For Black History Month this year, TechSPARK has teamed up with B in Bath to shine a light on some of the established and emerging Black tech and digital leaders in our community. This time we’re talking to Founder, Engineer and STEM Champion Francis Boateng-Frimpong.
What is your job?
Having recently graduated, I have secured a graduate role at a human resources consulting firm, which I am due to start in January. My work will consist of advising companies on their workforce strategies, and the insights will be driven by data and analytics while technology will often be used to implement solutions.
In the meantime, I am continuing to work with some organisations that I am part of. I, and six other Black UK-based students and graduates, co-founded an initiative called InvestBlack, started earlier in 2020 in the wake of some high-profile acts of discrimination against the Black community. As a group, we recognised that racial discrimination and racial inequity sustain each other, and this motivated us to start a platform for Black entrepreneurs and financial experts to encourage the Black community to fulfil their economic potential. Doing this will create more employment opportunities, enabling reinvestment in the communities and generally improving the quality of life for their constituents. We currently utilise social media to achieve this by sharing financial and entrepreneurial tips, writing articles and holding live Q&A sessions with successful Black figures, and we plan to expand on this in the future to provide concrete opportunities for young entrepreneurs to network and gain mentorships.
I am also involved in the running of a startup, STEM Champion, where we endeavour to inspire the younger generation of students to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths). We aim to demystify STEM for young students, by showcasing its exciting real-world applications and careers through fun, educational conferences and other projects. Having been a part of this for a few years, I have gained a lot of exposure to various technologies and technological roles through the partnerships we have formed with various science and technology companies to practically teach students about the work that they do. I have also attended science fairs and other events to gain inspiration.
Your path into the sector?
My entry point into tech was primarily through my degree. I studied a master’s degree in Integrated Mechanical and Electrical Engineering at the University of Bath, during which I was exposed to a variety of technologies of different types and applications. My modules taught me the fundamental concepts through which a lot of technology works e.g. studying ‘integrated circuits’ which are used in nearly all electronics. I was also able to use a lot of tech and software integral to the sector, using CAD (computer-aided design) software for various projects, 3D printing, and coding in various languages.
It was at university where I was approached by some friends to help run STEM Champion, and having such a broad education in the different aspects of engineering and technology made me really appreciate the disciplines, giving me a strong desire to pass on that excitement onto the younger generations.
What interests you about tech/digital? What do you like about working in the sector?
I have always had a wide range of interests and have always liked trying new things. As such, I have been very grateful for my experiences so far as they have shown me how vast the applications of technology are and how many entry points there are into the sector. Take a company that develops assembly-line robots as an example – one can be involved in the robots’ design, manufacture, testing and maintenance, not to mention all the essential business roles directly associated with their marketing and sale. From a digital standpoint, there are endless software systems that allow people to carry out tasks that would be difficult or even impossible for just a human to do. We are now entering a fourth industrial revolution where smart technology will mean more processes will be automated and carried out more quickly. This is not even touching on the uses of leading-edge technology, such as blockchain and virtual reality.
This breadth of usage also means that a career within technology should be very accessible to all as there are so many different skillsets required within the sector. Very technical roles might include coding for cybersecurity, whereas someone who prefers to work with people would fit in on the sales side of tech solutions. The best thing about the technology sector is that there is truly something for everyone.
So far, the best part of my career has been holding educational conferences as part of STEM Champion; I like to think that we have had a direct impact on the potential careers of some young students. It has been incredibly rewarding to see children having fun and being inspired in a field that I am passionate about. We have received a lot of feedback from students saying that they previously found STEM “boring” but now have an interest in careers that they had not considered beforehand or didn’t even know existed! Also, working with companies and getting to see some of their cutting-edge technology has been incredibly cool.
A lot of the roles throughout my career have included facilitating others to be able to achieve their goals; this is something I really enjoy and would like to continue doing the future. A long-term aim that I have been considering is to start a consulting firm which helps smaller organisations with charitable causes to achieve their business goals and become successful.
Do you have any thoughts on diversity in the tech/digital industries?
I think that there is a huge issue with diversity within the tech industry and this can be backed up by figures and research that show that the tech industry lags behind most others in terms of this issue, whether it be with regards to race, gender or stigmatisation around disabilities. From my experience working in STEM Champion, I have seen how crucial accessibility and exposure are in creating the workforce of the future. Young students need to be given the opportunity to see all the available paths to them and deserve to understand that they are capable of pursuing whatever interests they have, including technology, regardless of their appearance, gender, background, physical ability, orientation, and so on. Reaching out to and inspiring these kids is critical in ensuring that future industries will have a diverse talent pool to build their workforces from, consisting of candidates who are truly passionate about what they’re trying to achieve.
However, this is only part of the problem, and in order to drive change in this area companies need to be willing to become increasingly and genuinely reflective about their approaches to hiring and retaining diverse workers. Companies need to understand that there is a business case as well as a moral case for increasing the diversity of their workforce, stemming from diversity of thought and perspective that allows problems to be tackled in a much more well-rounded way.
Renée Jacobs is a Project Manager at Actual Experience and the Founder of B in Bath. She is passionate about empowering and supporting people from underrepresented backgrounds in the workplace, and she recognises the importance of ensuring diversity of thought and experience in those people who create the technology that permeates all of our lives. Through B in Bath she hopes to enable employers and employees to cultivate a sense of belonging in the workplace; creating an environment where everyone, from all backgrounds, can grow, thrive and belong.