Black Techcellence in Action

We asked our employees how they’re showing up at work and in their communities

At its best, technology has the power to bridge gaps, build community, and create opportunity. However, it’s no secret that the struggle for the tech industry is real when it comes to connecting with the black community. The lack of diversity and inclusion is, unfortunately, a continuing trend for Silicon Valley heavyweights. We know one thing: lack of talent isn’t the issue.

At Mailchimp, the term “Black Techcellence” isn’t simply a phrase slapped on a sticker. It’s a celebration of black support staff, engineers, developers, writers, designers, producers, strategists, and others who embody independence, creativity, and humility. Whether it’s our business employee resource group, Hues, or attending conferences such as Afrotech, black professionals are influencing the industry and making their presence felt.

“And Mailchimp is committed to supporting and elevating the stories and journeys of Black Techcellence,” according to Shareka Nelson, who heads up our Diversity Equity and Inclusion team. “As Mailchimp continues to evolve we are actively working to ensure equity in our people processes and create spaces where we can be our own version of Black Techcellence."

We spoke to 3 employees from our Atlanta and Brooklyn offices, and 1 remote (Los Angeles) staffer and asked, "What is Black Techcellence to you?" and "How do you exemplify Black Techcellence at Mailchimp?"

Jocelyn Hardy

Program Manager, Mailchimp Academy, Atlanta

A decade ago, Jocelyn walked through Mailchimp’s doors as the first black woman at the company. Jocelyn remembers her early days as a technical support agent, working the 2 pm to 10 pm shift. Over the years, the current program manager for Mailchimp Academy has seen more opportunities for black growth, but says there’s more work to be done.

What is Black Techcellence to you?
Black Techcellence to me is a positive and focused mindset—putting your best foot forward every single day to achieve greatness and be resilient. Black Techcellence provides that space to receive the recognition for breaking down barriers, exceeding expectations. and honoring those who paved the way.

How do you exemplify Black Techcellence at Mailchimp?
I started at Mailchimp almost 10 years ago. At that time, there were only a handful of people who looked like me. I’ve always been different and proud of it. I believe wholeheartedly in Mailchimp’s company values. I work hard and bring my whole self to work every day—no apologies. That’s exactly how I exemplify Black Techcellence at Mailchimp.

In the past 10 years, what are the most positive changes you've seen for people of color in tech? Where is there room for improvement?
Experiences like having the opportunity to go to Afrotech was game changing for me. There were so many companies looking for black talent and celebrating the culture. I believe we need more opportunities like this. I believe we all have a voice and the potential to be leaders and make it happen.

In my experience as a black professional in technology, you often have to be comfortable being the only person of color or woman in the room. Fortunately, through Mailchimp’s mentorship program, I learned that you have to invest in yourself. You have to create your own narrative, don’t let others create one for you because others will if you don’t. I’ve learned that the hard way.

“I believe we all have a voice and the potential to be leaders and make it happen.”

Jocelyn Hardy, Program Manager, Mailchimp Academy

Michael Heard

Senior Engineer, Brooklyn

If anyone knows about making the most of every opportunity, it’s Michael. A graduate of the coding boot camp Tech Talent South, and alum of our award-winning support team, Michael was a trailblazer in Mailchimp’s apprenticeship program, landing a job with our engineering team.

What is Black Techcellence to you?
To me, Black Techcellence is going to work every day and seeing other people who look like me working together to build great things. Black Techcellence is also having black voices in the room when decisions are made at the highest levels of our company, so our goal of empowering the underdog includes everyone.

How do you exemplify Black Techcellence at Mailchimp?
I'm not sure if I directly exemplify Black Techcellence other than being black and in tech [laughs]. But I try where I can to help other black engineers join us.

How does Black Techcellence apply to your life outside of Mailchimp?
I'm part of /dev/color, an organization of black engineers. In that organization I get to network with other black engineers, but also mentor those coming up in the industry. This is extremely gratifying because I get to contribute to growing Black Techcellence everywhere.

“To me, Black Techcellence is going to work every day and seeing other people who look like me working together to build great things.”

Michael Heard, Senior Engineer

Erick Burroughs

Senior Director of People, Atlanta

Erick plays a pivotal role in our people organization, leading initiatives related to the evolution of our people processes that impact our ability to ensure transparency and consistency in execution.

What is Black Techcellence to you?
Black Techcellence is more than a catchy phrase, a hashtag, or words written across the front of a t-shirt. Black Techcellence is, in fact, us standing on the shoulders of our ancestors who have paved the way to create opportunities for people of color in tech. It is what we as people of African descent that work in tech strive for each and every day. It is what keeps us going when it seems our commitment to excellence and credibility is being questioned. Black Techcellence is me and every other black person working towards the advancement of our people in the field of technology.

How do you exemplify Black Techcellence at Mailchimp?
I exemplify Black Techcellence by recognizing that I am a black male in a senior role here at Mailchimp, and that I can use my influence to continue to build upon a safe space and bring cultural awareness to the work I do every single day. I recognize that my perspective is unique to my personal experiences and identities. I commit to bringing my authentic self to work and seek to mentor and empower people of color to exemplify excellence.

“Black Techcellence is, in fact, us standing on the shoulders of our ancestors who have paved the way to create opportunities for people of color in tech.”

Erick Burroughs, Senior Director of People

Frantz Joseph

Senior Engineering Manager, Remote (Los Angeles)

Frantz Joseph stays busy. He’s based in L.A., but you’ll probably run into him at our Brooklyn office (his hometown), or working on the Hues Chat series facilitating conversations on being black in the tech world. As one of the only remote managers in the company, the food connoisseur is big on connecting with his peers and community.

What is Black Techcellence to you?
Showing up and being your authentic self. Speaking the way you speak from the neighborhood that you're from, representing who you are and modeling good behavior. When I say good, I mean I do the job that I'm asked to do and I'm constantly growing.

There's another part of it, which is what is your responsibility to the community? How are you making space for folks who are looking to get into the industry or grow in the industry? How are you supporting them? How are you dropping their names in conversations? Because it's easy to be a token in a space and think you're exceptional because of that. When I think exceptionalism it’s that you've brought along a lot of other people with you.

So, what Black Techcellence means to me is this: being your authentic self, being great at what you do, and then bringing other people along with you.

How do you exemplify Black Techcellence at Mailchimp?
I reach out to folks, and say, “hello,” whenever I'm in offices or meetings. I book one-on-ones, and lunchtime with folks, specifically black folks, not only in engineering but in support and across other parts of the company. I do this because I want them to see what I do is possible for them, but then also share some of the things that I see as a senior manager who has a lot of access to senior leadership and how they think about things and how they could possibly grow in that space. It’s being active outside of just managing people or writing code or whatever your day-to-day is. Diversity as a second job sucks, but if we don't do it, not a lot of other folks will take it as their job to care.

Can you elaborate on, “diversity as a second job”? What does that look like?
Your No. 1 priority might be, “I want more folks who look like me around me,” but that might be another person’s No. 5 priority. The only way you get others outside of your community engaged is by helping them see the importance of these things. You can either help them and expand your reach, or you just do it yourself. And in somemany cases you'll have to do both. Diversity as a second job is me doing all of this work so that my normal day-to-day job feels more comfortable and feels more inviting. So I have to do this as a second job just to get the first job to feel good.

As a black person and an immigrant in America, I grew up around a community where people took care of each other. Bringing that sense of community to my job and my career is super important to me.

“So, what Black Techcellence means to me is this: being your authentic self, being great at what you do, and then bringing other people along with you.”

Frantz Joseph, Senior Engineering Manager

There are countless success stories like Jocelyn, Erick, Michael, and Frantz. Call it proof that Black Techcellence thrives when there are seats at the table—opportunities to connect, collaborate, and contribute.

“The tech community lacks understanding on how important our culture is,” Jocelyn says. “The industry needs more voices, more leadership, more diverse customers, diverse businesses—just more opportunity, period."