Meet The Founder Helping Black Engineers In Berlin Gain More Skills And Land Their Dream Jobs
Kave Bulambo, who grew up in South Africa before moving to Berlin, noticed the lack of diversity in tech in the European nation when she first landed a role in the sector. But it was when she realized that she also had just one Black engineer at her own start-up that she decided action seriously needed to be taken.
That’s when she launched “Black in Tech Berlin,” a network surpassing more than 600 Black people in the tech and business sector – from founders, software engineers to designers.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, the group tried to meet once a month but now they hold virtual meetings online.
Although Berlin is one of Europe’s biggest tech hubs, it is overwhelmingly white. A recent report that polled 1,200 European founders of tech companies has found that 84% self-identified as white, and only 0.9% identified as Black.
Kave is on a mission to improve these figures – especially when it comes to Black engineers.
POCIT! sat down with Kave Bulambo to catch up on how things are going since Black in Tech Berlin was launched last year
My Name is Kave Bulambo, and I am a Talent Acquisition expert and D&I advocate, and I’ve been working in the tech industry for the last seven years. I am also the Founder of MyCareerPath, a career coaching company empowering women and BIPOC professionals to build meaningful careers and connect through communities such as BlackinTech Berlin and Women and Work Connect.
I’d love to first start by asking you about ‘Black in tech Berlin.’ Is that still going on?
Yes, BlackinTechBerlin is still growing as a community, with members joining us and visiting from different parts of Germany and Europe.
What was it like running the group during the pandemic, and what’s the story behind its launch?
Keeping the community alive during the pandemic was the best decision I think we made. In hindsight, I can see how it helped the community remain connected and share experiences. As we can all remember, it was within the same period as the BlackLivesMatter movement.
We focused more on mental health and wellbeing as we knew our members were going through a lot. Our community was created to provide space for the Black professional, especially in tech.
Most of us find ourselves as individuals in our companies, and it can give a feeling that there aren’t other Black professionals in our field of work, but that’s not true. We are there in numbers, and it was essential to create this space for networking and sharing learnings.
What are some of the challenges the engineers in the group expressed, and how were you able to support them?
Isolation is one of the biggest challenges, as it creates a space where one has no safe circle to share experiences and learn with. There is also a great need for mentorship from young professionals starting their careers as engineers or other professionals looking for guidance. Our community responds by fostering a safe community where this can be facilitated.
Where are you now with your start-up ‘My career path,’ and what are your ambitions for the company?
My company MyCareerPath is still thriving, and my goal is to scale it to the next level. The sheer coincidence is that most of the people we work with 95 percent are from diverse and migrant backgrounds looking to accelerate their careers in Germany, particularly women who have a hard time finding a job.
As a Talent Acquisition Specialist, I know that there are better ways to find and land a job. Still, most importantly, I try my very best to communicate that building a career is much more sustainable than just finding a job.
As an experienced recruiter – would you say there’s also a lack of diversity in your field/job role?
Diversity in the recruitment space has significantly improved compared to when I started in 2015, and I believe more can be done. However, there are a lot of elements that make it difficult for diverse candidates to break through even in this space, and I would say mostly it is the familiarity of the market and the Tech industry.
Many hiring managers want candidates who can get up to speed and start to work, which fair enough, I understand, but with the shortage of experts in this field, it will be wiser to hire as many professionals from different backgrounds because they come with a lot of experience and additional skills that are useful in this field.
What’s one thing you’ve learned about yourself and your journey during lockdown/pandemic
I am resilient and always forward-looking, I have kids, so it was quite hard to be a parent, a teacher, and a community builder. But, at the same time, these are all areas that bring meaning to my life, so it was important for me to continue, and so I did.
What advice would you give to young people in tech looking to enter a space where “they are not wanted” or very rarely see others that look like them?
I would say, if you want or desire to be in a specific field or career, go for it whether you see people who look like you or not go for it. The big question to ask is, Why do I want to do this work? What purpose does it serve in helping me live the truest expression of myself?
The answers you give will hold you still on a foundation that cannot be shaken. Also, you might be the first to break through and inspire others.
There will always be people who will remind you that you don’t deserve to be where you are, or you don’t deserve a certain position and your job is not to agree with them but to remind yourself of your whys and continue to always be better than you were yesterday.
The tech industry is expanding in terms of financial growth, so it is the right field to be in if you want to increase your earnings every year.
Technology can be used to change the world we live in. It can be a force for change and as a POCIT it is your responsibility to see, and learn how you can use your skills to transform society
In your opinion – how does one hold their company accountable for their diversity commitments in the best way especially as a recruiter?
For recruiters, it is quite easy because we are basically at the entry point of all employees in the company and so we can see the discrepancies and can suggest improvements.
For those not involved in hiring I would say, join conversations already happening at your company around D&I and see what the current mood or energy is and see if you would like to contribute.
It is also good to know that not every company is at the same pace as the other, each one is on their own journey and sometimes you might be advanced as an individual more than your company and that is also okay.
If a company made commitments that are even easier to probe into how that is going, through all-hands meetings or your 1:1 with your manager. Form a coalition mostly known as ERGs and go ask together, never make it your individual fight, it will wear you down.