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Black-owned suppliers partnered with Microsoft creating pathways for racialized students in tech

Microsoft's Racial Equity Initiative, founded in 2020, has pledged more than $500 million toward creating tech opportunities in underserved communities

Black-owned suppliers partnered with Microsoft creating pathways for racialized students in tech
Forest Hayes of Harborstone Credit Union, left, and Angela Troy, second from right, advised and mentored University of Washington Foster School of Business students in the creation of a marketing plan for Keuna Barfield, CEO of Seattle-based real-estate company, The Kee Group. ANGELA TROY PHOTO 

As Microsoft has looked to double the number of Black suppliers it works with and spend $500 million more with existing and new partners, entrepreneurs like Angela Troy have benefitted.

Troy, whose firm, Troy Consulting, has been a preferred supplier with Microsoft since 2006 and was named the company’s Diverse Supplier of the Year in 2022, provides customers, including Microsoft, with professional services, management consulting and contract staffing.

Now she’s paying it forward by using her experience to mentor business students at the University of Washington, advising them on class projects to support minority-owned businesses.

“Corporate culture is very complex, so new suppliers must understand the process so they’re ready to jump in and be successful,” Troy told Microsoft. “It’s fulfilling to contribute to both student professional coaching and business growth. When students and other diverse suppliers understand that you’re a Microsoft supplier, that brings a level of respect, and it allows them to see that we have the calibre to work in this field, and we’re a strong consultancy. It's immediate credibility, and we’ve earned it.”

By providing insights on how to help Black and racialized suppliers, Troy has created a pathway for Latinx, and Indigenous engineers and business professionals too.

Several years ago, she hosted a dinner introducing 60 low-income engineering students. And recently, she guided six students this year who developed a marketing strategy for a local Black- and woman-owned real-estate company.

Lisa S. Jones, founder and CEO of EyeMail. LISA S. JONES PHOTO

Meanwhile, Lisa S. Jones, who has partnered with Microsoft for 15 years, also leverages sponsorships for women in technology.

Her Atlanta-based marketing technology firm, EyeMail, is a patent-pending platform that enables videos to play automatically in emails.

The company integrated video in email marketing communications for the Windows 11 launch in 2021. She’s also gone on to do other projects for Microsoft and other large corporations.

“I started crying when I got my first contract with Microsoft because I was full of gratitude,” Jones told Microsoft. “Everyone told me, ‘You’re a woman, you’re a Black woman, you’re from Alabama, you don’t have the right network, you’re not a coder’ — I could go on and on. But I said, ‘I am going to make it.’

“So, when I was awarded the Microsoft contract, and the supplier number, the whole process of onboarding was fabulous, and it was exhilarating,” Jones added. “We have a lot of Fortune 500 customers on our roster now, and there are so many tangible and intangible benefits to this relationship that continue to evolve and show up.”

In 2009, Microsoft helped found Kobie Hatcher’s consulting firm, Cyborg Mobile, to supply corporations with technology consulting services.

Hatcher started his career as an educator before entering the tech sector and worked in product development for several Fortune 500 companies.

Kobie Hatcher, founder of consulting firm, Cyborg Mobile and creator of the New Technologists Academy. KOBIE HATCHER PHOTO

He drew from that background to create the New Technologists Academy. The program, co-sponsored by Microsoft, reaches out to community organizations and first- and second-year students at schools often overlooked in conventional recruitment efforts, such as community colleges, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

Hatcher said almost three times as many 500 New Technologists participants have graduated from college since 2015 (98 per cent), and many have worked at IT firms across the U.S., according to Microsoft.

“We aimed to transcend traditional notions of diversity by embracing a wide array of talents, problem-solving techniques and lived experiences,” Hatcher told Microsoft. “Our goal was to tap into the vast well of untapped potential and infuse it into the product development process.

“Because we are from these communities and have established careers in the tech sector ourselves, we can credibly say to aspiring technologists, ‘You have what it takes to thrive in the tech industry,’ and so we’re having a legit impact on the community at large,” Hatcher added. “It’s unique, it’s amazing, and it’s incredibly effective. And now we’ve proven after all these years that the constraint is not a shortage of talent but a shortage of opportunity.”