AHF Connects Early-Career BIWOC Across Canada with Partners like IBM

May 16, 2021
“When I first heard about Accelerate Her Future, I knew IBM had to be involved as one of our priorities is to enable young talent, especially those who are underrepresented.” Diana Kim, Talent Acquisition Manager, IBM

January 2021 marked the launch of AHF’s inaugural Fellowship Circle, a 10-week by application virtual program designed by Black, Indigenous and women of colour (BIWOC) for BIWOC – this is a tailored and curated experience providing small group reciprocal mentorship circles, career learning labs, and networking with manager and leaders from top business and tech companies.

Diana first heard about AHF in March 2020 and has been a strong advocate of our mission since. “When I first heard about AHF, I knew IBM had to be involved as a corporate partner, as one of our priorities is to enable young talent, especially those who are underrepresented. We need to create the conditions for BIWOC young talent to enter or excel in male-dominant fields like tech.” Diana is a Talent Acquisition Manager at IBM where she manages the sourcing and recruiting for internship and early talent programs.

“At IBM, we are committed to fostering an inclusive workplace and continually work to build and develop empathic relationships, meaningful collaborations and flexibility,” explains Diana. Further, IBM’s strategic partnerships with organizations like AHF are great resources for additional learning, networking, community outreach and a great tie into the community for future talent pool.

IBM Taps into a Great Pool of BIWOC Talent through AHF. Diana believes that AHF allows young women to openly discuss challenges, opportunities and strategies with regards to carving out their career journeys. With the opportunity to engage IBMers in AHF’s Fellowship Circle, Diana connected with IBM Business Resource Groups (BRG’s) that represent BIPOC communities within the organization. IBMers participated in the 10-week program as mentors and were able to have open conversations with participants on a variety of topics including building allyship behaviours, personal experiences in tech, and strategies for disrupting bias that can lead to imposter syndrome moments.

“We were also able to hire directly from AHF which is another bonus of the program and a great opportunity to tap into a great pool of BIWOC talent,” notes Diana. IBM hired Chloe Maceda, a third-year undergraduate Computer Science student at Ryerson University, and one of 54 Fellows (students and early-career women) from across Canada accepted into the inaugural Fellowship Circle in Winter 2021. 

On May 3, Chloe started her internship at IBM as a Technical Writer with the Data and AI Content Design team. “I look forward to contributing to the team, the connections I’ll make and to the opportunities during my internship at IBM,” reflects Chloe.

Diana explains that when she and her team came across Chloe’s resume, they knew she would be a good candidate for one of IBM’s Technical Writer internships. “This unique role requires candidates to have good communication skills and also knowledge of software development,” explains Diana. “Chloe is majoring in Computer Science with a minor in Communication and Design which is what we were looking for in this hybrid position.” Chloe’s knowledge of programming languages and experience with different design software was also aligned with the needs of the position. Diana also notes that Chloe’s volunteer experiences on and off campus were also quite impressive as IBM loves to see students who are active in their community!

Chloe tells us that she was always interested in and curious about technology before entering university. Her involvement in the community began in high school with organizations such as Canada Learning Code which is what motivated her to pursue Computer Science. In university, Chloe is actively involved in student groups such as Ryerson’s UX Club and the Canadian Undergraduate Technology Conference (CUTC).

AHF a Purposeful Community for Early-career BIWOC

Chloe believes that AHF’s Fellowship Circle is important for early-career BIWOC because it provides community, resources, connections and opportunities that help young women like her advance their careers. “It is vital to seek out communities and resources like AHF that not only help you navigate your career but also create a safe space for personal and professional learning about navigating the real world,” explains Chloe. After reading about AHF’s vision and mission, Chloe knew that she wanted to experience the Fellowship Circle and the reciprocal mentoring relationship with managers and leaders in business and tech as well as to continue supporting AHF after the program.

“It was a pleasure to spend 10 weeks as a Fellow with other peers across the country and Mentors,” reflects Chloe. “I always had my notebook and pen ready, excited to write down valuable learning from every session. This experience has helped me develop my skills and also grow meaningful connections.”

Diana reflects back to when she was a science student in university and why she believes in the importance of AHF’s mission and vision. “AHF is a community and sisterhood of industry professionals, young professionals, students and those passionate about advocating for people of colour, and particularly women,” explains Diana. “As a woman of colour, when I was in school, I didn’t have a safe space like AHF where I could lean on fellow students and be paired up with a mentor to discuss topics that may not be comfortable.” 

Tips For Early-Career Women Pursuing Careers in Business and Tech

With an academic background in science, Diana entered the talent acquisition field after discovering her love and passion for working with people, especially youth. What has kept her in this space for the last eight years is seeing the excitement from candidates pursuing opportunities at IBM and their passion for tech. Having worked with many students to help them land their next job, Diana offers a number of tips for BIWOC pursuing early-careers in business and tech.

“There isn’t one perfect recipe when it comes to standing out in the recruitment process. That being said, I would highly encourage students to get involved within their community. Participate in hackathons, case competitions, student clubs, personal projects, these are all really great ways to gain transferable skills if you’re looking for your next internship.”

Diana also recommends building connections and networks with industry professionals through LinkedIn and programs like AHF’s Fellowship Circle. “Most people think they need to network with recruiters on LinkedIn, which is great, but the best way to learn about the industry you want to go into is to build relationships with people who are doing the jobs that you one day want to get into,” she explains. 

Chloe, who aspires to work in front-end engineering, user experience design, writing or research after graduation, also has tips to offer. She suggests having fun learning and exploring your own unique path. “Creating your own experience can make you stand out,” she asserts. “Whether it be through student club involvement, pursuing a passion project with friends, attending events and hackathons, these experiences can help you develop the skills you need in your future internships and careers as well as to build a unique brand to help you stand out.” Chloe was intentional about her community involvement, utilizing resources available to her combined with her interest in tech. She has taken part in conferences and workshops and taken on marketing and design roles in student groups, while pursuing a minor in Communication Design to complement her Computer Science degree.

What Gives You Hope for the Future of BIWOC in the Workplace?

What gives Chloe hope for the future is the vast opportunities that she sees being presented to BIWOC pursuing early-careers to accelerate themselves and to break barriers. “As companies realize their impact on BIWOC, they must do more to ensure a positive experience as they transition into workplaces,” asserts Chloe. “As a strong advocate for BIWOC youth pursuing early-careers in any field, I hope I can inspire them to take advantage of programs and resources around them (like AHF!).” Chloe also believes it is important for young women to build each other up by supporting one another.

Diana hopes that through AHF’s mission, partnership and community-building we will begin to see more women in tech and leadership positions. “AHF is not just an opportunity for students to gain mentorship, but a change for industry professionals to think about their career paths. I hope that through our partnership, AHF and IBM are able to encourage more Black, Indigenous and women of colour to consider and pursue tech as their career choice.”