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Stephen Haynes: Key takeaways from the BFUTR Black Professionals in Tech Network conference

Part of building an inclusive future includes looking beyond ourselves to learn about the barriers that stand in front of those within equity-seeking groups, so we can work to remove them. It is organizations like the Black Professionals in Tech Network (BPTN) who are standing with leading Canadian companies to create a more reflective and supportive space for Black tech professionals, by ensuring that important shifts are made to drive meaningful change.  

Recently, BPTN hosted the BFUTR (/Be Future/) Summit, the largest virtual gathering of Black tech professionals globally, and featured our very own Stephen Haynes, Vice President, Ontario Field Sales, and Black Leadership Council member.

Stephen participated in BFUTR’s “Winning in tech sales (selling while Black)” executive discussion, and here are his thoughts:

What message were you most passionate about sharing with the summit audience?

I would say speaking about Hiring Managers/Recruiters as they need to recognize the biases they bring to the table and question them. When hiring managers consider a diverse candidate, they should say to themselves, “Great, a diverse candidate, we’re off to a good start”.  This helps change the potential negative internal narrative around Black and other equity-seeking candidates that might exist.

What did you learn from others on the panel? Did anything surprise you?

That there are key differences between the US and Canada, one of which is that in the US there are Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) where Black Professionals can connect with each other prior to moving into the workforce.  This helps to build a support system early on that based on shared experiences. In Canada, the reliance on allies when entering the workforce is key, and this has been my personal experience.

Any advice for other Black professionals looking to make their mark on the world of tech sales?

Be yourself and embrace the strengths you have as a Black seller to provide insight into what can work for your customer and your company. Offer insights into diversity and what that can do to grow their businesses. Help customers and organizations look at their business through a different lens. Be confident, stay strong and seek other Black Professionals and allies that can help move your career forward.

What are some of your key takeaways from the summit?

It was refreshing to hear the support and voices of allies who don’t look like me. It was great to see more women at the forefront of these discussions and conversations.

We still have a long way to go on all fronts, but it was great to see the commitment to driving significant change through learning and action.  The focus on the Black experience in Technology was refreshing. I’m proud to see that Rogers is devoted to not only pushing inclusion and diversity forward within or own company, but also supporting progress within the communities we serve—and anything I can do to amplify the experiences of my own community to bring forth change and remove barriers is something I’m passionate about and always happy to do.