Nonprofit BUiLT is hosting the event to highlight the success and possibilities of Black tech talent in the region.
Dave Moore, Staff Writer
The statistics are revealing.
Thirteen percent of the people living in the U.S. are Black, yet only 8% of all computer or mathematical workers are Black. The disparity is even wider at the executive level, where only 2% of IT managers are Black.
“How can that be, in the age of Black Lives Matter?” asks Dallas-based Peter Beasley, Co-founder of Blacks United in Leading Technology – or BUiLT International.
“There is no talent pipeline problem,” he said. “Black tech talent is widely available, especially in North Texas.”
Several leading organizations are joining together to hold the inaugural North Texas Black Tech Symposium from June 15-17. The event is free; access to networking is $10, and access to workshops is $20.
BUiLT is hosting the event. The nonprofit believes that increasing the representation and participation of Black people in tech helps lift oppressed people everywhere.
“A great deal of the racial disparity found in the U.S. tech workforce has been driven by institutional, systemic racism,” said Beasley, who admits his early life experiences did not point toward his current role as Chairman and Executive Director of BUiLT.
Growing Up ‘Colorblind’
“I’m surprised, finding myself leading an organization advocating racial equality,” Beasley told Dallas Innovates. “I grew up almost colorblind. My father was in the Air Force, and I grew up in Sacramento, California; Anchorage, Alaska; London, England; and San Antonio, Texas.”
“When I went to UT Austin in 1976… oh boy,” Beasley said. “There were almost no Blacks at all, but because I made straight-A’s in my first semester in an electrical engineering program, it seemed like I had a lot of extra passes that others didn’t get.”
When Beasley graduated in 1980, he re-entered his colorblind reality, living in a mobile home, exploring the ditches of South Texas for uranium for Dallas-based Mobil Exploration and Producing Services Inc. (MEPSI).
Beasley spent four years in oil exploration at sea, working off the coasts of Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia.
When he moved to Dallas in 1985, MEPSI assigned Beasley to career-advancing roles, and then placed him in information technology leadership.
“Back in the ’80s, there were few Black people in tech, especially in management,” Beasley said. “But, if you have the education and are given a chance, technology careers can create new possibilities for anyone.”
“The beauty is, if you can code, code is code,” he said. “It’s ones and zeros. If you can keep the bad guys out via cybersecurity, or if you can do something with technology that generates competitive value, nobody cares what race you are. You’re making money for someone.”
Barriers at the Top
Despite 20 years in corporate IT management, Beasley says he ran into barriers and ceilings. Other Black IT pros have reported the same. He saw the roles race and the lack of diversity played again and again, through frequent racially disproportionate layoffs.
A federal report indicates Beasley and other Black technologists face an uphill battle in gaining a foothold in the IT industry, especially at high levels. The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission reports that just 2% of all IT executives are Black, compared to 83% white.
Finding fewer and fewer leadership roles as an older Black man in tech, Beasley started his own software company, Netwatch Solutions, at age 45.
Beasley developed and patented the company’s artificial intelligence-driven predictive technology to reduce downtime in customer networks. Netwatch clients included Metro PCS, Interstate Batteries, the Staubach Company, HollyFrontier, and Hunt Petroleum.
But when it was time to seek funding, Beasley says race became a factor again.
He remembers on one occasion he was asked if his grandparents were slaves. On other occasions, Beasley says, someone suggested that his client base was generated by his minority status.
Through the challenges, Netwatch Solutions had its ups and downs, but continued to grow.
COVID Resets the Table
“We were closing that next sale, early 2020, then COVID wiped out 100% of our deals,” Beasley said. “We sold through on-site software demos, and then instantly, there were no customers on-site anymore. Everyone’s offices closed.”
Where COVID closed one door, it opened another.
Having time, energy, and expertise on his hands in March 2020, Beasley took the lead and incorporated Blacks in Technology International. Last fall, Beasley co-founded and incorporated BUiLT.
In the last two years, Beasley has interviewed and placed 18 board directors, 16 chapter presidents, and 13 assistants, coordinators, and vice presidents in 12 cities.
The organization’s membership has grown quickly, coinciding with the increased attention to social justice and the killings of Black men and women at the hands of police, Beasley said. The original Dallas chapter of BUiLT now has 2,400 members; domestic and international chapters have about 8,400 members. Beasley anticipates many will take part in the symposium.
A Chance to See and Be Seen
While the online symposium is open to the public, participating organizations, speakers, invited guests, and all BUiLT members can attend an in-person private networking event on Monday, June 14, at 6:30 PM at Mesero’s Prestonwood.
“The virtual symposium will have an expo for sponsoring companies to provide recruiters,” Beasley said. “Sponsors also have the opportunity to provide content-relevant presentations to the symposium audience.”
Beasley says the event will spotlight the success of Black technology professionals and the benefits they provide to their employers, and highlight the talent pool across North Texas.
“There’s a very large ecosystem here in North Texas that helps fuel the pipeline of Black technologists and entrepreneurs,” Beasley said, citing the DFW Minority Supplier Development Council, Year Up, and Generation USA.
“BUiLT is on the MeetUp platform and has been invited into the 15,000-member Communities for Black Justice and Equity organization, which elevates Black voices and experiences, helping to end racial injustice. It is free to attend BUiLT events,” he said. “We are open to everyone and we don’t discriminate against anybody,” Beasley said. “Everyone should be given a chance.”
For more information about BUiLT, visit the group’s website. Sign up for the event, which will include keynote speeches from Dallas County Chief Information Security Officer Michael Anderson and Tarrant County Chief Information Officer Christopher Nchopa-Ayafor.
Other participating organizations include the Dallas Regional Chamber, Dallas Fort Worth Minority Supplier Development Council, Year Up, Generation USA, Black IBMers, American Airlines Black Professional Network, the Texas chapter of the International Consortium of Minority Cybersecurity Professionals, the National Society of Black Engineers, and Impact Ventures.
Companies or organizations that would like to present during the symposium need to contact the North Texas Black Tech Symposium team before June 1.
The North Texas Black Tech Symposium platinum sponsors include American Airlines and Ntelicor.
A version of this story appeared in Dallas Innovates.