We put our Technology Graduate Temi in front of Adrian Joseph, Managing Director of AI and Data Solutions, to ask about his career experiences and journey to senior leadership

What are some of your biggest achievements that you are most proud of in your career up to now?

One of them is BT! I’ve only been at BT for 6 months; before that I was Senior Partner at Ernest & Young (EY), and prior to that I spent ten and a half years at Google in Technology, Cloud, Data Science and Platforms Businesses.

We held a major racial equality event described as ‘a manifesto for action’ where BT partnered with Business in the Community, bringing together some of the most senior leaders across industry and the Public Sector. We had Sir Kenneth Olisa, the first Black Lord-Lieutenant of London, Sir Ian Cheshire, who’s on the board of Directors for BT but also Chairman of Barclays, and Baroness McGregor-Smith who wrote a report about ‘the time is now for action’. I co-hosted the event at the BT TV studios, along with Clare Balding and Ugo Monye, which attracted an amazing array of speakers, bringing in over 300 people virtually. There was a lot of incredible feedback about how engaging and exciting the event was, with many committing to take new actions to improve ethnic diversity and inclusion in their organisations.

Throughout your career in Technology, how have you navigated being a Black man and presumably being one of few Black people in the workplace?

I’m a mixed-race person, that is how I describe myself. I spend a lot of time looking at data, and the negative correlations are very strong when considering the colour of someone’s skin. If you are a Black man or woman the outcomes in terms of life chances, interaction with the police, health and so on, are much more significantly negative than if you’re somebody like me who is mixed-race or somebody who is White; so that is where I would start.

You don’t always know what the impact of the colour of your skin is, but I have had a few instances relating to my skin colour. Although, I have quite often found that there are people from ethnic majority groups who step in; there are many more well intentioned people that come in, support and help.

I think having a resilience and allies are a very essential part to dealing with some negative experiences in the workplace. Now of course, Technology is a great industry to work in, however there is a huge problem with diversity and retaining diverse talent. What do you think is the best way to go about making the Tech industry both more diverse and inclusive in order to retain the talent we attract?

One of the things I have learnt that is supported by data, is to hire the most senior person you can of the diversity that you are trying to attract. Having role models in the business/organisation is critical, people can see this role model in a position of seniority, something to aspire to.

Another thing is metrics, show me the numbers! How many Black, Asian or minority ethnic people applied? How many were shortlisted? How many were successful? How did they progress? What’s the retention?

Having mentors and ideally sponsors is another factor. Having the support and representation, even when we’re not in the room, to advocate on our behalf.

Lastly, we need to get comfortable with talking about race and ethnicity, as well as diversity and inclusion as a whole; gender, disability etc. 

That ties in really well to my next question; if you did have any negative experiences attributed to race, how did you combat and overcome these?

Many years ago I was in a meeting, and there was a term used by one of the Senior Executives; ‘it’s a bit like looking for a n***** in a wood pile’. I sat there and thought ‘did I really just hear this person say this?!’. I did, and of course instantly there was a reaction, but confronting it in the meeting wouldn’t have been the right thing to do. After the meeting some of my colleagues came up to me and mentioned how insulting and unforgiveable the use of the term was, and how they were going to raise this issue. As mentioned, I have found that people are generally well intentioned, and specifically in these kind of instances, people will stand with you and support you.

Of course you also need to build your own resilience and your own inner ways of dealing with some of these things, build your allies too. They are some of the key things that I’ve personally really found helpful.

Do you have any advice for young Black or mixed-race professionals currently working in Tech or looking to get into the Tech industry?

In some communities, our parents give us three career options; you can be a Doctor, a Lawyer or an Accountant. As great as these professions are, Tech doesn’t feature amongst many of our parents. We need to help and educate our parents, students, and our young people to understand that a career in Tech is just as good, if not better. Tech needs to be on the list. Look at the growth rates we’re seeing and continue to see in the Tech industry.

Another reason why we should all look at Tech (which I got from the STEMettes founder) is all the free food! There’s food, a ton of fun and you’re likely to earn 25% to 30% more than other industries because the funding is there too.

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