Atlanta has established itself as one of the leading cities in the U.S. when it comes to supporting Black tech talent. To learn more, Intersection Podcast host Leo Haigh sat down with Desmond Dickerson, Evening MBA alum and Director of Future of Work Marketing at Microsoft, and Jonathan King, current Evening MBA student and Product Manager at Microsoft.
Something special is happening in Atlanta when it comes to tech investment. Recent years have seen leading players like Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, and Visa grow their presence in Atlanta, as they look to tap into the city’s diverse talent pool. Take Airbnb for example. They are on the cusp of opening a new hub right next to Georgia Tech’s campus, as they move towards their goal of increasing their U.S. underrepresented minority employment from 12% to 20%.
Atlanta’s unique blend of talent, entrepreneurship, and cultural leadership has created an ecosystem that has attracted some of the biggest tech players in the world, with Black tech employees driving this success. The city stands apart from other tech hubs when it comes to the diversity of those participating. The city has a 25% rate of participation for underrepresented minorities within the tech workforce. Compare this to Silicon Valley, with just a 6.4% rate of participation.
Dickerson explains, “In Atlanta, you have the talent. You have the Atlanta University Center, which is a consortium of historically black colleges and universities. You have Georgia Tech and the brilliant folks that are coming out of here. Then you have Georgia State, which graduates the most Black students of any college in the country.”
Beyond the talent coming out of universities in the area, Atlanta provides unique advantages that are built into its cultural DNA. “One of the things we have that is different from Silicon Valley or Boston is the cultural side…You have people like Chris Bridges, or Ludacris as most people know him, who are promoting the local tech sector and investing in businesses,” says Dickerson.
And the successful growth of the tech sector in Atlanta is not limited to just well-established companies. Atlanta has long been synonymous with the success of minority-owned business, and Black tech start-ups are flourishing in the city. Companies such as Calendly, led by founder Tope Awotona, are leading the way for a new generation of tech unicorns based out of Atlanta.
Georgia Tech and the Scheller College of Business sit at the heart of tech scene in Atlanta, playing a central role in ensuring that talent from underrepresented groups continues to grow. As King puts it, “If you look at Scheller, we have our Advanced Technology Development Center, you have Tech Square that is right across the street, and you also have notable alumni. You have Dr. Paul Judge, who received his Ph.D. from Georgia Tech and started a $300 million dollar venture investment fund, which is primarily investing in underrepresented minorities. I really credit leaders like Judge, as well as company leaders after the events of 2020, for looking at what can we do to really make a difference.”