Cultivating Diversity

Diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, has been a hot button top of discussion in workplaces, exacerbated by the current events surrounding racial injustice. As our organization works towards our mission to attract and retain more young people to New Hampshire, Stay Work Play is committed to make the state a more welcoming, inclusive and just place for people of color. The goal for our diversity, equity and inclusion series is to foster conversation, enable learning experiences and push for change.

We had the opportunity to connect with Geno Miller, Co-Founder and CEO of Shtudy, to learn more about what brought him back to the Granite State and how he’s seized the opportunity to create lasting change for People of Color.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Prince George’s County, Maryland, about 10 minutes from Washington D.C. I grew up in a middle class home with hardworking parents. The areas I spent most of my time growing up were very underserved. I always had strong aspirations to be massively successful and provide a better life for my family and friends. However, growing up in the inner city presented a lot of societal and financial challenges that could be life-ending.

Fortunately, I not only learned to overcome them, but also developed important life skills like grit, determination, focus, kindness, and resiliency. I accredit many of the success I’ve had to date to the development of these life skills. I was fortunate to make it out… However, I had associates who didn’t.

Many friends succumbed to these pressures, whether it be drugs, guns, violence, or addictions. They had enormous talent, but struggled to find reliable ways to create wealth opportunities for themselves. The mission of Shtudy is to help people who look like me gain access to those opportunities.

Where did you attend college/what did you study?

I attended the University of New Hampshire on a full scholarship, where I played Division 1 football and graduated from the Peter T. Paul Business School of Economics with a degree in Business Administration and Entrepreneurial Studies.

What was it about New Hampshire that made you decide to come here for your education?

I had no idea what to expect from UNH originally. I found out about the school when I was getting recruited in high school to play football there. I visited the school, and instantly realized it was very different in many ways than the area where I grew up. Being it that the Washington D.C. area is much more diverse, it was strange to see so many white people in comparison to people of color. But even more so, it was one of the very first times that I had experienced the amount of opportunity there is in the state of New Hampshire.

What has been your experience as a young Black man in a mostly white state? Both at the university level and in general.

It’s been tough, but rewarding. Because I come from a different background than the majority of people I interact with in New Hampshire on a day-to-day basis, I understand that I have to move a bit differently. I had to learn how to strategically read peoples’ intentions when interacting with them while also considering the best of what could come of every situation. As a successful business person who happens to be Black, I knew that I stood out like a sore thumb in almost every crowd. I learned to embrace that and use it to my advantage.

For example, whenever I gave presentations or anytime I went in public, I could feel all eyes on me very often. I used to say to myself, “well, at least I know people are already paying attention, now I just have to confidently and unapologetically be me.” That mentality is what led me to learn how to enter any room or crowd and make a name for myself. I very quickly learned that most people are genuinely nice and looking to help out in any way they can.

You left the state after graduation, what was behind that decision?

In college, I earned over $80,000 in business funding by winning the Holloway Business Competition, Social Venture Innovation Business Competition, Carnegie Mellon Business Competition, NSF grants and many more. I used those funds to learn as much as I could about why only 9% of tech job opportunities were occupied by people of color. I moved to Palo Alto, CA to learn why big tech companies were having trouble recruiting and retaining more people of color into tech roles. I learned that companies want to hire top tech talent of color, but they were looking in the wrong places and had trouble knowing whether or not candidates were qualified…companies were used to casting a wide net across the most prestigious universities (i.e. Harvard, Yale, etc.), yet the reality is that most Black and Latinx software engineers do not go to these schools. We often attend historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), or take an alternative route. That made it obvious that we needed to bridge the gap between diversity recruiters and top tech talent of color.

Since we’ll learn more about your start-up, Shtudy, in a future blog post, can you give us a brief overview of the company and your goals?

Shtudy is an end-to-end diversity hiring SaaS platform that technically screens, trains, and connects Black, Latinx and Native American tech talent with top companies who are striving to increase diversity, equity and inclusion within their workforces. The SaaS platform launches in 3 weeks, but we VERY much actively placing talent manually. We’re committed to bridging the racial wealth gap in America, and helping people get tech jobs is a great way of doing that. The average tech employee’s salary ($135k) is more than the median household income of a Black family ($60k) and a Latinx family ($68k) combined! We will change this by doubling the current amount of POC in tech from 9% to 18%.

What brought you back to the Granite State this time? Was there something that you missed in particular?

Two things brought me back: Social injustice and COVID-19.

The murder of George Floyd sprung awareness around why Black Lives Matter. I was receiving hundreds of emails, text messages, and requests to come back to the area because there weren’t many people of color who were effectively addressing this issue of racial inequality in the state of New Hampshire.

I also realized that COVID-19 had abruptly forced hiring companies to learn how to adopt entirely remote hiring practices… Likewise, tech employees were (and still are) unpredictably getting furloughed. The state was struggling in multiple facets, and I came back because it was my calling to massively improve both situations.

What would keep you in New Hampshire? What would you like to see more of?

I would like to see more openness to folks from different backgrounds. I feel like the majority of the people in New Hampshire have good intentions, but it starts from the top down. Politicians, decision makers, police officers, support groups, churches, small/family-owned business, and similar organizations need to commit to developing a culture of equality and inclusion across the board. We are moving in the right direction, but there is still a lot of work to be done. I’m looking forward to working to drive that very critical change in the Granite State.

It’s an absolutely beautiful state with amazing food, great beaches, and a world of opportunity to build wealth. But in order to keep me (and others like me) in the state, we need to intentionally implement resources that cater specifically to People of Color.

For companies:

If you’re looking to continue to hire more Black, Latinx and Native American software engineers, data scientists, or developers, visit Shtudy.co and we’ll get in touch with you.

For job seekers:

If you or someone you know is looking to expand their career opportunities, sign up at Shtudy.co, or share this with someone who needs it (even if they’re still currently employed). We’re here to help you get jobs. All work we do with candidates is completely anonymous.

About the Author

Geno Miller has a profound love for scaling companies, helping people find high-paying tech career opportunities, and solving social problems that improve peoples’ lives. He has founded four successful startups since the age of 14, served as an international business advisor for China’s top government business lawyers, and has performed as a keynote speaker at many nationwide startup conferences and universities.

In college, he earned over $80,000 in business funding and used those funds to move to Palo Alto, California to help big tech companies recruit more people of color into tech roles. He was a leader in the UNH Entrepreneurial Center (aka the E-Center).

In his leisure time, you can find him listening to Lil Wayne or Jay-Z, reading a book about Daymond John, blogging about the latest topics in tech, or brainstorming with other mission-driven tech founders.

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