Here is the transcript from the podcast episode conversation I had with Sharon Smith-Akinsanya. You can listen to the show here at the 18:46.
You can watch the video on my YouTube channel if you prefer.
[00:00:00] Mark Anthony Dyson: How are you? Great, great to meet you.
[00:00:03] Sharon Smith-Akinsanya: Great to meet you too. Thank you for inviting me on.
[00:00:05] Mark Anthony Dyson: Sure, sure. Great. And let me be sure I do this intro properly. People could see the graphic that you’re the CEO Rae-McKinsey group. I wrote it. Colorfull: Competitive Strategies to Attract and Retain Top Talent of Color is her book. And it’s been out for a while. I have featured it on my medium column and some other ways as well, we will go into it, but you may have seen her featured on Forbes, Good Morning America, Blavity, Essence, and many more. She’s made the rounds for the press. You’re one of the few people I’ve written about you first, and then later I have you on the podcast. Thank you for coming on.
[00:00:52] And we are if people have questions for Sharon for free to get it in on any of the platforms, you know, where on. Book, Twitter, and LinkedIn. But I’m all for, to hit with my question because I and one of the people that actually read the book and I’ve got a hard copy at that. I don’t know if everybody else has that privilege, but I, but, but most of the people who actually get books, when you get a promo book, you get a soft coffee.
[00:01:23] I was blessed with a hard copy. So Gabrielle, thank you. You know who you are. We don’t need to go through here, but anyway I think one of the things that kind of bridged the last discussion with discussion though, they’re not the same. They’re not quite the same, but they’re somewhat the same in that job seekers and companies are trying to meet in the middle when it comes to diversity.
[00:01:43] And of course, job seekers, one thing, and employers want another thing you have been working with and talking to leaders of great big companies, like Best Buy and so on. So the things you’re learning about what they want versus what jobs you could know as far as for them to hire more diverse candidates, there are some companies that are first of all, really trying to be diverse and be diverse in the right way and checking all the boxes.
[00:02:15] Is that correct?
[00:02:16] Sharon Smith-Akinsanya: Well, yeah. I mean, you know, we have some employers that have really made the shift right. Really made the shift from pledges and promises to act. And then there are other employers who are still in the pledges and promises stage and trying to figure this thing out. And so in my conversations with those employers who are serious about figuring it out and increasing racial inclusivity at all levels of the corporation, they are really getting it done and starting at the top, you know, with the C-Suite, the VP level senior VP level, really trying to make sure that [00:03:00] they are walking the walk.
[00:03:01] And then there are those that are just not quite there yet. We just got to keep pushing, Mark, and making sure that employers have the resources that they need external and internal, but to get it done. But the important thing is to be working with and working for those employers who get us.
[00:03:22] Mark Anthony Dyson: I think it is very important that and the job candidate eventually is also hiring the company, and they want to feel more comfortable doing it. There was a Jobvite survey saying 42% of the respondents would walk away from an offer if the company wasn’t diverse.
[00:03:43] So that is significant from the past where we saw numbers in the twenties. Now we’re seeing it in the forties. Almost half of people are willing to walk away from those offers that how much is that weighing or maybe you don’t what is helping the CEOs that are successful sleep at night, so to speak when it comes to what their goals are in hiring and also advancing the careers of people of color, who hadn’t gotten those opportunities.
[00:04:22] Sharon Smith-Akinsanya: The CEOs who can sleep at night, or those who have just decided that things are going to change inside of the corporations. See, when you were in charge, you can just decide what things are going to be like, look like, feel like, right. So he knows that makes the decision that listens, I really want to make sure that we are representative of the nation’s population, the consumers we serve, the communities we serve, and I need you to get that done by any means necessary.
[00:04:57] And I’m going to walk by your side so make sure that you have the tools, tips, and resources you need to execute on that. Those are the CEOs who can sleep at night. Those that have made that decision because we have to start there right, with just the thing that we want to see, change. Professionals are getting really excited because they’re becoming more confident, right.
[00:05:28] And understanding that they are in the catbird seat and that they have to be choosy lovers. And it is okay to really ask the question and identify those employers who really care about them, who care about whether or not they succeed, who care about whether or not they have a work-life balance who care about whether or not they.
[00:05:49] Bring their authentic self to work who care about whether or not they have to stop code-switching. And so they are starting to ask some really smart questions and look at the data and look at the [00:06:00] research and look at what the C-suite looks like. And even if the C-suite isn’t looking right, they at least if can identify where the plan is, what is your commitment to making a change?
[00:06:10] Then they’re making those decisions to have real conversations with those employers. And that that’s just where we’re at.
[00:06:18] Mark Anthony Dyson: Well, actually, you had hit something on the nail. I was thinking, as you were talking, um, I was listening to, um, I don’t know if you’re familiar with John Rice. He was recently interviewed by LinkedIn news.
[00:06:30] He’s the CEO of MLT group. Um, he had said in this particular interview, what I loved is that, that often the ones that are floundering in the abyss on the diversity they’re asking for data and they’re always asking for, they want to run to the data part. But I think we have gotten to the point now where we have all the data that’s possibly needed from every angle.
[00:06:56] So what are you saying to those CEOs, if you happen to have those conversations, or what runs through your mind when you hear that? We really want to see the data we want to see. What’s actually up there?
[00:07:09] Sharon Smith-Akinsanya: Yeah. See, I don’t have those conversations because if you’re a CEO and you don’t know, that in order for you to maintain your competitive edge, you need to diversify your organization from the top down.
[00:07:23] So you don’t know that it would automatically lead to increase profits and innovation. We don’t need to have those conversations. I’m trying to get to the people who get it. And so I do not even entertain that, you know, I need to see more data, or I’m not convinced that, that, that conversation we’re done.
[00:07:42] It’s like, you know, thank you so much. You know, it was so nice to meet you really, because you’re way too far behind, to even get pregnant. And we don’t have time. So we’ve just had to hurry up and get to those companies and those employers who are ready to get moving and who need additional resources, tools you know so that it can just move and they’ve already decided to get there.
[00:08:07] They’re just not quite sure how. And so the ones asking for data, not on my radar.
[00:08:13] Mark Anthony Dyson: Now, the resources that had to have changed when the pandemic was ushered in. What kind of resources did you provide for those having to, you know, switch from what was always readily available to things that you had to find to help people move forward with the efforts despite of the pandemic?
[00:08:36] Sharon Smith-Akinsanya: Yeah, so the pandemic, you know everybody had to shift and everybody had to do things differently. Particularly since the corporations were still open and people were still hiring. So for my company specifically at the Rae-Mackenzie, We were known for the big people of color career fair, right?
[00:08:59] [00:09:00] We’re giving employers an opportunity to come down to a big convention center, right? With, with hundreds of top talent of color and their hiring managers and the recruiters to really make those connections and that stopped in the pandemic. So what we had to do, and fortunately, I was already working on some proprietary software, love, color, careers.com, where it gives employers access to top talent of color.
[00:09:33] And it gives professionals access to real recruiters and real hiring managers, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So PeopleofColorCareers.com was born out of the pandemic. We got it over the finish line, just in time out of the pandemic to give those employers an opportunity to still connect with that top talent of color by utilizing the platform that was built from the ground up by me to make sure and my team to make sure that recruiters had the tools that they need to make the shift to go from transactional to purposeful pledges and promises to action. And so that’s what we were able to do is give them access to those tools online.
[00:10:20] Mark Anthony Dyson: That’s important to have for companies that have that boat, most companies are going to need to go get the talent and to the places where it’s growing, you don’t get apples in the strawberry field. You’ve got to go to where people of color actually are. The larger companies that are active in changing the game, are they going to like the HBCUs and the other places where people of color are, they’re going to like the engineering org society organizations, the journalism organization, they’re going to active parts and also helping facilitate the relationship.
[00:11:04] Sharon Smith-Akinsanya:
[00:11:04] Well, there’s no question that they’re going and they need extra. You know, like yourself and myself and others to help facilitate and transfer those relationships. Sometimes the companies don’t quite have the relationships that they need. They know they need to be working with HBCUs and some of them are there, but the relationships aren’t deep enough.
[00:11:24] So you need to make sure that you’re connecting with experts where that relationship can be transferred because there’s no time to waste. You need that credibility, right? So maybe sort of on the surface, but you really need to get in there and dig deep. So absolutely we even, we do that ourselves, Mark, we just finalized a partnership at PeopleofColorCareers.com with HBCU pride nation.
[00:11:49] And I’m based out of Charlotte, North Carolina and HBCU pride nation really is all about making sure that their members, which they have over a quarter of a million followers in social [00:12:00] media, make sure that their members have access to solid paying careers. These are alumni of historically black colleges and universities who, you know, want the opportunity to stop with the hoop-jumping, right?
[00:12:17] They want to know, they’re saying to an HBCU pride nation who, who are the employers that want to see us that want to talk to us that get us, you know, we’re tired of doing all of this, you know, one-off, one-off, one-off, where’s the list. So, so, so we need to solidify the partnership because on our platform we’ve vetted those employers and they have agreed that they are ready to make that shift.
[00:12:44] They’re ready to go from transactional to purposeful, they are ready to do more prospecting and networking, really getting to know the prospect and giving them a shot at landing their dream career and or their dream promotion. So partnerships are.
[00:12:59] Mark Anthony Dyson: And they’re ones that, that kind of walk with purpose are kind of bleed this stuff at this particular point, right.
[00:13:08] They, it really is become a part, the makeup. So that’s what they’re putting out there. And the ones that are just transactional are just looking to get it done fast. And so, okay. Tell me what to do instead of going through the process and how much of that process really matters to the companies that do it and do it to you because after all, you need to see that their efforts are genuine, authentic and that they’re moving forward with those ideas as well. Right?
[00:13:36] Sharon Smith-Akinsanya: Absolutely.
[00:13:36] We need to see that because you know, the professionals that are on our platform and that, you know, seek our advice, you know, they’re counting on us to be credible and transparent, they’re counting on that. I’m talking to corporations and asking them good solid questions, and really just working with those who have really decided that they must make a change and they need to do this right now. And they just need a little help on how to get things, moving little training resources, where should we be? What should we go? What should we say? And those are the companies that we are working with because we have no time to waste.
[00:14:15] We have got to move the needle forward on making sure that professionals have access and access is a really important word, access to awesome paying careers with corporations who really understand their value and that they understand that they have the sauce. You know, the top talent of color. This is our future workforce.
[00:14:37] So those employers have to make the shift to do things differently. They cannot do the same things that they’ve always done and expect to, to reach their goals of recruiting talent. You know, the population is changing since this just came out. We know what the numbers are, the handwriting’s on the wall.
[00:14:54] This is the future workforce, and you must figure out a way to make sure that you are [00:15:00] competing for that talent.
[00:15:02] Mark Anthony Dyson: Well, I want to think in terms of the job seeker, somebody who is black, or they may be Asian, somebody who’s looking for their next job, they definitely want to be an area and a company that is that shares the values of a diverse workforce.
[00:15:21] Take me through a little bit of how that person would go about the job search and the way that we look to a company today. And they said that, yes, we’re a diversity employer.
[00:15:37] Sharon Smith-Akinsanya: Yeah, I think the job seeker, looking to land their dream career at an employer who is serious about diversity, equity, and inclusion, You know, we have to do our research, obviously, you know?
[00:15:51] And so we have to take a look at the website are, is the DEI information hidden? That’s the first thing. Can you find it if you can’t find it? Move on. That’s the first thing. So, because if it’s not, the CEO and the team have decided that this is important, that they don’t want you to know what’s happening.
[00:16:18] They’ve just decided. And so that is our first indication as to what’s important. And what’s not, is there a diversity and inclusion tab
[00:16:27] If not, it seems simple, just move on. The same simple, just moves on the list. Then once, once you identify those corporations that you don’t really feel like, okay, they may, their values align with yours. Then when you land that interview and you will. Okay. Because you know, they’re looking at, you know, you’ve got a good match.
[00:16:52] You want to make sure you’re asking some really good questions in your informational interview or in your first interview. You do not want to be shy about asking. So what you got cooking and DEI, because I didn’t want to understand that if we decide, if we decide that this is a good fit for me and for you, I want to know what my future looks like.
[00:17:15] You know? Well, I can, I see myself, you know, as a VP or an EVP or SVP or in the C-suite, what is my path, you know, as a diverse candidate, as a black woman inside of your organization, can you walk me through. And if it was that you have to be not, you have to be okay with asking those, those questions.
[00:17:39] Mark Anthony Dyson: And I would even add that what you really want. Some gut-level answers some candor that want people to be really honest about it. Now this, and there’s nothing wrong with knowing what the answer is before you’re given that answer, because sometimes that person may change it because you’re in the room.[00:18:00]
[00:18:01] Sharon Smith-Akinsanya: And it’s okay with them saying, listen, you know, we’re just not where we need to be. As it pertains to diversity, equity, and inclusion, we’re committed. But if we don’t have top talent and professionals, like you, Sharon joining us, we’re just not going to get anywhere. We have got to start somewhere.
[00:18:22] So you may hear. You know, and even that’s an answer,
[00:18:27] Mark Anthony Dyson: even that’s the answer, but I expect them at that particular point, to woo would you, as you say, you’re looking for a lover,
[00:18:36] Sharon Smith-Akinsanya: that’d be a cheesy lever and they will woo you, I mean, things have changed a lot, you know, they are, people are starting to get more aggressive, these recruiters and the hiring manager, so it’s changing.
[00:18:46] And so I just want professionals of color to be okay with that. You know, sometimes mark, I hear, oh, Sharon, they just reached out to me because I’m black. Yes. And because you have the sauce and because you’re mad, talented. And because they know that that if they don’t have talent, like you, you know, they lose their competitive edge.
[00:19:07] We need to be okay with the fact that it is our time and that it’s leveraged it’s okay. And we need to be okay.
[00:19:18] Mark Anthony Dyson: You got to understand that there are compensation benefits as well, to be able to have that compensation. A lot of people think that they’re going to come up short that they’re coming to you and they’re putting you through the process because they have leverage and they’re trying to, they understand they have a fiduciary responsibility, so to speak, to make them make it right.
[00:19:47] Sharon Smith-Akinsanya: No question about it. I mean, we just, we just have to go for it. We got to save ourselves. We have to go for it. We have to make sure that we understand the value of networking, the value of connecting the value of following. We don’t want to be caught. Flat-footed, you know, I get a lot of calls from professionals who haven’t really kept up on their networking.
[00:20:14] And so it puts them in, you know, and unfortunately on our platform, they’re able to catch up pretty quickly, but we want to value relationships. We want to make sure that we are staying on top of who’s doing what inside of the corporate world if that’s what your desire is. And that is to move up and through the ranks and into the C-suite, you really maintain those relations.
[00:20:37] Mark Anthony Dyson: You know, there are companies that are starting to even build their own pipeline. And the smarter ones are actually even considering those schools that are not in the mainstream of schools where this is considered academically. So they’re going about like Google, Google is building relationships with some of the high schools and even [00:21:00] starting to court students as young as their freshman and sophomore year.
[00:21:04] And to me, that seems to be that’s seemed to solve a lot of problems because one, the company is going to look out for it. How they look out for is becoming more interesting. Now they’re starting to go into the black high school or the predominantly black and brown areas and start to build those relationships.
[00:21:24] They start to spend some time with them on Fridays to do Q & A, to give them vision, to start to even post them to some degree because they’re, they’re starting to do you think that’s a good way of also building a more diverse workforce, especially for larger companies like the Googles and Microsofts that the tech companies, and also, so even the companies that are traditional traditionally large Arjun had some say like Amazon, this is another good example of you know, I don’t think they’re doing it that way, but do you think that’s also a good idea for them to take that proactive that early?
[00:22:03] Sharon Smith-Akinsanya: Absolutely in all that is happening as it’s beginning to happen a lot, you know, I’m based here in Minneapolis, Minnesota and we have companies that are actually building up their own curriculum inside of, inside of schools, inside of tech centers, inside of other nonprofits, you know, you know, let us teach you how those are.
[00:22:27] We have a big shortage of skilled laborers, right? You know, so let us teach you how to make windows, let us teach you how to make doors. Let us teach you how to manage a team. Let us teach you. They’re building curriculum, literally things they’re serious about it because they want to, we want to figure this thing out.
[00:22:48] So I think it’s very smart. And it’s starting to happen more often than not.
[00:22:53] Mark Anthony Dyson: Yeah. And I think too, is that let’s say you, you are in a situation where you’re in contact with Google and understand that you’re not just in contact with Google. All the other large companies like Google are going to look at you as a viable talent as well.
[00:23:08] Microsoft is going to look at it. Twitter’s going to look at you. All the companies that are like-minded are going to be in your space as well. So you may not just be you just because you’re getting the Google in education. That doesn’t mean it’s not going to apply elsewhere. There are going to be spaces where that applies across the board.
[00:23:29] Sharon Smith-Akinsanya: Absolutely. We have a huge workforce shortage and you know, in different areas. And there’s just a huge opportunity, for the talent of color. I mean, we need to seize the time, seize the opportunity network, stay connected, get on every single platform, you know, make sure they’re paying attention to professionals like yourself and, you know, just really it’s, it’s our time, you know, and we’ve got work to do on closing that wealth gap, right?
[00:23:56] And, and this is our opportunity. Learn how to [00:24:00] negotiate stock options, you know, learn how to negotiate your salary. There’s so much opportunity for us right now. I know that as a lot of news is gloom and doom, and I was also true with gloom and doom there’s an opportunity, and we need to seize the moment.
[00:24:23] Mark Anthony Dyson: One thing and I’ll let you go after this. You work for Prince.
[00:24:33] Sharon Smith-Akinsanya: Used to work for Prince, you know, for somebody like me, people talk about, you know, say, get the purple rain, all that people got about the five albums that were before the big was, and which has nothing to do with this conversation since then. But I bet you, there were some lessons you learned from working with him that apply to the way you approach business today, especially in this area.
[00:25:06] There’s no question about it. Prince was a genius and he was an awesome teacher and I’m honored to have been in his space just to watch how he moved an opera. And one of the things that when you work for Prince, you leave away with his excellence. You have to give clients, employers, parents, you have to give them what they deserve.
[00:25:32] Ain’t no half stepping as the song says, yes, excellence. You want to always be at the top of your game. You know, Prince was, you know, he would be in rehearsals and he said, oh, it needs to sound like the record. That doesn’t sound like the record. They come to pay what they hear on the record player. And so let’s not, let’s not let them down.
[00:25:56] So yeah. So not only excellence but the art of the dance, making sure that you’re moving and grooving in a way that you can. Where you can be your best, keeping yourself at the top of the to-do list. You know, we always look fabulous. Right. You know, so keep yourself at the top of the to-do list so that you can be productive.
[00:26:27] Another thing is believing that anything is possible believing that you can absolutely make it happen. Prince used to tell me all the time, which is what I use in my presentation today. When I’ve talked about how CEOs need to just decide what they want their workplaces to look like. I learned that from friends, who’s like, oh, Sharon, just decide.
[00:26:55] Yeah, yeah, yeah. Now you can execute. [00:27:00]
[00:27:00] Mark Anthony Dyson: Absolutely. And you need to think like Prince talked about and a baby. You’re a star,
[00:27:17] Please let me know what the site is again. And I’ll be sure to put that in the show notes when the podcast is published and also that people, when they see the show here you know, as is on-demand immediately afterward where they can find you and find out more about,
[00:27:35] Sharon Smith-Akinsanya: yeah, so PeopleofColorCareers.com, and you can follow me online at boldly Sharon on Instagram and Twitter.
[00:27:45] And of course on LinkedIn, Sharon Smith-Akinsanya, as it says on the screen. So thank you so much.
[00:27:52] Mark Anthony Dyson: Well, thank you very much, and enjoyed having you. I am. That you’re able to spend a little bit of time with me after all the press and things that you’ve done been. They’ve been before millions of folks and love seeing you and love being thank
[00:28:07] Sharon Smith-Akinsanya: Thank you so much for having me.
[00:28:08] I really appreciate you and thank you for all of your kind words and your support and let’s keep on doing what you’re doing.