Two women turned Stephanie Lampkin into a tech trailblazerBy Fatimah B.
The Beginnings of Stephanie Lampkin
Stephanie Lampkin’s entire demeanour screams trailblazer and that’s no surprise. The young entrepreneur and tech maven grew up in a surprisingly tech-free home but thanks to 2 major female influences, her aunt and mother, Lampkin got the hang of computer coding at the tender age of 13.
Sounds like a fluke? Not really. She then went on to study management science and engineering at Stanford University, a mostly male-dominated field that still tends to smirk around individuals from the gentler (and prettier) sex. After majoring in Engineering, Lampkin went on to gain her Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) at MIT – if your eyebrows have raised to your hairline, don’t worry. Her achievements tend to do that!
It was probably this mix of business and technology that led her to create Blendoor, a recruiting app geared to eliminate discriminatory practices when hiring. Truth be told, hiring managers should be impartial to everything save the potential candidate’s qualifications and level of experience.
Unfortunately, this is the real world where anything from your weight to your race can get you eliminated from the competition. Lampkin’s idea for Blendoor was innovative in itself. She used “blend” to mean diversity and “doors” representing transparency and opportunity. Combine those and you have the potential to turn the hiring process on its ear.
Stephanie Lampkin: A Black Woman in a Discriminatory System
Like others in her position, Lampkin has faced discrimination many times,
There were so many experiences. [Laughs] I interviewed for an analytical lead position at [a major tech firm]. I was referred by an MIT classmate. The interview went well—I made it to the final round—but the recruiter’s feedback was that the team didn’t feel that I had enough analytical skill and that I wasn’t technical enough. I was told they would hang on to my résumé in case a sales or marketing position opened up. I thought, I’ve been in computer science since I was 13. What more can I do? I have degrees from both Stanford and MIT and you’re telling me that I’m still not qualified? It was a big “aha!” moment for me. And one of the catalysts for Blendoor.Stephanie Lampkin
Make no mistake, she’s worked for companies like Microsoft and Lockheed during the past decade and a half so it’s astounding that Lampkin still faced such an incredibly lame excuse based on underlying prejudices. Can you guess which tech firm? We did a little digging around, and apparently it’s Google!
This was not only a gender and race issue, but one based on such ridiculous traditions that it’s almost laughable if it weren’t so frustrating. The tech industry is mainly dominated by white males, and while we’re not throwing any shade, the exclusive “boys club” scene is not only outdated but sadly, they’re missing out on brilliant achievers and innovators in their female counterparts.
Google has over 55 000 employees with few African women in tech roles – like any true champion, Lampkin didn’t let that rejection take root and set to work creating Blendoor. Blendoor’s clients currently include AirBnB, Salesforce, Facebook, Twitter, Intel and, here’s the kicker, Google itself.
Lampkin seems to relish challenges, in part because overcoming stereotypes can free souls trapped in specific mindsets, but also to unleash potential. One of her main fears is that discrimination can prevent untapped human capital from achieving their true potential, “I fear that there are many people in this world (including myself) who may never be able to reach their full potential, due to poverty, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, racism, and many other “isms.” The kind of potential that finds cures for diseases and other unprecedented breakthroughs.”
What You can Learn from Her Fears
Her fears should make us sit upright – a 2014 report found that foreign-sounding names could hurt your chances from landing an interview, let alone a job offer. Think about that for a moment. Lampkin was turned down for the analytics job at Google but offered one in sales, despite having amazing credentials. Her research led to additional discoveries, where ‘according to the National Bureau of Economic Research study, a “white sounding” name can return as many job call-backs as an additional eight years of experience from someone with an “African American sounding” name.’
How many of us wonder whether we’ve been turned down for jobs based on our sex, race, religion, orientation or some other insane criteria? More than half we bet.
As someone working and residing in the heart of the tech industry, Lampkin wants to see Blendoor adopted by Silicon Valley where recruiters focus on what’s important (skills, education, experience) compared to insignificant factors (your name, physical appearance, gender, religion and more).
Blendoor’s tagline, “The Future of People Operations is Here” is no doubt catchy and effective. By combining artificial intelligence and people analytics, Blendoor manages to remove unconscious bias in its entirety, a “technology that enhances the ability of humans to judge other humans based on merit, not molds.”
Her talk on creating female legacies delved into the heart of the matter: “Your company struggles with finding diverse talent; it’s not a pipeline problem. It’s a buy-in, bias, branding and business case problem.”
Whatever she decides to tackle next, one thing is for sure – Stephanie Lampkin’s determination to achieve equality in the workplace is something that benefits us all.