Presented by Symba, #OpenUpTheWorkforce interviews feature executives advancing inclusion, diversity, and equity for the future of work. In these short audio-only episodes, we talk with the top about what it takes to develop and implement inclusive processes.
In this episode of #OpenUpTheWorkforce, Ahva speaks with Louis Stewart, Head of Strategic Initiatives for NVIDIA’s Global Developer Ecosystem. Mr. Stewart, with his extensive background in the public and private sectors, shares the challenges faced by underrepresented groups and the initiatives implemented by NVIDIA to support these communities. Mr. Stewart and Ahva explore the significance of trust-building, collaboration with universities, strategic programs, and measuring impact in fostering a more inclusive tech industry. Listen here.
Mr. Stewart begins by sharing how his career path is an example of preparation meeting opportunity. After working as a state-wide IT director for a political campaign, a role he found on Craigslist, he transitioned into a 13-year public service career. His experience in the public sector provided him with valuable insights into the flow of money, access to opportunities, and the infrastructure supporting or hindering diverse communities.
Building Trust and Engaging with Communities
Mr. Stewart emphasizes the critical need for building trust and engaging with various communities. Lack of visibility, willingness to engage, and misconceptions about talent availability are recurring challenges. Mr. Stewart acknowledges that these challenges exist not only in the tech industry but also in the public sector. To overcome these obstacles, NVIDIA is working on diversifying its developer pipeline by collaborating with minority-serving institutions, community colleges, and other underrepresented nations globally. The company aims to provide access and opportunities for marginalized communities, ensuring they can compete and thrive in the tech industry. As Mr. Stewart describes:
It comes down to trust building. If you go into a community and you make promises that you don't deliver on, it doesn't ever work, right? So it's nice to come to the rescue and give money. But if the money actually doesn't do what it's supposed to do or you don't have the relationships that you actually need to have or an understanding, it doesn't do…all the good that's possible.
Collaboration between Employers and Universities
Mr. Stewart discusses the significance of collaboration between employers and universities, highlighting that universities' greatest assets are their students and professors. Employers should understand the challenges faced by universities and offer solutions, such as enabling technology, recruitment support, and problem-solving partnerships. Recognizing the importance of diverse professors, who serve as role models for students, Mr. Stewart encourages universities to have a diverse faculty that reflects the students they educate.
Strategic Programs and Initiatives at NVIDIA
NVIDIA has made commendable progress in supporting underrepresented groups within its workforce. The company has doubled the representation of Black and African American employees since 2020, and women are being promoted at an approximately equal rate as men. Mr. Stewart highlighted several strategic programs and initiatives implemented by NVIDIA to support these underrepresented groups. One notable initiative is the cohort-style engagement program where members of specific communities, like Black Women in AI, are invited to participate in an eight to ten-week learning experience with NVIDIA's engineers, marketing teams, and HR professionals. This program provides valuable insights into NVIDIA's inner workings while fostering knowledge development.
Mr. Stewart also mentions partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) to support talented students in competing at events like South by Southwest. Additionally, NVIDIA has opened its GPU Technology Conference (GTC) to wider participation by providing workshop seats for deep learning institute training and hosting dedicated talks on getting started in the tech industry and the world of artificial intelligence. These initiatives help build relationships, expand NVIDIA's recruiting pipeline, and demonstrate the company's commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive environment.
Measuring Impact and Ensuring Sustainability
When it comes to measuring the impact of programs like cohort-style engagement, Mr. Stewart acknowledges the challenge of sustainability and scaling. While NVIDIA has a great spirit of volunteerism, it’s not easy to encourage employees to dedicate an hour a week to interface with a training program. Sustaining long-term engagement requires innovative approaches. Mr. Stewart shares one way that they encourage employees to participate in training talent; “We actually have a NVIDIA foundation that matches the donations that NVIDIA employees make or they give credit for time which equals a donation to the cause of their choice.” NVIDIA is also exploring pre-recorded content to familiarize participants before joining the cohort program. They also partner with the learning and development team to ensure participants have the necessary foundational knowledge, like Python, before they enter NVIDIA’s Deep Learning Institute. Mr. Stewart emphasizes the importance of scalability and finding the right partners to help expand these initiatives further.
The Future of Work and Artificial Intelligence
Mr. Stewart highlights the rapid growth of AI jobs being created. While it’s unclear what those jobs will look like, it’s an exciting shift in the world of work. Mr. Stewart expands:
The big part of what we're doing here in my role at NVIDIA is making certain that we're putting the right tools together, forming the right partnerships with education partners, government at the federal, state, and local level, to ensure that programs are in place and people understand how to prepare for the future jobs and the future of work…for me, it's now getting excited about the art of what's possible and designing that with people.
What do leaders need to do to #OpenUpTheWorkforce?
Mr. Stewart responds:
It actually goes back to the future of work and it's really about intentionally creating access and opportunity. Because AI and some of the tools that are being released are democratizing the technology and letting more people in. And so that's why NVIDIA, and particularly me at NVIDIA, are focused on getting people trained and ready so that they are AI-literate, so that they are AI-enabled, so they can participate in the next economy and be able to generate some kind of wealth.
He elaborates that this is broader than the tech industry and suggests that employers should be thinking more boldly. Mr. Stewart encourages employers to get to know the students and professors at colleges and universities so that they confidently know what the talent they are recruiting needs, and then build training programs around what they are seeking to learn. He adds that, if you don't work with HBCUs or industry-specific communities of learning already, you should take a trip out and meet students and professors to understand what some of the challenges are, such as why some of the students drop out after their sophomore year. Mr. Stewart says:
It has nothing to do with brain power, but it may have something to do with transportation. It may have something to do with something that's going on at home. So there are all these different obstacles, that as industry folks, that as employers, is an additional investment that I think will help DIB [Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging] causes.
Louis Stewart's interview sheds light on the critical issues surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion in the tech industry and beyond. By addressing challenges, building trust, collaborating with universities, and implementing strategic initiatives, NVIDIA is making significant strides toward creating a more inclusive work environment. The company's programs, such as cohort-style engagement, partnerships with educational institutions, and expanded conference participation, demonstrate NVIDIA's commitment to empowering underrepresented communities.
About Louis Stewart
Louis Stewart currently serves as the Head of Strategic Initiatives at NVIDIA's global Developer Ecosystem. In his role, he is responsible for working with minority-serving institutions, government entities, industry partners and a variety of affinity groups to build relationships that enable an increase in tech preparedness, grow the overall developer base and foster a more inclusive AI community. He served as the City of Sacramento's first Chief Innovation Officer for three years prior to joining the tech leader. Mr. Stewart also spent seven years serving as California's Deputy Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz). His professional experience also includes 19+ years in the private sector in sales, marketing, and information technology.