FOR EMPLOYERS

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Discovering Myself Through Coffee, Kids and Technology (In No Particular Order)

This article has been republished from Thrive Global

Most people know me as ‘The Career Guy.’ A confident, fun, and charismatic CEO who carries a lifetime of knowledge and loves sharing that wisdom with others.

That guy is a recent discovery.

While my career has been all about shaping careers, in college I had no idea who I was. I was gay, and very much in the closet. I didn’t love – or even know – myself, which made it difficult for others to know and love me, too.

 

“While my career has been all about shaping careers, in college I had no idea who I was.”

 

The one thing I did know was that more than anything in the world, I wanted to have kids. A family. That was my ultimate goal.

Today, I consider more than 4,000 college-aged students (and that number keeps growing!) ‘my kids.’

Interestingly enough, my career after college has allowed me to become the person that I wish I could have been during college.

I remember bringing my husband to campus for the first time, a few years after I started working in career services. I had us dropped off far from where my office was located – just so we had to walk throughout the college grounds. I wanted him to see how many kids knew me by name, and how they loved me, just like I loved them.

For a while, I was embarrassed to share that story. But now, I’m more than proud of it. That is me as my authentic self, proud of who I am – as a husband to Matthew and a father to little Byron. I thrive off of affirmation, and understand that my love for (and from) “my kids” stems from me not having the opportunity to be that person, or my person, during my college years.

 

“Today, I consider more than 4,000 college-aged students (and that number keeps growing!) ‘my kids.’”

 

This is a fundamental part of why I founded HIVE DIVERSITY. To empower next-generation talent with a platform to realize and share their authentic selves with others during the recruitment process.

That sounds simple to some, but for me, it became clear only after meeting Will Copeland – who is now HIVE’s Head of Finance and Strategic Operations.

Back in 2016, during his sophomore summer, Will reached out to me, asking to meet, after I had advised him while he was pursuing a career in finance. Will knew I was a member of the LGBTQ+ community, and he was struggling with how to – or even if he should – share his identity as a trans man during the recruitment process with potential employers.

The two of us met at a Starbucks in Soho. At the beginning of that conversation, I remember being frustrated and confused that he didn’t see the immense value being his authentic self would offer to a future employer. But that feeling morphed into a realization that when I was in his seat, I had not seen the value of doing the exact same thing.

Will walked away from our meeting inspired to openly share his identity in the context of how it made him a valuable candidate, while I walked away with the feeling that I needed to do something bigger, something to help as many students as possible understand the awesomeness of being their authentic selves.

 

“Will knew I was a member of the LGBTQ+ community, and he was struggling with how to – or even if he should – share his identity as a trans man during the recruitment process with potential employers.”

 

It wasn’t long after that conversation with Will that I cast my nerves aside and decided to start building HIVE DIVERSITY. I set out to empower the next generation of talent with the ability to self-identify and share an ever-evolving range of diverse backgrounds and experiences with employers. Four years later, in October of 2020, thanks to the hard work of an incredible team of designers, innovators, and people passionate about creating systemic change, HIVE launched to the world.

Since then, HIVE has partnered with companies like Accenture, Wells Fargo, Chobani, Steve Madden, Saks Fifth Avenue, Atlantic Records, Michael Kors, and the International Rescue Committee. HIVE has also joined forces with amazing organizations like The Opportunity Network, Out for Undergrad and SEO Career, who are all working to empower diverse next-gen talent.

 

“I set out to empower the next generation of talent with the ability to self-identify and share an ever-evolving range of diverse backgrounds and experiences with employers.”

 

But I can’t talk about HIVE’s success without talking about Chinenye Onyeike.

A senior at NYU, Chinenye is celebrating her upcoming internship at SiriusXM. She recently told me that as the child of two Nigerian immigrants who are in the medical field, before joining HIVE she felt that a career in media and entertainment seemed too far out of reach. However, HIVE taught her that “being authentically you will make you the perfect candidate for what you want.”

 

“…before joining HIVE she felt that a career in media and entertainment seemed too far out of reach.”

 

This knowledge inspired her to share a piece of her personal life, her podcast The Court, with future employers, and this helped her land a dream opportunity in an industry that, a year ago, she thought was impossible.

At HIVE, we celebrate student success stories like Chinenye’s every day. But for me, the point of this story isn’t just that HIVE empowers students like Chinenye, and many others, to bring their authentic selves to the workforce.

It has also done the same for me.

Byron Slosar is the Founder and CEO of HIVE Diversity, a first-of-its-kind virtual recruiting platform that’s built for equity and powered by inclusion. With a focus on democratizing the career process for all students and enhancing employer access to a highly qualified and diverse pool of candidates, the platform creates meaningful engagement between businesses and a robust community of students that represents an ever-evolving range of diversities, backgrounds, skills and interests. Byron is also a proud husband and father. 

Indigenous Representation Is Critical to Cultural Diversity

“Oh my god! Zendaya is so relatable, she’s like my spirit animal!”

“For rush week, we’re going to have a pow-wow to get to know each other better.”

“I’m 1/16th Native because of my great (x4) grandmother, so I totally qualify for this scholarship.”

These are just some of the many phrases I’ve heard during my time as an undergraduate at the University of California, Santa Cruz — a predominantly white institution with a 1.3% Indigenous student population, often regarded as ‘other’ in the survey questionnaire on diversity at UCSC. Whether it was in class, walking through quarry plaza during rush week, or even in the extracurriculars I participated in, I was surrounded by a culture of tone-deaf rhetoric that trivialized sacred vernacular held by Indigenous people around the world.

That was when I knew things had to change, as I was often the only Indigenous student in these spaces. However, I was at a loss of where to even begin advocating, not only for myself but for other Indigenous people. I was barely 18 when I found out I was Indigenous through a DNA test. I only knew 1⁄4 of my biological grandparents so I don’t have certainty in who my ancestors are, but I began making an effort to get a better picture of the culture they were likely a part of.

 

“That was when I knew things had to change, as I was often the only Indigenous student in these spaces.”

 

La Frontera/Borderlands: The New Mestiza by Gloria Anzaldua empowered me to realize that it’s normal to find out you’re Indigenous later on because of the damage colonialism has done to Indigenous lineages. This was when I began to see things differently in my surrounding environment, where colonialism persists even in the most subtle ways.

When I first entered as an alternate representative for the 2019-2020 Student Union Assembly (SUA), the University’s student government, I noticed that I was the only present member of the Assembly with Indigenous descent. And by the second Assembly meeting, a resolution was presented by a student group advocating for deregulation on drug restrictions for the UCSC campus and the city of Santa Cruz. Due to the University’s arbitrary no smoking policy, I would have personally supported this resolution, in fact, most of the Assembly was ready to pass this resolution.

However, amongst the list of drugs that they sought to deregulate, ayahuasca and white sage were included. In several Indigenous cultures, these plant-based substances are sacred for healing practices, and due to the recent popularity of recreational use for these plants, both have recently been placed on the watchlist for endangered species. This puts a strain on the resources available to Indigenous nations everywhere that depend on these plants for medicine.

With this in mind, I asked the student group if they had been in contact with the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band (the people whose land that UCSC was built on) about the approval of this resolution since the list included substances the Tribal Band likely depended on. Their answer was no and this left several members of the Assembly visibly uncomfortable, realizing that this was a question they overlooked until I had asked.

I then advised the student group to get the Amah Mutsun’s approval for this resolution first before the SUA passed it. By the time deliberation came the following week for approval of the resolution, the student group had no comment as they had not reached out to the Amah Mutsun for their approval. Upon reflecting this, I urged the Assembly in a five-minute declamation to not let this resolution pass as it doesn’t reflect the sensitivity of tackling Indigenous’ peoples access to healing resources. The resolution failed by the majority consensus of the Assembly.

And while this was a victory, I couldn’t help but think what would’ve happened had I not been present in the SUA space.

I’m a first-generation college student who went into higher academia with the goal to open doors for others in the first-generation community. However, I expanded my intent of being at UCSC to open doors for not only first-gen students but now for Indigenous students, as I’ve realized that my existence in these spaces affects the Indigenous community’s well-being.

 

“I’m a first-generation college student who went into higher academia with the goal to open doors for others in the first-generation community.”

 

There is an overwhelming likelihood that this is a similar case for other Indigenous students in higher academia across the United States, as we’re often the only ones in the room or fully excluded outright. This causes an inordinate amount of emotional labor put onto us as we’re left with the uncertainty of whether or not non-Indigenous people are knowledgeable of how to represent us in these exclusive spaces, thus becoming an exhausting hassle.

So, here’s a basic toolkit of how to Indigenize yourself and be an ally when we’re not in the room:

(1) Get Searching

  • Do you know whose land you’re on? If you don’t know, then it’s best to get familiar with https://native-land.ca/, a map made by Native Land Digital that showcases the Indigenous territories around the world. Just enter your place of residence and bam, you’ll get a small tidbit of info about the land you’re in!
  • If you become aware of whose land you’re on then it may be the time that your company, university, or club enforces a land acknowledgment! This is usually something you can get from the Indigenous tribes’ website so when you’re repeating the land acknowledgment at the beginning of meetings or events, it’s coming directly from the tribe. Don’t repeat it too often though, as it could potentially just become an agenda item rather than proclaiming the sacred meaning it was intended to have.
  • Another good way to advocate for Indigenous people is to know the population of Indigenous people at your university or company. Maybe even explore why there potentially is such a low number and connect with either the American Indian Resource Center (nearly every University should have one) or Human Resources to figure out what could be done to increase the presence of Indigenous people in your space.

(2) Get Sacred

  • Remember those phrases I started off this post with? All of those phrases in italics signify parts of Indigenous culture that is sacred. By trivializing those terms into everyday vernacular without knowing their meaning, it becomes an attack on the sacredness of Indigenous culture. Try and correct others around you if they use similar dialogue in casual conversations. Language correction is key.
  • If you’re wishing to use sage to ward off negative energy, then make it a point to purchase from actual Indigenous nations that sell sage! The same goes for crystals and other tools for healing since this will allow Indigenous nations autonomy in how they wish to utilize their resources!

(3) Get Social

  • Support Indigenous-owned businesses! Head here to see a list of Indigenous-owned businesses that include industries like fashion, beauty, food, and art: http://www.beyondbuckskin.com/p/buy-native.
  • Follow social media accounts like @illuminatives or @indigenouspeoplesmovement on Instagram, or even look through the Indigenous tag on TikTok to follow famous Indigenous TikTokers like @notoriouscree!
  •  Follow Indigenous activists like Autumn Peltier to be aware of how our climate crisis is disproportionately affecting Indigenous people the most, this will get you connected to other activist accounts so you eventually have an information network of Indigenous activism that tackles a wide variety of issues.
  • Watch modern movies or TV shows with a big Indigenous cast and/or production presence, some of these could include, but not limited to Chambers (Netflix), Reservation Dogs (FX on Hulu), Rutherford Falls (Peacock Original), Resident Alien (Syfy), Smoke Signals ($2.99 to rent on Youtube), and Blood Quantum (Netflix).
  • We just had our first-ever Indigenous Cabinet Secretary confirmed in March 2021. Deb Haaland, who is now the Secretary of the Interior, heads a department that works on relations with Indian Country in the United States amongst a wide variety of other issues. It’s best to follow what the Interior Department is doing throughout the Biden-Harris Administration as it can showcase how to advocate for Indigenous people in congressional lawmaking and company policy.

It is crucial for me to state that I am only one of many Indigenous people around the world and do not represent the insight of my entire community. However, these recommendations come from a place of what I’ve learned and unlearned while living as an Indigenous person in my surrounding environment. If there is someone you know that’s Indigenous, then listen, hear their story, and learn, as those stories often reflect the struggles Indigenous people go through daily.

We are still here.

HIVE Insider Saxon Stahl (Pascua Yaqui, Hopi, and Diné [Navajo]) is a fourth-year student from UC Santa Cruz studying Environmental Studies (Global Environmental Justice Concentration) and Political Science. Stahl is also the undergraduate body’s Vice President of Diversity & Inclusion for the 2020-2021 academic year, serving as a liaison between the 18,000 undergraduate community and campus administration. In addition, Stahl is a member of the NAACP UCSC Chapter and a former intern at the Santa Cruz Climate Action Network.

Against the Odds: My Journey as a First-Generation College Student

Upon coming to college, I felt like such a small fish in a big sea. Everyone around me had parents, grandparents, and even great grandparents who had attended college, but I was among the few who had no idea what they were doing or what college had in store for me. Only 27% of first-generation college students graduate in four years and I felt like I was going to be part of the 73% that didn’t.

Like many other first-generation college students, I excelled academically in high school and didn’t exactly have to put forth my utmost effort in order to do well. I came to college under the pressure of my family to succeed above the rest and produce the same results that I made in high school. At first, I was beyond excited to make a mark and put myself in a good position to make my family proud, but then reality hit, and the course load slapped me in the face.

I had never done so poorly and felt so low in my entire life. I felt a strong sense of imposter syndrome — I had no idea what I was doing and where I was going to go with my career. For many, there is no community in college to represent first-generation college students and allow them to share their struggles with others who may be facing the same problems.

 

“I felt a strong sense of imposter syndrome — I had no idea what I was doing and where I was going to go with my career.”

 

My whole life I wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon. I volunteered at hospitals, competed in HOSA events, and thoroughly enjoyed my pre-health classes. I had a passion and a dream to be the first one in my family to not only attend college, but also to become a doctor. My parents were probably more excited than I was and kept telling me to push through it.

I studied with any free time I had and practically lived in the library the custodians even knew me by name, as I would often fall asleep in the library in order to wake up early and continue studying before going to take my exams. No one really told me how much I would fail and how much I would struggle. I didn’t have my parents to tell me that this is what college was like. If anything, I had to tell them with my head hung low that I kept failing tests I had studied hours for.

How do you tell your parents who immigrated from another country to give you a better life that you aren’t doing well? How do you tell them that you aren’t going to become the doctor that they’ve always dreamed of and make them proud? I struggled immensely with trying to figure out if pre-med was right for me. My mental health declined rapidly, and I honestly didn’t want to even attend college anymore. Not only was I struggling academically, but socially as well. I kept comparing myself to other successful students and was envious of everyone who had the connections to succeed.

I had no idea what I was going to do. I couldn’t see myself doing this for another decade of my life, but I was so afraid of failure and failing my family, especially. My own doubt caused me to lose sight of who I was and what made me happy. I didn’t know what I wanted to do at that point, but I knew it was anything but what I was currently doing.

 

“How do you tell your parents who immigrated from another country to give you a better life that you aren’t doing well?”

 

The one complaint I have about the public education system is that they don’t tell us about all of the exciting jobs and possible careers that are out there for us. While you’re growing up, you’re told you can either be a doctor, teacher, policeman, businessman, or a lawyer. It wasn’t until college that I learned about the immense field of careers and niche jobs that you can both have and enjoy.

So, I took a leap of faith. I changed my major to something that I had always enjoyed doing on the side: marketing. The decision was not made lightly, and I remember countless nights crying, not knowing if it was the right choice, but it turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life.

Not only was I able to perform significantly better academically, but I felt like I was actually enjoying what I was learning for once. I didn’t feel like a failure anymore, and for once, I made a decision that appeased me instead of my parents. For many first-generation college students, telling your parents that you’ve completely changed your major sends them into absolute shock as they may feel like you’ve wasted both time and money.

I didn’t want my parents to think that I was ungrateful for everything that they’ve done to get me to college, but once they saw how much I flourished and how much my mental health improved, I think they were proud that I learned something about myself.

 

“…I think they were proud that I learned something about myself.”

 

I wouldn’t have been able to change my major if I never faced my failures. Prior to college, I barely faced failures in my life, and honestly took pride in that fact, but after being forced to face failure for days on end, I was no longer terrified of it. I learned to embrace my failures in order to overcome the obstacles that I will face in the future. 

I don’t regret being pre-med at all, even if I did take a lot of unnecessary classes for my new major I still don’t believe it was a waste of time. I learned so much about myself and did a lot of self-reflection that allowed me to become even more resilient than before. At this point, I can say that I look forward to my failures because I know I will learn from them and grow as a person.

I have been a first-generation student mentor at Baylor for about two years now sharing my stories of failure with my mentees and giving them a safe space to vent and reflect on their college journey. 

In the end, I still have a passion for helping people. Maybe not as a doctor, but in so many other ways. I have found it extremely enriching to be able to share my failures with others so that they do not feel alone. 

Being a first-generation college student, you definitely feel like a minority. You always see students around you getting help or advice from their parents that you are unable to receive from your own. Some of my peers even get internships and jobs from their parents or family friends people who have been through college and made their mark.

 

“Being a first-generation college student, you definitely feel like a minority.”

 

My biggest fear to this day is getting a good job post-graduation, and while that fear still lingers, I won’t let it consume me. I seek relationships with my professors and talk to every person I know in order to expand my network and become the businesswoman I believe I can be. Once I found HIVE, I felt embraced by a community of people who were in the same situation as I was.

It is refreshing to see a network of other students who are also trying to build connections and land great jobs after college. Before finding HIVE, I felt like I was one of the only ones. It may be daunting to enter new territory practically as a foreigner, but I think that if you are true to yourself and keep striving to become better, you can overcome anything that comes your way.

There is no guide for first-generation students on how to thrive in college, you have to find that out for yourself, but I believe that that is the beauty of it. You may not start at the same starting point as other college students, but I guarantee that you will finish if not with them, then ahead of them. You will grow and learn more than most students because of your circumstances, but that will only make you stronger. 

 

“Once I found HIVE, I felt embraced by a community of people who were in the same situation as I was.”

 

My advice, from one first-gen college student to another?

Cherish your failures and never forget them. Share them with others and reflect on how far you have come, as there is no real road map to tell you what to do. So it’s up to you to make your own. If you find something that you are passionate about, I encourage you to chase after it and find someone to mentor you in your career, someone who can encourage you throughout your collegiate journey. Nothing is more precious and more helpful than talking to someone who wants to help you succeed and is willing to guide you along the way.

Andrea Huynh-Duong is a third-year marketing major at Baylor University. She has always felt lost in college but found her passion in helping first-generation college students through being a peer mentor to celebrate inclusion and diversity within the campus. She is beyond thankful for finding a platform that is inclusive and offers many opportunities to create a space in the world for minority students as well as providing resources that will help her grow throughout her professional career.

How The Pandemic Led Me to Freelancing

In May of last year, I received my bachelor’s degree in public health and minority health, only two months into the COVID-19 quarantine. When my school told me that our commencement ceremony would be completely virtual, I was devastated. I had worked so hard for four long years to get this degree and was looking forward to walking across the stage.

In January, I was diagnosed with COVID-19. I was fortunate to not have any severe symptoms, but it was an eye-opening experience that I’ll never forget.

In January, I was diagnosed with COVID-19. I was fortunate to not have any severe symptoms, but it was an eye-opening experience that I’ll never forget.  

TANEIA SURLES

Despite the hardships the pandemic brought about, I am thankful it led me to discover one thing: freelancing.

Early last summer, I began researching different side hustles that make a high income. One website stood out to me. Upwork is a platform used by many freelancers to get projects and jobs in writing, editing/proofreading, tutoring, customer service, social media, and much more. My initial interest was writing, as a few of my high school and college teachers had complimented me on my editorial style.

I signed up for Upwork instantly and created a profile using some of my college papers. Success on the platform didn’t happen immediately, but I was elated to begin working as a writer once I received an offer. My first project was the simple task of creating a 500-word essay about a health insurance company. My first client was satisfied with my work, and I went on to work with him for several months afterward. This project was my initial introduction to the freelancing world.

Freelance work is diverse, and people come from different backgrounds of education, work, and expertise that can be applied to many other jobs and projects on platforms like Upwork and beyond. As someone with background experience in public health, I have been offered several opportunities based solely on my educational background, which I am very grateful for. 

Freelance work is diverse, and people come from different backgrounds of education, work, and expertise that can be applied to many other jobs and projects on platforms like Upwork and beyond.

TANEIA SURLES

While I still want to pursue a career in public health by becoming a certified health education specialist, I like that I now have a side hustle that I can make money from while I’m in graduate school. The pandemic was such an unexpected event for everyone, and it has shown how vital it is to have more than one income. 

Many students may feel that they don’t have enough experience to become freelancers, which is an entirely false ideal. When I applied for my first project, I had no online publications to show my client. All I had were essays, but that was enough to get me in the door. 

Alongside writing, I have been working for the last couple of months as a social media manager. I had managed a few social media pages during college, but it was never a career I had even thought of pursuing. My client saw my background and gave me a chance to develop my social media skills. 

Many of us have been told to just go to college, graduate, and get a good job, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Freelancing is steadily growing and has exploded since the pandemic hit. Take this time to learn other skills that can land you a side hustle (or multiple side hustles), as well as additional items you can add to your resume. 

Freelancing is steadily growing and has exploded since the pandemic hit.

TANEIA SURLES

Taneia Surles is a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in public health. She is also a freelance writer and social media manager interested in health and wellness, lifestyle, and entrepreneurship. When she is not studying or freelancing, she enjoys watching documentaries and journaling. 

Educating Ourselves on Others

It’s only natural that college students will want to learn material they can relate to. But as a first-year student at UCLA, taking a variety of cultural and gender-study classes has shaped my belief that all students could greatly benefit from taking classes that focus on backgrounds outside of their own identities. Understanding how other people’s identities impact how they experience the world is a vital step towards true equality. And so, I cannot help but think of the good that could arise if more college students endeavored to enroll in classes that would educate them on the perspectives of others. 

Understanding how other people’s identities impact how they experience the world is a vital step towards true equality.

Cheyanne McLaurin

As a black student in the American education system, I was never truly exposed to black history, and so I had always known that once at the university level I would enroll in an African American studies class. I have finally had the opportunity to do so — and it was a genuinely empowering experience.

Sitting in that classroom was the first time in my life where I witnessed great black authors being presented and praised in an academic setting as objectively elite, rather than a subcategory to the white authors that America regards as the standard. And while this feeling of empowerment is unquantifiably valuable to me, it was an unexpected comment from one of my non-black classmates that gave me the greatest feeling of optimism.

It was during the very last discussion in that classroom that we were posed with the question: “Why are African American studies important?” My classmate expressed that he felt it was important for America to recognize all of the amazing contributions and influence that black people and black culture bring to our world.

His comment was brief, but the message resonated with me. Although I have always known of the beauty and value within black culture, I had accepted it as something only members of the black community can recognize. To hear a non-black peer send praise to my culture brought me a great deal of joy. This also planted a seed of hope in me — because it was the first time I’ve witnessed that the beauty of black culture can be seen, understood, and appreciated by others.

This also planted a seed of hope in me — because it was the first time I’ve witnessed that the beauty of black culture can be seen, understood, and appreciated by others.

Cheyanne McLaurin

This empowering moment for me wasn’t isolated. Not long after, I had two similar experiences in one of my gender studies classes, which solidified my conviction in the importance of taking classes outside of our own identities

During that class, I learned that western cultures have a tendency to view religions that encourage modesty as oppressive. Together as a collective, the class came to the conclusion that we cannot judge someone else’s beliefs based on our own values and expectations. The idea that we have to stop viewing others through the lens of our own experiences is one that will forever stay with me — and one that I hope to spread to those around me.

The idea that we have to stop viewing others through the lens of our own experiences is one that will forever stay with me — and one that I hope to spread to those around me.

Cheyanne McLaurin

During another impactful gender studies lesson, we were given material that expressed how the media’s portrayal of femininity, sex, masculinity, and violence leads to real-world violence towards women. I’ll never forget the women in my class commenting on how the material articulated the fear they experience every day. Later, a classmate said something that will stay with me always: “I am going to make all the men in my life read these articles so that they can understand.” And with just those words, she indirectly summarized my new philosophy. 

Men may not take classes on gender/women studies because they feel they cannot relate to women’s experience — and non-black students may be hesitant to take an African American studies class for the same reason. This thought process — while understandable — is ultimately very harmful. Our inability to relate to one another is one of our world’s greatest obstacles. The solution is straightforward — we need to educate ourselves on each other’s experiences.

Our inability to relate to one another is one of our world’s greatest obstacles. The solution is straightforward — we need to educate ourselves on each other’s experiences.

Cheyanne McLaurin

Seeing the world through a lens that goes beyond myself has been a deeply moving and insightful experience. I urge anyone who is able to explore the viewpoints of others — in any academic setting — to readily seize the same opportunity.

Cheyanne McLaurin is a first-year psychology major at UCLA. She has always been passionate about diversity and is currently involved in multiple campus organizations that celebrate black culture and advocate for the academic advancement of black students. She is grateful to be working with a platform that takes practical steps to advance the equity of minority communities and increase diversity in the workplace.

A Black College Student Reflects on Her Childhood and the BLM Movement

This article is republished from Katie Couric Media.

Trying to find a first job or internship after college is difficult enough, but last year, that stress was further amplified for students when the academic year was cut short by the pandemic. For students of color, who were even further traumatized by the events that led to Black Lives Matter protests over the summer, the concept of job searching might seem totally overwhelming. That’s where HIVE DIVERSITY comes in. The digital career development and recruiting platform connects employers with recent grads in order to create a diverse workforce that all companies should strive for. We spoke with one young student, Uchechi Ihenacho, who is currently attending Princeton University, about growing up as the daughter of Nigerian immigrants, how the events of last summer affected her, and how HIVE has helped her to realize that closing the representation gap in the workforce is possible.

On June 7, a Black Lives Matter protest swept my hometown of Jersey City. Signs in hand and masks on, the crowd moved across the street circling City Hall while encouraging people on the sidelines to join the movement. Summers in the city are hot, but the passion of a city united burns fiercer.

At the front of the crowd was a girl with a loudspeaker in hand. Three years younger than me, she was president of the Black Diaspora Club, my high school alma mater’s version of a Black Student Union, a body composed of Black students and allies seeking to recognize and improve the Black experience. It was initially difficult for me to spot her from a few feet away, but her words reverberated through the city — an echo of 4,000 voices.

She recounted the unjust murder of George Floyd and numerous other innocent Black lives, then called for ‘defunding the police.’ The enthusiastic crowd audibly dulled down a bit with the call. Skeptical eyes shifted to the floor. We all agreed that something had to be done, but the term was ripe. Police officers were lined up behind her and littered across the whole neighborhood — the most I had ever seen at once in this part of town.

June 7 was also the day my family celebrated my parents’ birthdays. They weren’t born on the same day — in the process of emigrating from Nigeria, my father mistakenly put down my mother’s birthday as his own while filing documents. That was the first of many mistakes they made upon their arrival. The next was assuming that life would be easier in this country.

As they searched for jobs, they had their first bittersweet taste of the country. My father eventually found a part-time job as a taxi driver, where racial slurs from frantic passengers and drivers overcome with road rage were common.  My mother obtained a job as a pharmacist after several failed attempts to show her extensive credentials from Nigeria. Three years later, my sister and I were born on the same day, then my brother arrived nine years later.

Having developed a hard shell from their experiences, my parents raised my siblings and me to prevail. Mantras such as: ‘You have to work twice as hard as anyone else to succeed,’ and ‘education is the only way you can guarantee security,’ floated through my household as often as complaints about New Jersey taxes. It felt like I was fighting an unseen power that was keeping anyone who looked like me down on the basis of my skin color. Competition served as motivation, although it took many years for me to understand that my opponent was systemic racism. Unlike many others, I had the privilege of having a support system that believed in me. The concept of progress and struggle were inseparable in my house. I couldn’t shake the feeling of unfairness out of mind, but knew dwelling on it would not get me anywhere.

I didn’t grasp the concept of systemic racism until recently. As the most diverse city in the country, my Jersey City classrooms were quite colorful. It wasn’t until I started advanced educational programs in elementary and middle school that I realized I was often one out of perhaps three Black people in the room. And it wasn’t until my acceptance to Princeton University that I fully came to terms with being a marginalized minority.

Going from a high school with an African American student population of 25% to a college with 9% representation required some time for adjustment. At this predominantly white institution, there have been many times in smaller classrooms settings where I have been the only Black person. Princeton meant searching for community, reexamining my social identity, and putting in more effort to develop the diverse friend groups that I grew up with. It also meant receiving a stellar education with amazing professors and a support system. It meant living in dorm rooms that used to be slave barracks, entering buildings built by former enslaved Africans and named after slave owners, and having my school, formerly known as the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, glorify a man who adamantly supported racial segregation. A month after the death of George Floyd and a few weeks after the City Hall protest, Princeton took Wilson’s name off of its residential college and school. Progress.

Last summer, I started a summer internship at HIVE Diversity, a recruiting platform meant to transform the way employers and employees engage by diversifying the workforce. During the course of my internship, I was assigned a project of examining the DEI efforts of Fortune 500 companies. In the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, I saw an overwhelming number of companies releasing statements in support of the movement and more importantly, listing actions that they would implement to support diversity and inclusion efforts. Some action plans were vaguer than others, but it was encouraging to see a near universal recognition of inequality that penetrated private companies, and taking steps to make change. HIVE Diversity makes it easier for companies to close their representation gaps and provide students the opportunity to connect with companies that value their diversity and want to make a difference — a direction I hope all business will follow.

As a student in my third year of college, it seems as is if everyone is preparing for the future. People think there isn’t much they can do besides voting and attending protests — what can be done if you aren’t in the White House or at a think tank? If there’s anything I’ve learned over the last year, it’s that there’s so much progress to be made in every corner of our lives. From our schools to our offices to outside city halls, there are opportunities to advance a more whole America that equally supports all of its people, despite their color or immigration status. 2020 was a wake-up call, and it’s our responsibility to move ahead.

This conversation has been lightly edited.

Uchechi Ihenacho is currently a junior at Princeton University studying in the Princeton School of Public Policy and International Affairs, as well as African American and American studies. She’s a former Business Development intern and current Insider at HIVE DIVERSITY. Outside of her business interests, she is passionate about forming solutions to societal issues dealing with matters of equity and educational advancement which is what drew her to HIVE. 

It’s Time America’s Workforce Looks Like America

*Note: This post has been republished from The Advocate.

The tide is changing in America and it’s a momentum that’s being celebrated and cherished by millions across the world. As we celebrate the inauguration of a new president and a White House administration that openly embraces the LGBTQ community — advocates say President Biden will be the nation’s most pro-LGBTQ president in history — we should also take a moment to acknowledge the progress made in the name of equal rights over the last decade.

On a state level, there have been significant increases in the number of LGBTQ Americans protected by nondiscrimination and relationship recognition laws over the last ten years.

And, of course, we will never forget that moment in 2015 when the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was a right nationwide — a moment, long overdue, that changed the course of history. 

Just four years earlier, my husband and I were engaged in July 2011— the same month the Marriage Equality Act legalized same-sex marriage in the state of New York. This kind of progress brings me and my husband hope that we can continue to raise our son in a kinder, gentler, and more accepting world. A world that embraces all individuals as their authentic selves— at home, at school, and at work.

It’s a world that I definitely could not have imagined growing up in a place like Louisiana. It’s a world I didn’t know existed, until 2005, when the devastation of Hurricane Katrina had me seeking a new home in New York. I came out of the closet that December — after experiencing first-hand a community and culture in the Big Apple built on tolerance and inclusivity. A few years later, both my little brother and sister came out as well, and 10 years later, my nephew came out as transgender. 

Before that point of my life, I spent my college experience and first few years of my career in the closet — not being fearful that being gay might impact my career, but not knowing that my diversity was something that could ever be celebrated or could add value to the professional world.

After college, I got incredibly lucky — spending the majority of the last decade working in the career space for Tulane University, my alma mater, who immediately embraced both my personal and professional abilities. My boss of almost 18 years helped me realize how my authentic self at work isn’t just about making me comfortable, but about how my diverse background can and should enhance the professional experiences and personal development of those around me. 

Over the last decade, I’ve been able to help 2,500 students build, strive and reach their personal and career goals, and to do so by being their authentic selves — people first, candidates second. In 2017, I decided that I wanted to increase that number to 250,000. That’s when I started building HIVE Diversity.

I realized an untapped opportunity to innovate how personalized technology can make the career process easier and equitable for everyone, and at the same time connect students and recent grads from diverse backgrounds with companies looking to scale a workplace culture of inclusivity. From the beginning, I set out to empower the next generation of talent with the ability to self-identify with and share an ever-evolving range of diverse backgrounds and experiences with employers whose workforces and cultures are enhanced with an ever-evolving range of needs and priorities specific to representation.

Thanks to a phenomenal team of people who share a commitment to that purpose, HIVE DIVERSITY launched in October 2020. After building for so many years, we couldn’t have arrived at a more meaningful and important time.

A mobile-first platform that gamifies the career development and recruitment process, HIVE has already attracted students and recent graduates from over 625 universities and colleges, who uniquely demonstrate commitment to employers, build professional skill sets, learn about diversity, equity and inclusion in the workforce, and create a perfectly formatted resume and digital application that provides a more holistic version of themselves and their diverse backgrounds to employers.

We’ve only just begun our journey, and I’m thrilled to share that our unique product offering has attracted the attention of major companies brands like Wells Fargo, Accenture, Chobani, Steve Madden, Saks Fifth Avenue, Atlantic Records, Michael Kors, and the International Rescue Committee, among others. The corporations that partner with us are committed to our mission — they understand that one of the key steps towards building an inclusive workforce is recruiting junior-level talent, with an ever-evolving range of diverse backgrounds, skills and interests.

I recognize there’s still a long way to go in the name of diversity.

Twenty states protecting LGBTQ rights is a leap forward, but more than half of the U.S. remains without such regulations. More needs to be done, on a state, federal and global level, before LGBTQ rights can become universally accepted as a standard.

Only four Black CEOs are on this year’s Fortune 500 list, reinforcing how Black executives are severely underrepresented in C-suite roles. Black women are even more disproportionately marginalized, making up only 1.6 percent of vice presidents and 1.4 percent of C-suite leaders, but 7.4 percent of the national population. More needs to be done before racism, prejudice, and implicit bias no longer impact the lives, careers and opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds.

Diversity largely indicates race and gender identity, but it’s more than that. The workplace should look like a mosaic of races, religions, ethnicities, abilities, sexual orientations, first- and second-generation Americans as well as first-in-the-family college graduates — all working together on common business and cultural pursuits for the America that is, not the America that was.

A recent study by the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute found that background is a key source of identification for first- and second-generation college students, who are “more likely to come from immigrant families than in the past, and are more likely to be racial and ethnic minorities.” The MPI report also reveals that these students accounted for 58 percent of the increase in the number of students in U.S. higher education between 2000 and 2018 — in a nation where immigrant-origin workers have been projected to drive labor force growth until at least 2035. 

Altogether, more needs to be done before we can reach a point in time where it’s no longer necessary to promote and strive for diversity — because diversity of thought, experiences, and backgrounds is welcomed and ingrained in every element of our society. 

Still, in the wake of a new year, and a new federal administration championing positive change, I choose to focus on progress and possibility.

We can strive to build a better world together — where President Biden is the first of a long line of presidents who openly advocate for LBGTQ rights. Where Vice President Kamala Harris is the first of many Black and Asian American women to hold positions of power in the highest level of government. Where representation across all diversities — in everywhere from the White House to Wall Street — is no longer a goal, but a reality. 

Promoting diversity, equity and inclusion at every level is at the very heart of the mission of HIVE. We democratize the hiring process, so that any undergraduate student or recent graduate can have meaningful connections with companies that value diversity in the workplace. Our hope is that all companies will soon work towards creating systemic change. 

One of the first — and the most critical — steps is to lay the foundation for an inclusive workforce. That all stems from who a business is hiring and when they are being brought on — which involves innovating a recruiting process and ensuring the prioritization of diversity and inclusion in that system. That’s something HIVE DIVERSITY helps facilitate. At the very heart of HIVE is a key belief: While our individual diversities help define who we are, collectively they can empower us with the ability to define the future.

For myself, my team, and the rest of the world, that better, brighter future of equality starts now — with the next generation of talent leading the way.

Byron Slosar is the CEO and founder of HIVE Diversity. He has a decade of experience across all areas of undergraduate career advising, career development, employer relations and undergraduate recruiting. Byron has worked with over 2,500 students and has an effective approach that enables them to enjoy, not stress about, their career-focused efforts. He created HIVE DIVERSITY to level the career playing field for undergraduate students.

How One Student Podcast Host Tells the Stories We Don’t Hear

Last year, I witnessed a 19-year-old Black girl plea for help via Twitter after a sexual assault incident, and go missing – only for Tallahassee police to find her dead body one week later. I witnessed a 26-year-old Black woman fail to receive justice after Louisville, Kentucky police officers wrongfully murdered her. Oluwatoyin Salau and Breonna Taylor fell victim to what 2020 made very clear to me: the world ignores Black women until it’s too late.

In the midst of a global pandemic, where I worried for my mother’s health as she worked on the front lines as a nurse practitioner, I wondered if there would ever be a chance for Black women to not only be heard, but listened to. My podcast, The Court, along with guidance from HIVE Diversity, helped me refocus my energy to create and foster a safe environment to tell our stories. 

My podcast, The Court, along with guidance from HIVE Diversity, helped me refocus my energy to create and foster a safe environment to tell our stories. 

CHINENYE ONYEIKE

2020 opened up as a year full of promise and potential. I looked at my study abroad semester in Prague as a time to reward myself with exciting adventures and deep personal growth while tackling a 16-credit course load.

In Prague, I spent my mornings learning the art of travel-writing in the center of Old Town Square. My nights were spent with new friends trying exotic foods and enjoying the lively culture of the city. Nothing could disturb my care-free attitude – until the morning of March 12, 2020. My residential hall assistant woke me up at around 7:30 am to alert me that my study abroad program had to be cut short due to the rapid global spread of COVID-19.

I had to leave the Czech Republic the very next day.

I tried to look on the bright side: I entered the United States safely and came home to five healthy younger siblings with two healthy parents. However, living in the epicenter of the virus, watching rising case numbers and death tolls, emphasized the reality of living on borrowed, uncontrollable time.

Not only was I constantly worrying about my mother’s safety as she worked with COVID-19 patients everyday, the deaths of Breonna Taylor and Oluwatoyin Salau sustained my worry for Black women everywhere.

We live in a patriarchal society with systemic racism, and Black women inevitably fall to the bottom of the totem pole. Only those within our demographic show true concern for our issues.

For example, protests and petitions placed pressure on Daniel Cameron, Kentucky Attorney General, to seek justice for Taylor’s murder. As a Black man, one may assume he would use more diligence to bring peace to Taylor’s family.

He announced the charges six months after the shooting and only charged one of the three officers with three counts of wanton endangerment; no one received consequences for Taylor’s actual murder. I transformed my anger towards these events into ammunition to help create a safer society for my little sisters to grow up in.

I transformed my anger towards these events into ammunition to help create a safer society for my little sisters to grow up in.

Chinenye onyeike

Through research, I found that podcasting and audio storytelling were growing mediums attracting popularity from society. I saw this as a space for me to grow professionally while establishing a platform to call my own; I soon planted the roots for my podcast, The Court, which is a podcast where Black women have the home-court advantage.

In a world where society silences, skews and ignores Black women’s voices, our community deserves a safe space where we’re understood. Not all podcasts centered around Black women aim to reach 16 to 25-year-olds; I aim to form an environment of comfort for listeners tackling the not a girl, not yet a woman stage. I touch on topics including, but not limited to: body positivity, the adultification of Black girls and women, and natural hair acceptance within our community.

I’ve always believed that a leader’s purpose is not to gather a group of followers, but to develop more leaders and individualistic thinkers. Our voices, morals and thoughts are some of the few things we as people have control over in this world; my platform celebrates that and encourages others that look like me to love who they are instead of feeding into constant oppression. 

My involvement with HIVE DIVERSITY, a virtual career development and recruiting platform for students and recent graduates that represents what diversity in the workforce is meant to be, could not have come at a better time. Although the cancellation of summer internship opportunities took me off track from professional goals, HIVE founder and CEO Byron Slosar helped me realize that I have the power to create my own path of achievement towards my professional endeavors. I gained the confidence to use the diversities within my podcast to illustrate my value to potential employers and to help me stand out in the classroom. The Court comes up in conversations during class, interviewers make it the topic of conversation when I speak with them, and it’s allowed me to turn a crazy year into a rewarding experience. 

In a world where society silences, skews and ignores Black women’s voices, our community deserves a safe space where we’re understood.

CHINENYE ONYEIKE

Without my desire to take control of uncontrollable situations, I would not have the privilege of finding light within the dark tunnels of 2020. I hope to encourage others to use their voice to perpetuate change in all capacities. Our situations should not hold the weight to define us. We as people hold the power to define them. 

HIVE Insider Chinenye Onyeike is an NYU senior studying Media, Culture and Communication with a minor in Business of Entertainment, Media and Technology. As a media studies major focused on journalism, she spent her time in interning at NBC, writing for her school newspaper, The Washington Square News, and creating, hosting and producing her podcast, The Court.

Workforce Diversity Will Forever Evolve

*Note: This has been republished from a guest post for the Retail Industry Leaders Association blog.

Diversity is not a quota system. At least not to college seniors like Mya Brown—an active student leader and D&I campus advocate, Brown believes the problem with today’s diversity and inclusion initiatives is the very definition of diversity. To the international business major, it’s not checking off people from different ethnicities, backgrounds or religions. “Diversity is the thought of ideas, it’s the thought of experiences, it’s bringing people together who believe in different things,” said Brown. 

A student at Northeastern University, the senior is also an entrepreneur—her fashion line JET NOIRE launched earlier this year, with the aim to empower women to express themselves authentically through what they wear. Brown is just one of many ambitious and academically outstanding students on HIVE DIVERSITY’s platform.

A mobile-optimized recruiting tool that democratizes both the job hunt and early-career pathways for studentsand companies, HIVE connects students with diverse backgrounds to jobs and internships at its partner companies. Saks Fifth Avenue, Chobani, Capri Holdings Ltd., Versace, Michael Kors, Jimmy Choo, and Atlantic Records are some of the high-profile brands making up its roster. 

Accenture tops off the list of Fortune 500 companies as another one of HIVE’s notable partners, uniting with the D&I business on its deeper mission to make hiring processes more fair and equitable. “We are collaborating with HIVE Diversity because they complement our purpose of combining human ingenuity with technology to serve a greater good,” said Joseph Taiano, the retail managing director of marketing and communications. 

He says what HIVE offers is an innovative service. By catching a student early enough, the platform facilitates career points of entry to major companies like Accenture, effectively impacting diversity on their bottom line. 

Taiano has the right idea. 

Companies dedicated to fostering an inclusive culture—ones led by executives who make inclusive culture an organizational priority as well as a personal goal—grow more than twice as fast as their peers. 

Companies dedicated to fostering an inclusive culture—ones led by executives who make inclusive culture an organizational priority as well as a personal goal—grow more than twice as fast as their peers. 

AYURELLA HORN-MULLER

The numbers speak for themselves. According to Accenture’s Getting to Equal 2020 report, businesses with gender-diverse executive teams report their sales are 2.2x higher—while profits are 3.2x higher—than their non-diverse counterparts. And for every 1% increase in a company’s diversity, there’s a tangible increase in revenue. 

Built in partnership with Makeable, HIVE’s technology helps talented students like Mya Brown, pictured above, connect more meaningfully with companies and opportunities.

Such a definitive business case for a more diverse workforce comes at a time where people everywhere are seeking to better understand the disparities in every sector. 

Over the past year, leading corporations across retail have acknowledged they each have a role to play in combating systemic inequity. CEOs of conglomerates like Amazon and Target have added their influence to the conversation, making recent public commitments to increase diverse representation in their companies. They join Fortune 500 retail organizations receiving attention for championing D&I initiatives in the workforce including H&M, Starbucks and Costco.

It’s a list that keeps on growing, as inclusivity has become critically important to retail brands and the purchasing behaviors of their consumers. It’s also something that should be prioritized—given the staggering inequities in today’s workforce. 

Only four Black CEOs are on this year’s Fortune 500 list, reinforcing how Black executives are severely underrepresented in C-suite roles. Black women are even more disproportionately marginalized, making up only 1.6% of vice presidents and 1.4% of C-suite leaders, but 7.4% of the national population. 

The pressure to increase minority representation across all levels of a company now falls on the shoulders of those in positions of leadership, as systems perform the way they are structured to. 

Research by Harvard Business Review shows this isn’t an issue that can be fixed by simply implementing quarterly training to reduce implicit bias on the job. Using stand-alone solutions as bandages to systemic problems translates to failure in the long run. 

The solution worth investing in? Recruiting for a stronger, more inclusive workplace. 

Enter HIVE DIVERSITY. With representation across 300 universities and 2500+ student organizations, HIVE’s community engages the next generation of talent, spanning everywhere from Alaska to New York City. 

Founder and CEO Byron Slosar started HIVE DIVERSITY after a decade spent working in college career services. “Much of the career structure, with regard to recruiting and career development, doesn’t include students as participants in the conversation,” said Slosar. His experience led him to recognize some of the major inefficiencies and potential inequities that come with personalized career service: “It expects students to accommodate how the structure has always existed because they need and want jobs.” 

Merging innovation and personalization with the power of technology, Slosar and his team have found another way. Launched in 2019, the SaaS platform offers an unrivaled career development experience for college students from diverse backgrounds and companies looking to ‘pipeline their pipeline,’ as Chief Operating Officer Dakotah Eddy puts it. 

For a student, it’s a no-brainer—the interactive tool builds them a perfectly-formatted resume and profile, to use when they apply to any of the jobs or internships available in companies that are committed to hiring diverse candidates. It also helps undergraduates grow and develop professional networks, with digital diversity and inclusion training programs and peer-based communities at the heart of the HIVE experience. Plus? It can all be done on their phone, on their own time.

For a corporate partner, it’s a seamless way to build a foundation of junior level talent, ensuring an organization is on track to creating a C-suite and workplace culture that looks and feels more diverse. What HIVE does that’s unique is recognizing how companies’ needs for representation remain dynamic. 

Byron Slosar, Founder and CEO of HIVE DIVERSITY.

“On the corporate side, priorities and needs around representation will forever evolve. Workforce diversity will forever evolve,” said Slosar. The founder says HIVE’s focus is on building a community of career-committed undergraduates who are empowered by their ability to share more about their diverse backgrounds. 91% of students on HIVE reportedly share how they self-identify directly on their resumes and profiles. 

For a company, this direct access to a range of representation and experience is a huge benefit. “The biggest thing we’re doing for a company is saying you can find what you need, in one place and we know that what you need is going to change by the minute,” Slosar added. 

It’s also a novel way to introduce students to careers in industries they otherwise wouldn’t consider.  

“Fashion is an industry that has a lot of opportunities for first and second-year students, part-time in retail stores,” said Slosar. “But not many are connecting that to how that funnel could lead to corporate work post-graduation. That approach might then introduce careers in fashion and retail,” he said.  

HIVE’s partner Steve Madden echoes that sentiment. Liz Rodbell, the brand’s group president of retail, believes a diverse set of candidates is only one part of the equation. “We also need to be cognizant of our application process and ensure that talented people aren’t being left out for reasons that have no bearing on their ability to fulfill job requirements,” said Rodbell.  

HIVE DIVERSITY works to help eliminate the inequities in the hiring process. The company’s CEO says the explanation is two-fold: first, they focus on cultivating genuine connections with their pool of talented students from diverse backgrounds. The second, equally important element is the partners they work with and their shared commitment to fostering a culture of inclusivity. Innovation in HIVE’s platform provides their partners with real-time guidance on equitable practices. 

It’s these benefits that make HIVE more than just another recruiting platform. Rodbell agrees. “HIVE is really taking a holistic approach to build authentic relationships with a diverse network of students, by helping us remove barriers that might have previously prevented those candidates from rising throughout the job application process,” she said.

In a world dominated by staffing agencies that prioritize quantity over quality—which often leads to inequitable hiring, communication issues and indirect candidate access—HIVE manages to stand out thanks to the universal solution it offers both companies and students. 

“It’s time to stop asking students where they go to school and who they know. Instead, let’s focus on understanding who they are a bit better,” said Slosar. 

Head of Digital Marketing and Student Strategy at HIVE DIVERSITY, Ayurella Horn-Muller is a former journalist and TV news producer. A Forbes 30 Under 30 and ForbesWomen contributor, she’s been reporting on emerging businesses making a difference for years—which is what led her to join the team at HIVE. Her work has been published in USA Today, NPR, NBC, Southerly and PBS NewsHour, among others.