Very few songs serve as an appropriate soundtrack for knocking down doors and making waves in specific spaces, like the 1996 classic “Woo Hah!! Got You All In Check” by Busta Rhymes. And after spending some time in tech and taking notice of the landscape, Adam Williams has a similar sentiment.
For decades, the tech industry has been riddled with systemic barriers that have made access points difficult for people of color, specifically the Black community. While notable examples of organizations are doing the active and intentional work to change the tides of this lack of equitable and inclusive representation, there is still much more work left to be done.
According to a CNBC report, Black professionals make up about 7.4 percent of the tech industry. This number drastically decreases for Black women in the same field. According to the same report, Black women only comprise 1.7 percent of the tech workforce. With such low numbers, the need to create programming and initiatives that help amplify the skills and talents of Black employees is more than essential.
This need to help fill this gap is where Adam Williams enters the chat. Williams launched Carbonado Lifestyle as a brand that “promotes, inspires, and empowers Black Leadership in the technology industry.”
A Call To Action
Adam Williams is a PG County, MD resident who admittedly did not have an affinity for math and science growing up. Therefore, the tech space was not the first industry on his radar. However, as a communications major at the University of Maryland – College Park, technology eventually piqued his interest. He decided to use his sales background as an entry point into tech.
Starting his sales career at Staples, Williams was introduced to the Salesforce platform as a core part of his work. That experience opened his eyes to the strong possibility of a tech career. So, after some advice from his brother, using the power of LinkedIn to make solid connections, and navigating the ups and downs of the interview process, Williams eventually landed a role at Salesforce.
While Williams was grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the Salesforce team, he noted that from a professional development perspective, there was a need for a different approach.
“Despite my performance, the only feedback I would ever get were things outside my performance. Like, it might be, ‘oh, this person might seem as though they’re not as coachable,” Williams stated.
Confused by what that even meant about him or his work, the lifestyle brand CEO co-founded Bold Force, a corporate ERG at the company. From there, he would connect with some Black leaders in the organization that would help him navigate the feedback he was receiving unrelated to his work performance. However, the holistic experience and history of transitioning into the industry propelled him to do more.
These moments are how Carbonado Lifestyle was born.
View this post on Instagram
More Than Merch
Using his experience as leverage, the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. member wanted to create something that would help alleviate the challenges he faced in an industry that needed more diversity.
Convicted even more into action by the impact of COVID-19 and the racial injustices that arose in 2020, Williams was set to create a community where people can feel heard and empowered.
“A lot of things were going very, very well for me, but I guess I felt convicted that my experience should be more heard. And I guess other people should be able to have more similar experiences because I see how bad things are going on right now, for our people,” Williams pointed out.
The work of the Carbonado brand is more than t-shirts and catchy slogans; the global mission is to help create entry points for Black people to enter and be successful in tech while making strategic partnerships that expand this work beyond the brand’s reach.
“I’m putting out [tech] educational content and connecting people with organizations. Also, the brand’s commitment is that with every purchase, a portion of proceeds will go to a nonprofit supporting this mission,” Williams explained to AfroTech about his work.
Paying It Forward
Williams has partnered with Uniting Our Youth, a Washington, D.C. -based nonprofit organization with the mission to end the cycle of violence in the city. The non-profit aims to offer youth positive alternatives to negative gang/crew participation. They provide youth and their families with education, mentoring, and recreational activities.
As a Black man who still works for a tech giant, Williams knows there is a lot of work to do to make the industry more diverse and inclusive. However, he is hopeful that the Carbonado brand and the partnerships he’s engaged in will be a catalyst for closing the race gap in the industry.
“When it comes to the, you know, like our white counterparts, they got a 200-year head start; you know what I mean? So, I’m working with people who are many times older than me — don’t look like me. I have to think that I’m there for a reason, and you’re really there to help also the next generation of leaders,” Williams said to AfroTech.