to school where Rutgers has campuses that are, for the most part, financially underleveraged and first-generation college students. And so they don’t know what a biologic is. They don’t know what an accountant does. It’s nothing wrong with them. It’s just that they’re not in a corporate family. They don’t understand. 

And so through that program they get exposure to different careers, and then they understand. And the sooner your company is engaged in these young people’s lives, the sooner you can offer that invitation to learn more about what you actually need. And we’ve hired several former Rutgers Future Scholar students as they’ve graduated, because they’re well prepared, they understand what we do, they have an attraction to diversity-management work. And then they may leave to get their graduate degree or move on in their careers. But it’s a very effective way of getting people on board. I think every university — even Princeton — has something like this. 

Another avenue is through HACU. I’ve been involved with HACU for many years, and seeing firsthand how [HACU president and CEO Antonio R. Flores] reaches into the schools, has the connections. And if you are participating with HACU, you can leverage his relationships to gain entry onto those campuses to explain to the young people what they could be studying and what happens. 

So, for example, I was with a group of students, we went to one of the Big Four [Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG, PwC] accounting firms, and I asked the partner who was talking to the kids, “How much do you make?” And he was a little taken aback, and I said, “Well, how much does a partner at this firm bank?” And he said, “$300,000 a year,” and the kids all gasped as a group. They didn’t know anybody who makes $300,000 a year.

So, it was interesting, because at the end of the conversation, I was sitting next to a young man named Jamal, and I asked Jamal, ”Did you know what an accountant was before you came here?” And he said no. None of the kids did. I said, “Are you interested in becoming an accountant now?” and all the kids said yes. And Jamal, who had an interest in the music industry, said, “I can be an accountant in the music industry.” I said, “That’s exactly right, Jamal.” 

So, in other words, our big corporations have a responsibility to teach young people what it means to work there, what the benefit is for them and what they need to learn in college. And that’s how we’ve effectively done it for my company for years and years now. 

 

Morales: Now, what do you wish colleges and universities understood about recruitment and retention efforts of diverse STEM talent?

 

Lunan: I may go off-script a little bit and pick up on something Mr. Visconti just said. As a tax accountant myself in a Big Four professional services team, one of the things I wish I could tell all of my campus recruits is the following, and I think this is something that we don’t articulate enough: There is a huge need for STEM sciences. I actually became an accountant because, basically, my brother told me that if you get an accounting degree, you’ll always have a job. And that’s an OK conversation to have with our campus recruits. And when I think about how to communicate the importance of universities and campuses in building the competencies, you also have to bring it back to a student’s life, to what they’re going to need to not only sustain themselves but also to build their personal and professional goals. And so oftentimes, I like to think about what’s simple in thinking about the goals of recruitment and especially talking to the people we see on campus. And it’s really very easily translated. 

STEM sciences and technology, accounting, tax, engineering — all of these competencies that you’re learning in school translate to jobs, right? But they also translate to the enablement of your families, of your family’s future. And then you get to see that, as they grow from a staff person to a manager in the STEM sciences, they’re bringing others like them on board in the recruiting campus process. So, they can then grow and build their own village. And so it’s key to encourage them that these different competencies and skills that they’re getting from the STEM degrees translate to life goals — what they can build for their families, for themselves and for their communities. 

Morales: How would you describe the students upon entering your company? Are there skills they’re lacking? Are there additional things that we can do, either through outside organizations or colleges and universities, to help students perform better? 

 

Lunan:  Yes. So, I think our students learn the STEM sciences through their universities, but they also have to learn the nuances of the softer skills. How do I go and ask questions? And when I get staffed on a project, how do I actually network? How do I get out of my chair or my Zoom call and make an extra connection? So, I think one of the critical components of any degree is combining the bigger view of learning a skill with softer skills, like getting to know people, listening, communication, and having good writing skills, which are absolutely critical to knowing how to build your network.

 

Morales: Dr. Silva, same question. What do you wish colleges and universities understood about your recruitment and retention efforts regarding diverse STEM talent? 

 

Silva: I think there are two approaches. One is what we’re trying to do at Genentech, which is to really challenge hiring managers about who they’re trying to recruit for their internship job positions. I think for many of us in biotech, we usually hire “what we know” — we go to our alma maters and hire the people we’re comfortable with, who look like us. So, we already know that there’s work to be done to look at capabilities and fit for the role rather than going through a typical checklist of needing to hit only Ivy League schools, for example. 

So, what’s been helpful is educating hiring managers on some of our diversity and inclusion initiatives, such as how we engage with students at the SACNAS national conference as well as other camps. We also have a separate partnership with historic black universities and colleges. We’re working with Morehouse, Spelman and Howard. So, that’s one piece, because we know that all of these students are so talented, we need to just make sure they have the opportunities. 

And then, for colleges and universities, I think what’s really helpful is making sure that students see themselves reflected in the science. Representation matters so much, and we know that, for example, Diana Trujillo at NASA — if I’d read an article about her when I was in school, I would have been so inspired, because I would have seen myself represented. And what sticks out to me is reading that only 2% of Latinos are working in STEM. So, when I see that number, I think we’ve got to do better. And I think part of it is showing up for those of us who are working in STEM, so we can encourage these students to pursue these careers. Because no one in my family works in biotech; I was very fortunate to get my foot in the door. So, we just need to let students know about these opportunities and encourage them to apply for these positions. 

And I would say that the last thing is, because of Covid and having everything shut down, many of the internships that would normally happen in person, in a lab, unfortunately had to be rescinded. And so this is where, if you have computational skills, statistics, programming, you are at an advantage, because you could have a skill set that is more amenable to a virtual setting. So, there’s still some work to be done, but I think partnership helps, as well as really emphasizing that you do belong in science — trying to squash the “imposter syndrome” and emphasizing a sense of belonging and community. 

 

Morales: Mr. Visconti, what do you wish colleges and universities understood about recruitment and retention efforts for diverse STEM talent? 

 

Visconti: There are a few things, and they came to the surface during the Covid crisis, during the pandemic, which is we had students at NJCU — which is an HSI [Hispanic-serving institution] — who did not have internet access at home. And so the most fundamental things about going to school are taken for granted by wealthy people and not taken for granted by people who are financially underleveraged. So, it’s important for us in corporations who are interacting with students to think about the philanthropic needs of the community, especially when crises happen. 

But In the long term, there are people who are very talented. I’ve seen this. I was at Bennett College and saved a young woman twice from dropping out of a biochemistry major because she needed $300 and didn’t have it. And her mom was saying, “You need to come home and get a job so you can support your brothers and sisters.” So, we have to look at this and say, if we want talent that will serve us over a career, we have to be there for them when they need it. And colleges need to do that better. I think NJCU does an excellent job. Rutgers does an excellent job. But they all need to communicate better the needs of their students who are financially underleveraged — and that’s disproportionately Black and Latino. 

I think the other thing that needs to happen is, more corporations need to support HACU and the efforts that HACU is making, because that does translate directly into more talent being in the STEM pipeline and other pipelines because of the work that HACU does. And I’ve seen it firsthand over the years I’ve been on the corporate philanthropy council, and I’ve encouraged them, “Dip into your pocket a little more deeply, and let’s send HACU a few more dollars so they can fund scholarships and mentorships, especially for the young students.” 

 

Morales: Dr. Silva, if you could imagine partnering with Hispanic serving institutions across the nation to take efforts to scale nationally, what might this look like? 

 

Silva: I would say, we’ve started partnering with HBCUs [historically black colleges and universities], and this is where Genentech employees, through support from the Genentech Foundation, intentionally partnered with three schools, worked with the professors and tried to identify what are the needs. So, I think this is a great example with HACU, where we know that there are a lot of talented universities but they might not be in close proximity to biotech centers, which tend to be in San Francisco, Boston and San Diego. So, the first part is just exposure to students, and that’s usually done through lectures. Some of the lectures are on anything from what is a biologic to what is quality by design, introducing elements of biotechnology that they may not be exposed to, or that professors may not be teaching. So, we already have some curricula available, and are trying to make it easier on the employees, and to offer these courses, lectures and journal clubs to interested students. 

And then what’s helpful is that these students are recommended by the professors to apply for internships; and we also have an extended award scholar program. So, we already have in place scholarship programs with select schools, and what we’ve also been trying to do is make sure we’re intentional in reaching underrepresented talent, especially Black Latinx students, so they get internship and funding so they can get that experience during the summer and not have to worry about how they’re going to pay for things. And for me, I’m also working with the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering, ISPE. I’m partnered with UC Davis. So, for this, we’re also trying to put together course curricula for biology and engineering students. 

I recently gave a lecture on quality by design. Even though normally we would offer this lecture in person, we were able to do it online, and I was able to invite students from my alma mater, UC Irvine. And I intentionally sought out students who were involved in SHEP [Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers], NABI [National Alliance for Broader Impacts] and SACNAS, these student organizations, as well as reaching out to the program managers for the Mark and BRS camp programs. So, I think that was a good way to at least get students exposed. And then they were also able to participate in a follow-up industry panel so they could ask questions about what it’s like to work in the industry. So, I think there are opportunities to try to see how we would roll this out to other universities. It’s just the challenge of trying to find enough industry representatives that can help give lectures and try to see if there’s a way to streamline the coursework so it’s not a burden on one person to do everything, since we also have day jobs. 

 

Morales: True. Ms. Lunan, if you could imagine partnering with Hispanic-serving institutions to take efforts to scale nationally, what might this look like? 

 

Lunan:  So, I think it’s three areas. I think the first thing is, let’s take what we’re doing well now and grow it to scale. We have very specific universities and campuses — University of Houston, Loyola Marymount, University of North Texas. I’m from Texas, that’s why I keep naming all of these places. But we have very specific campuses and universities working together with the Hispanic Institution and other Hispanic institutions on campus to target and recruit campus hires to bring them into our professional services team. So, the key is, let’s take what we do well and expand it. I think we’ve done a good job of focusing on it — we have initiatives that are specific to it — but have we put it intentionally on a broad-base scale?

The second part of it is, we’re a bunch of accountants and management consultants, and we like metrics. And so we need to measure our success. So, in order to scale, you need to see where you’ve been successful, take those lessons learned and then build upon that and do better — expand that and then measure your success. 

And then, finally, the other component of it is, quite frankly — I think Lindsey said this — but scholarships are really critical, and having that built into the initiatives and how we are working with different organizations as well as on campus is having funding to actually go and do this. And so Deloitte recently made a $75 million contribution in this area to focus on that. And that’s really where we “put our money where our mouth is” in being intentional. 

And so, I think, to grow and scale is doing what you are doing well, but expand it to many more of the Hispanic-serving institutions with priority in these areas, right? And then measure our success and take lessons learned, and do our best to prioritize how we fund that and move those initiatives forward. We can’t do everything, so it is a prioritization; but we certainly can use that where we’ve been successful, and expand upon it. 

 

Morales: And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Deloitte has been a longtime partner of HACU and has actually provided scholarships for many of our students in accounting and finance. And so we hope to continue that relationship as we move forward. At this point, I want to open up the panel to questions from our participants. We’ve talked about building alliances and intentionality. What should these alliances look like as we move forward? Let’s start with you, Dave.

 

Dave: My first question is on one of the challenges I have: I spent my career with Los Alamos National Lab, and we used to face these things. It’s more similar to industry than academia. But one of the statistics that always bothers me is that 86% of hires within STEM come from 25% of the universities. Those 25% of universities tend to be about 10 to 11% underrepresented. And so we hire who we know within STEM — we go to the same places, and those places are not diverse.

And this is just one of the realities. We see that, unless we start tackling that somehow, I’m not sure how to get around this, because we’ve all seen it. And I used to get into this at Los Alamos. Yeah, everybody talks a good game about diversity: “Yeah, we believe in this,” and “We’re going to hire everyone,” [but then it’s] “I’m getting my three applications from Caltech, MIT and Stanford. I’ll pick my candidate,” right? Do you have any thoughts about this, and how have you approached this? Because I’ve heard some pretty cool examples of things that you’re doing in terms of — I think, Lindsey, you mentioned educating some of your hiring managers or something like that. But I’d just like to get your thoughts on that. 

 

Silva: So, I will say, I was an individual contributor for many years, and I also wonder if I would even have gotten my first job if it hadn’t been for having a Harvard degree. And one thing that I think HR has been really good about and what is new for Genentech is, we now have a chief diversity officer. So, they’re really focusing on pillars of, “How do we intentionally find people and really educate hiring managers on what we’re looking for?” And that’s why we’re shifting away from kind of a “check the box” exercise to capabilities, to see how a candidate would perform in a future role. 

And then part of it is that we just need more of us who are hiring managers. So, for me, I’m now a manager, and I’ve been building my team. I’m thinking intentionally. I have an open position for a microbiology engineer. And so I think part of the challenge for this position is, I need them to be in San Francisco. So, I’m happy to look at résumés from all over the country, but then I understand that some people just may not be able to relocate to the Bay Area. But for other positions, after Covid we’re realizing some of the work that we do can be remotely, it can be region-agnostic. So, this is a case where we can maybe be better at how we’re recruiting people, especially if we’re thinking about talent coming from either HBCUs or HSIs, and where we can look outside the Bay Area region. 

But it’s still tricky. I think a continuing challenge is for hiring managers, because you’re going to be more conservative, more risk-averse, you want to make sure you hire a candidate who’s going to be a good fit and not leave, because it does take time to find people. So, it’s still a work in progress, and I don’t know how we’re going to get over that hurdle, but it’s going to take the efforts of HR working with hiring managers and really trying to change those mindsets. 

 

Dave: If I could follow up real quick, Lindsey, on that, because you made another comment I really appreciate in terms of the lectures, the teaching that you’ve done in university. And you’re right, there are only so many hours in a day. There’s a need to have input from industry national lab partners in terms of curriculum development. Could you see being industry partners in terms of this alliance? Would that be reasonable for white folks like yourself to say, “Look, come and help us to develop this curriculum so we can start getting these in”? So, one, you don’t have to teach all these classes, and two, students who are taking them aren’t just burdened with having to do an extra course, but are getting credit for it, too. Because we’ve got to make sure that we’re not overburdening them. 

 

Silva: Yeah. So, as part of this workforce of the future, the two co-leads were able to work with industry to identify what the job profile looks like and what skill sets are needed, and try to work with schools so you develop the curriculum. And now it’s at the point where they’re exploring phase three, what does this look like? And so that could be another opportunity to get more universities involved. 

 

Morales: Our next question comes from Melissa.

 

Melissa: Thank you. I want to ask a question in relation to something that was shared. When we start having the conversation about the pool of universities that you’re looking at — for example, I’m at an HSI in Southern California, but it is a smaller private institution, with 1,000 students. And I feel like there are not really pathways for us to connect to a lot of the employers to really understand how we can build these relationships, because I’ve been fortunate that we have a few alumni who’ve been wanting to work with our career services department, and we have a Title V grant that makes me, like, this pseudo employer-relations person, and I’m networking that way. Thank God I have a marketing background to help with that. But I’m noticing that because people have not had exposure to our university, we don’t have alumni in those areas. Our faculty don’t have those connections. 

What are some of your recommendations for a person like me, or even a faculty member, who wants to explore these opportunities with employers, but just doesn’t have the brand recognition? We don’t necessarily — we have the amazing students and the pipeline of the talent that you need, and we’re willing to do these workshops. I just worked with Essentia, and we developed three series workshops to prepare students for the recruiting season in the fall. We’re willing to do those things, but we need the partners to be willing to do that. And we have the students, and we’re in a prime location. How do we build that connection?

 

Silva: I’ll take that… If you don’t have a college or recruit university that’s specific to HACU or HBCU, there are alliances and nonprofits that you can tap into, like the HACU and HBCU Business Deans Roundtable, to build opportunities. I think what you said, Melissa, that was really key was “alumni.” Tapping alumni and tracking alumni to have those opportunities, if it doesn’t come directly from the recruiting process, is absolutely critical. So, I think that would be one of the things that I would always recommend, and that’s where we see quite a bit of benefit and gain in that area.

 

Visconti: Melissa, I would suggest that if you — Stephane talked about metrics, if you understand your university’s metrics, and the best things you’re producing in terms of majors and concentrations, then I would communicate that to industry partners who need those people. So, if you have an especially good math department, for example, and you know the metrics of the students graduating and you can communicate that directly, I would go right to the CEO, send a note and say, “This is what we have — who can you connect us with at your corporation to make sure that our students are aware of all the opportunities at your wonderful company?”

It’s about understanding that we can’t all be good at everything. Not every university or college is good at everything. Understanding what you’re really good at, and then communicating that to a very discrete number of companies. You don’t want to blanket the world, because it’s impossible to follow up. If you know who’s in your area, and you understand what they’re hiring for — and they’ll tell you if you don’t know, they could probably find that out very quickly — then you can communicate with them, “Hey, we’ve got some people, would you like to speak with them?” And then you can get them engaged. 

And then, conversely, I encourage corporations to be very strategic in their philanthropy. So, for example, at your school, if you have strong math majors and there’s a corporation nearby that hires math majors, I would encourage them to endow a scholarship, get somebody on the foundation board, and that way you can speak directly to the president in meetings and advise them on how better to prepare their students for the employment world.

Because it’s a partnership. If the university is doing a good job of preparing the students, they’ll be hired — if the corporations know they exist. So, understanding your own metrics first, and then understanding what your counterparts in corporate American near you geographically are looking for, is the best way to bridge that gap. Because with 8,000 undergraduates, it’s not exactly a tiny university. I think Princeton has 5,000. So, you’re a decent size, and I’m sure you’re producing certain majors that are really superior compared with other majors. Match them up with the local corporations that need those people. It’s surprising how little of that happens.

 

Lunan:  I think that’s a brilliant idea, and I’ll take it even further. If you look at the recruiting arms in LinkedIn, even for just Deloitte, and you look up all the requests for campus and experienced hires that we have, you’re going to be able to match exactly. And we’ve got thousands of them, by the way, all in the STEM sciences. You’re going to be able to match just from those requests for recruiting, the hiring that we’re looking for, the capabilities that we’re looking for. And you’re going to have a one-to-one match to what you’re already developing on campus. And so that matches an automated reconciliation. I mean, you have an easy way to reconcile, “Wow, this is an exact match to the students we have,” and “This is a great channel.” 

 

Visconti: Well, I’d like to leverage that just a little bit, too, Melissa. When they get there, the students have to be prepared. And I’ll give you something: We had a student from Rutgers Future Scholars get a job at one of the Big Four, and she was going to quit because they had her working every weekend. But that’s what happens when you’re starting at a Big Four accounting firm, you don’t have a life. You work nonstop. And in two or three years, you get a promotion, and it gets better. And then when you make partner, you’ve got it made for life. It’s very, very hard to find an analog to being a partner at a Big Four accounting firm.

So, the students have to be prepared, and I’ll give you an example. I was asked to speak at a small state university in New Jersey. You’ve never heard of it. So, I went to speak, then I was on the receiving line. And the last person on the line was a young man, a student. He was in a blazer. His chinos were pressed. I mean, he was standing up and he introduced himself, shook my hand and told me he started the Alpha chapter on campus, and he had his accounting degree. He was a senior. And I said, “So, where are you going to work, Juan?” And he said, “I don’t have a job yet.” And I said, “Have you spoken to any of the Big Four?” And he said, “They don’t recruit here.” So, I called up my friend at Deloitte who runs the southeast, and I said, “John, I’ve got a guy you’re going to hire.” And he said, “Well, I’d be happy to meet with him.” I said, “No, you’re going to hire him.” And sure enough, he’s still there. 

But it’s one of those things where — Juan came to the event. I asked him, he told me his parents were factory workers, so they didn’t know about how to appear like that. That was just inside Juan. That was who he was as a man. And if you could prepare your students so they know these things and they can make a good impression… Because I lived in Princeton for 15 years. Every kid in Princeton is prepared for that meeting. Every single one. They know how to wear their blazer. They know how to shake hands. They know how to present themselves. Our students need to be prepared for that. Not everybody comes to the table with either that innate ability or the preparation of having lived in the fullest city. 

So, that’s the other thing from your end, Melissa. If you could help the students, once you’ve identified a partnership with a great company like Deloitte, one of the Big Four awesome companies for them to go work for, you can prepare the students to be as ready as other students from more affluent homes so they are corporate-ready. 

In fact, [former Deloitte executive] Jorge [Caballero] tells a good story. When he showed up for his first day at Deloitte wearing a brown suit with a fluorescent orange tie, one of the partners took him aside and said, “Look, you can keep the brown suit for family things, but you shouldn’t wear it to work. And throw the fluorescent orange tie in the garbage — you and I are going suit shopping right after work.” And he took this young Jorge out, probably to Macy’s or something, to help him buy a couple of suits and he retired as a senior partner. He had a fabulous career, and he’s engaged in all sorts of philanthropy. So, it just takes that little bit of… a little mentoring, arm around the shoulder, “Do this, don’t do that.”

I hired a guy who had never worn a suit. He was in a three-button suit, he’d hit the bottom button, and so I pulled him aside. I said, “Top button sometimes, middle button always, bottom button never.” And he goes, “I didn’t know, thank you.” And now he’s a very successful guy. He’s moved on from my company to go someplace else. I just had lunch with him — very successful. You just need a little bit of a little mentoring, a little arm around the shoulder, “Do this, don’t do that.” But the school can help get that process started.

 

Morales: We’ve got one more question, from Astella.

 

Astella: We know many of our students don’t follow the path of the typical first-time freshman, that you go at 18, you graduate at 22… There are some exceptional students that you cannot believe the talent of determination. I had this student who worked five or six years changing roles, and she got all this technical certification, then she went to community college. She finished with a 4.0 GPA and three associates degrees… But, really, if you look at her résumé, it didn’t have the undergrad research experience or other things that a traditional career has. But she has a lot of talent, a lot of greed and determination. 

So, my question is, what can we do for those students who have all of that, but they haven’t had the opportunities to fit in the traditional preparation pipeline through internships or other things? Is there an automatic path for them so they can still get jobs? Is there an alternative way of entry? Because the majority of Latino students don’t have that very traditional pipeline… Is there an alternative path for them?

 

Silva: So, can I ask a question really quickly, Astella? Do they have access to alliances, though, If they don’t have the traditional college and other things like that?

 

Astella: They have the college, but they [haven’t] completed [their education] at the same traditional pace as the other students. They’re finishing their degree, but may not be at the career fairs or all the places that you really need them, right? I could not believe how many students I have found that have done none of those things.

And I see we’ve got a lot more to help them do, but I’m worried that many of them — they work at these Amazon warehouses that we have nearby, and they come to classes and work really hard, but they don’t have time to do all these extra “regular” things, all these other opportunities like internships, because they have a job and don’t want to leave it because it helps them support their families. They can’t stop in the summer and go do something else, because they come back and they won’t have that good job where they’ve been working for many years.

 

Silva: I’m going to say something, and it’s not the answer to this, but I will tell you this. First of all, obviously they need to tap into every single alliance and network that is available to them. But I think a recognition on our part — and all corporate America — has to be, I think, something that Lindsey said: that somebody who is willing to have hard-work ethics over a fancy degree is going to be almost much more successful in the workforce. And we need to honor that capability as much as a great 4.0 GPA or a master’s program. 

So, part of our regroup on hiring is this: We’re going to look a little bit deeper and, quite frankly, layer lower to see the person behind the résumé, and look past all the different résumés that have all the gloss. But also see the candidates who put themselves through school, who work a second job, who are helping with their family — to look at the work ethic behind that. And I’m just going to be quite frank and honest, it’s going to take time. Because that’s checklist-driven recruiting that we all go through. We all do it — I mean, you have algorithms and programs based on that. But we have to step back. And, I’m not saying I have the answer, I don’t have the answer. But I do know that we’ve got to leap. We’ve got to change the paradigm and introduce more new “wants” to “Is this a good candidate?”

 

Visconti: I would add to that hiring managers need to be held accountable for hiring a diversity of candidates — and that diverse slate includes preparation. And so companies need to be very purposeful in holding their hiring managers accountable to seeing beyond just the typical things we’ve looked for in the past if they want to accomplish their diversity hiring goals. 

 

Morales: I would also like to mention that, as we move forward from the pandemic, we’re going to see that many more of our students are following nontraditional pathways. Their studies were interrupted because they had to take outside employment, but we need to look at these experiences as assets, not deficits, and have the students include those in their résumés. Résumés moving forward are going to be quite different from the standard one- or two-page résumés we are accustomed to. Many of the students today need to also have electronic portfolios. They need to be able to show all of these different experiences. That’s just one way to address this. Finally, I believe Dr. Walker has a question for our panelists. 

 

Dr. Walker: Yes, I’m curious about how your institutions or your organizations are already trying to train hiring managers on things related to implicit bias and holistic review in the same way that we’ve been trying to do in higher education? And also, the extent to which organizations like yours would like to partner with us through this proposed alliance in having managers from your institutions and faculty from our institutions of higher education think through ways that we can all look beyond the “bright green tie.” 

If you think about research on diversity, on teams, it’s the diversity that creates amazing innovation and productivity. So, how do we help our managers see that the guy with the bright green tie is going to bring something extra to that team that all the guys in the black suits from Macy’s don’t have, because they think like yet another, say, white guy — or fill in the blank. So, this is the type of area that we would really love to partner with your types of STEM organizations on, in having breakthroughs in making everything that HSI is bringing to the table more appreciated in STEM.

 

Silva: I think what’s been really helpful is, first, we’ve already started introducing D&I concepts with the university talent and acquisition strategies team, for how we recruit for the internships. And from that, we were able to expand it out on how we recruit for full-time employees. So, already, for hiring managers, we have access to inclusive-hiring tip sheets. We actually have questions on diversity and inclusion that we can use during interview panels. And also, a part of it is making sure that, like on our interview panel, we avoid having only one type of person. We need to have a good ratio of people, because that will help us avoid biases. We also have unconscious-bias training, though it’s still unclear how effective that is.

And then the other thing we have are D&I ambassadors. So, that way, as a hiring manager, if I know that I have a position open on my team — which I do, so if you have any good microbiology engineers, send them my way! — we can kind of help you. Because not everyone may understand the D&I language. Some people are very far along in their journey and well versed, and some people have no idea what those acronyms stand for. 

And so, the idea is really trying to make it as easy as possible to try to think outside the box when you’re looking for talent… It might also be good for students who are getting ready to graduate to know how they should tailor their CV so a hiring manager knows if they should interview this person for one of those more entry-level positions. Because that, I think, is an opportunity for how we can do better at hiring diverse talent.

And then the last part is, it’s not enough to bring in diverse numbers. Because if people don’t feel like they belong — if they feel like they have to code-switch or hide who they are, or can’t be their authentic self — we’re not going to retain this talent. So, I think that “inclusion” piece was very important, and I want to emphasize that we’re not trying to miss the mark on that. So, yes, we want to find people, we want to bring them in, but we also want to make sure we’re intentional in how we’re developing and retaining talent. And that way, people feel like they belong, they can just be themselves. If they want to wear a green tie, there’s no judgment on how they’re performing. And it also starts with us. I also try to do that at work. So, when I was in meetings, I was bringing [my true self], because that’s the way I show up in the workplace, and that’s how I want to build an inclusive environment.

 

Morales: Ms. Lunan and Mr. Visconti, would you like to respond as well?

 

Lunan:  Well, one of the things that we do is, we actually do training for all levels within Deloitte, from the person who is a new hire all the way up to the leadership team. Every single one of us is trained in DE&I, so we’ve made it a goal of our culture. So, quite frankly, I’m going to have to go buy a green tie and show up now, because I liked that. I liked that a lot. But we are very intentional in our training, so that everyone knows that it’s a goal of ours to bring in diversity, equity and inclusion, and you can come as you are. The second part, though, is what I’m seeing within our company. We’re also trying to buddy-up people so they’ve got mentors and counselors, somebody to go to when they’re struggling or when they have successes they can share. And I think that’s just so important. 

Sorry Luke. I didn’t mean to pick on the green tie, but it’s such a good example.

 

Visconti: But I would say that, to be realistic, we have to be prepared to meet the culture in the company that we wish to go work for or do business with… I’ve been at private equity firms where every single person was a graduate of [inaudible]. Now, it doesn’t mean that Harvard Business School graduates are bad, but [unprepared new hires] aren’t going to fit in. So, you have to look at this and say, “How can I fit in so I gain traction for my career without losing my? Without losing myself or having to subjugate who I am to that process?” There’s a balance, and I think it starts with the candidate picking the right place to go — because they’re not all the same. 

So, if you look, for example, at our Top 50 List, and you look at the companies —  especially toward the top — and you’re going to find a home there, you’re going to be much more readily accepted on your own terms, your own dignity, than at an average company. And so it’s about matching the corporate cultures to where they are — I wouldn’t stay in a place where I felt uncomfortable. We all need to start someplace. So, I think it’s important.

 

Morales: Thank you. And on that note, I want to thank all of our panelists today for sharing their insights and their perspectives with us. 

 

Latest Best Practices