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HP shares a common passion and commitment with Black Girls Code to fill the STEM-education/career pipeline with diverse talent and to enable young female leaders to drive lasting change in the world. HP’s Chief Diversity Officer Lesley Slaton Brown sat down with the young inspiration behind Black Girls Code, Kai Morton, in David Packard’s historic office at HP’s Palo Alto headquarters, to discuss diversity, inclusion, and the future of technology.
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In conversation: Lesley Slaton Brown and Kai Morton | Reinvent Mindsets | HP
well Kai welcome to HP we're sitting in our founders office david packard and when i think about the legacy of the silicon valley and technology i'm honored to be in this office but what i'm really honored to be is with you you're like the next wave you're the next chapter force and technology so talk to me a little bit about what you're doing i know you've taken a gap year out in school and and then computer science is your next thing for you yes i recently graduated from high school last year and so i decided to take a gap year which was kind of a hard decision to make like cuz all my friends of course are going up to college and I'd be staying here to kind of work and figure out myself i guess but it's been really interesting to come and see myself develop in my own personnel developing my values develop and see how like i actually want to take that to the next level in like my career and do college and stuff like that well i would be remiss if i didn't say so you're the daughter of the founder of black girls code kimberly Brian chi mort and your mother very intentionally wanted to pave the way for you how does that feel and is there pressure associated with that or what I mean in the beginning I was like I mean this is this gonna be like a couple of workshops like I'm gonna be learning scratch and some basic stuff did you think it was gonna get this big yeah it's only started weighing on me like what maybe in the second third year when everything started to pick up and I was like oh so like this is actually gonna be a thing for the rest of my life so it's just been interesting it's been like kind of crazy like it feels like just yesterday I was like in sixth grade and my mom was just starting black girls code and now it's like thousands of girls across the country like even internationally a bit like sweet it's pretty crazy like cuz I mean it was all just about me just cuz I was obsessed with video games and I like to play them you know and I went to my first workshop and I was like this is what I want to do I want to start coding games at that point I want to start games I still do but then as I started to code more and go to more classes and workshops and stuff like that through black girls couldn't outside I started to realize that coding applies to a lot more than I originally went into it for yeah so now I'm like thinking about like social justice and that's wonderful you also said though something earlier when we were talking about you were playing games and you realized I could actually create these games yeah so it was actually my mom kind of planted that seedling she's the one who brought that up because I mean probably it would have taken a long time for me to actually consider coding on my own terms until my mom would kind of brought it up into like relevant conversation and I end up going that summer camp yeah so it was really all about my mom kind of talking me through it like I was like I don't know about this like what does that even mean like why would I want to make the games if I could play other people that are not graded and I had like big dreams for what I wanted to say I was like I want to create my favorite video game ever like it doesn't create I mean like to create those kind of games and those kind of technologies takes like a huge team but at the time I was like I can create anything I just need to like run out of code but yeah yeah well and also I mean skills and skillsets and what are the talents and the the tools that you use on a day-to-day basis as you kind of start aspiring toward programming and coding what are the things you use so in the beginning I was thinking like I'm gonna be like headfirst into technology only and like that's only gonna be it so I was only gonna be like coding and stuff like that and developing on the front end and the back end and that kind of stuff but as I started to get older I said to realize a lot of my interest kind of could be incorporated into what I created and when I was coding and like now as I'm older than I was when I was 11 and first starting to code I realized a lot of my own intersectionalities kind of play into what I'm interested in creating and building and love my things like my love of music in art and design kind of nicely play into what I create and code and I know I think I just started realizing how cool I can I don't know it's how cool it is to like do things that are completely unrelated but merge them somehow yeah and I like the way you you you brought in that intersectionality you know as a young african-american woman and and then your art your your your music all of those different things that you love and that's what I do I mean you know around diversity and inclusion is bringing those different perspectives to the table creates better innovation and so are there any little secrets or inventions that you've made or you have along the way so far so I feel you're just a really really great thing so I'm still like kind of in the process of thinking a little bit bigger because a lot of my projects are singular in like a specific area but I think my most recent one was this thing called snap safe it's kind of like a technology which kind of acts like a wearable but you can like it's like acts like a snap bracelet so you can elongate it and you stir it in my drink and you it tests for like if it has like any like kind of date rape or like drugs and it kind of like that oh yeah so you can I mean literally like I grew up in the air of this looks natural to it so you can just take this off and be really cool to be I mean a little more discreet with like because I know there's like a lot of other technologies that kind of test for that but it's not easy and discreet especially when you're in like a party environment or so so we thought it would be cool to to make something that actually mattered yeah that was a really interesting project but a lot of my most recent projects are more towards social justice yeah and so so coding programming what what about that career field really excites you I think the fact that it's been around for a little bit now but it's so open to change like everything about it seems new like it's like a completely new frontier of possibilities and like every year we find something new in technology or coding and I think that's amazing like it's just so cool like the fact that coding is so accessible like a lot of things people think like oh you have to go take these classes and you know go to college and you have to go to high school and take these specific courses to be able to go into what like medicine or engineering but now for like coding it's so accessible like little kids can do it like earliest I've seen is like a five year old learn how to code and I think that's amazing because that kind of brings a whole new realm of kind of diversity it's not just on like the racial standpoint or kind of like gender standpoint but by AIDS yeah yeah generations to see how generations okay so what would you so what's your recommendation then for us a more senior and tenured people as it pertains to technology like what advice would you give me to like excite me about like taking on the challenge of coding or something or learning something new yeah I think the first step is just like learning a language like learn something you're learning a language that kind of pertain to something you're interested because different languages kind of deal with building different things and creating different things so just finding something you're interested in and just delve into it and then you can kind of know you kind of it kind of informs your decisions more and you can talk more passionately about coding even though you're pretty mean to it but also I think in terms like older generation to new generation I think it's more about like it's really important like to invest in like the new generation I think that's like beautiful to see like people in high positions and people of power and people who come from diverse experiences and have a lot of wisdom like kind of help people these young people would like to share their voices and to kind of get the one thing you think that we don't know that you guys know I think I know that's a hard question I think I know I think we don't get enough credit for how much we actually know like there's so many just very intelligent young youth out there like it's amazing like people our age are so passionate at an early age that it's amazing to kind of get in touch with this you're also I think more socially aware yeah exactly because I don't yeah I don't think people think about like how passionate we are like we're just like oh we're still in the kind of transition phases of adulthood like we don't really know what we're interested into but like everyone I know has a certain passion that kind of like drives them yeah I think that's really beautiful it's cool and so thinking you know when I think about Black Rose code and the phenomenal work that your mother is leading out on the number of chapters now that have sprung up and so many different areas across the across the country and as you said even globally now what's that journey been like for you kind of watching that from its infancy to now the great success that it's have it's having it's been great I mean it's been like a wild ride it's been very fast it feels like it feels like just yesterday I was back in middle school and learning how to code and now it's like I get to teach other people how to code and I get to see other people who actually look up to me which is really powerful because back when I was just coding it was more like I didn't know who to look up to and I didn't have any peers who are interested in what I was interested into so I was kind of worried about how I would go into an industry where I couldn't see people who look like me but now seeing industry that's becoming more and more diverse is powerful yeah and that kind of leads into a question I had for you so I mean you mentioned earlier that your tile is based in diversity and inclusion and I remember talking to a group of women a couple weeks back about like the difference between diversity inclusion and how they're similar but not the same yep and that a company can be diverse but not inclusive and I think that's really important for industries like in Silicon Valley with all these tech companies all around Palo Alto in Mountain View that there's a big difference between companies that are actually investing in including people of color and people of different genders and backgrounds into the conversation and getting them a seat at the table so what do you kind of what do you think about that what do you I agree I think that there is an so for HP we do look at diversity and inclusion two very different things in the simplest form diversity being about who we are what we're made of our differences our similarities even for that matter and inclusion really being about how we work and so for us at HP it is so important that we really focus on bringing in diverse talent because it brings the diverse perspective to the table but more importantly or as importantly it is about allowing people to bring all of who they are to the table right when KY comes with I mean and I tell this I have high school interns each year and I say I want to hear from you I'm value I don't care if you're in high school heck you could be in kindergarten and you know I want your perspective and so that's what we're really focused on at HP is is making sure people are coming and they're bringing all of who they are to the table and we really nurture in an environment where people can share their ideas their innovations their voice can be heard at the table and so it's one the it's on the responsibility on the person the other is on the responsibility of everybody else right and so it's a it's a collaborative effort that we have thank you for that question I like that question because I think the same thing applies is is that you know we're what you do in your life everywhere you go there's only one kind right there's own wan-chi Morton daughter of the founder of black girls code and and whatever that title name whatever it is that you you accomplished and so what are you most looking forward to as you move forward I think I don't know I'm just really excited to see what the future holds because I remember when I was like really young I was always obsessed with science fiction mm-hmm and that's kind of informed even like what I love to do now like interested in like afrofuturism and like the future of blacks and just people of color in technology is like really amazing to see develop and versa Phi and yes I'm really excited to see what the future holds like there's there's so many amazing technologies that people can get in touch with these days and excited to see it kind of limit leave okay when I think about HP and I think about leadership I think about technology we have three primary leadership principles that we that are foundational for us it's about imagine the future inspire the team and make it happen we're sitting in our founders offices today which is a privilege this not like everybody gets to come in here I mean and as I said I'm honored you know to be in the presence of of this but when you think about your future so this is the legacy what do you see and what do you imagine for the future of technology for young girls and for young african-american girls yeah I just see a future kind of inclusion where black girls are being actually included in the conversation and being able to kind of bring what they have all their background knowledge and everything into what they work on at whether it be a company or their own company and stuff like that that's really amazing to see when people actually let their intersectionalities out into what they create I think that's a big part of why I love the kind of movement for a diversity inclusion especially in the tech field because there's so much more coming like it's we're just in our kind of pioneering stage or just we're on the frontier like basically yeah so it's kind of risk rediscovering a whole new world so I'm really excited to see where it goes and see how other girls who look like me kind of take what they have and run with it yeah well thank you for that and as we wrap up I there's one question that's just burning in me and it's one it's because I know your mom she has been an awardee even for for HP and the wonderful work that she's doing to help build the pipeline to incent and excite and motivate young girls african-american girls black girls around technology I would love for you to just say what would you like to tell your mom for the work that she's been doing I think I mean the most relevant thing I would tell her is thank you I mean thank you for thinking of me like not just in like the present moment when I was 11 and I was just a little girl first time out of code and looking to have a future in it but looking towards other girls who looked like us cuz I mean we both had kind of mirrored interesting and smearing and technology when we were growing up and seeing how her experiences kind of mirrored mine when I first went to my first coding camp was amazing for her to take that and run with it so we can actually see our own role models people that look like us in the media and technology and in positions of power like you hear HP I think that's really powerful so thank you basically that's what I need to say and now that I'm in tears I want to thank Youk I'm or ttan for your time ky I know I expect really really great things from you I know I'm gonna see ceo/founder a board member and and I like to also just tell you it's been a delight to spend this time with you and I want to be like you and I grow up thank you appreciate you