#DialMovers Part 1
CEE Centre for Young Black Professionals
Agapi’s first #DialMover was her mom. She made sure Agapi was an active kid exposed to a tonne of classes and activities.
Today, as the Executive Director of CEE Centre for Young Black Professionals, she fights to get marginalized, black youth that same level of exposure to the world.
“Exposure is the most important step to change.”
CEE focuses on getting black youth between the ages of 18-29 into fields where they’re currently underrepresented. Specifically, into careers in the four major gaps in Canada’s labour market - hospitality, trades, social services and IT. Their supportive and personalized programs have led to an impressive 80% retention rate.
“When you live with purpose, then your purpose finds you.”
Not every day is easy. It can be disheartening to fight for the rights of others who look like her with executives and leaders who do not. Plus, “racism sucks”. She keeps going because the work is important.
“If I take this hit now, then people behind me won’t have to.”
On the weekends, you’ll find Agapi hanging out in the kitchen with her 8-year-old niece. They’re not quite ready for their own Food Network show, but one particular success with an angel food cake has them thinking outside the boxed cake mix aisle.
When a good friend became homeless, it had a deep and profound impact on CG. She started questioning if what she was doing was truly worthwhile if it was helping those who really needed it. She decided it was time to figure out how to better the world through technology.
“The best tech is made and designed for those who can afford it, what about for those who can’t? What technology exists out there to connect the most vulnerable to meet their needs?”
CG knows how important #DialMovers are. She’s thankful for a mentor who believed in her more than she believed in herself and gave her crucial opportunities. To this day, she is inspired by and seeks out people who have done crazy and amazing things.
She’s most inspired by those who risk everything and have the audacity to pursue a vision.
“People will believe they can do something when you show them versus telling them. If they can see real role models in tech then they can imagine it as something they can aspire to.”
When things get hard, it’s easy for CG to persevere. She credits a supportive team and an end goal she truly believes in for making all the difference. The “why” factor makes all the uphill battles that much more worthwhile.
“It inspires me when I see compassion and action taken; when people go out of their way to help others. It’s really beautiful.”
Next on the horizon for CG is growing the team and scaling their impact. She’s also looking for ways to easily connect the people who want to help with those who need help. There has to be a way for technology to bridge this gap.
CEO Blockchain Learning Group
Hard is where growth happens.
Chami is comfortable being uncomfortable. He pushes himself physically and mentally every day to stay at the top of his game. That means waking up at 4am to meditate and take the city’s toughest fitness classes. It means ice-cold showers, intermittent fasting and seeking out brilliant minds to challenge and learn from.
“Hard is where growth happens. Hard is where change happens. Hard is where people evolve.”
Chami is trying to democratize education for all students around the world. At least, that’s the end goal. As the CEO of Blockchain Learning Group, he’s rolling out a hands-on course that uses emerging tech to solve the world’s biggest issues. Considering that Ontario’s computer science curriculum hasn’t been updated in 2008, this approach can’t come soon enough.
“Schools have no idea what the future of learning looks like, what the future of jobs looks like.”
He hopes new tech will equalize the playing field for everyone. If we can make the internet cheaper and get it into rural areas, we can open up those areas, and those kids, to the world.
Even better, those kids would have access to courses that will prepare them for a real chance in life.
“It’s a 30-hour flight to Australia but now the world is a lot smaller because you can collaborate
with different teams and solve for real human issues.”
If you’re going to schedule a meeting with Chami over a cup of coffee, you better be prepared
to bring the good stuff. He cares about not only where the beans are grown, but also what
time of year they’re grown. Make it easy on yourself and grab something from Toronto’s Arvo
My African Corner
A self-described knowledge junkie, Chioma reads a minimum of 2 books a month, attends several conferences and takes as many online courses as she can. Currently on the bedside table? Sprint by Jake Knapp et al. That one ties in nicely with the online design thinking course she’ll be taking at MIT.
“I am moved to tears every time I see someone go boldly after their dreams or do something that really scares them after a conversation we had. I also love watching great connections form through the network we have created.”
A connector at her core, Chioma lives to get people in touch with the resources and networks they need to become the best version of themselves. That’s part of the reason she started My African Corner. It’s dedicated to accelerating entrepreneurs and professionals in the Black community.
They’ve partnered with CIBC, Shopify, the City of Toronto and more, to provide education, networks, and resources to more than 2,500 people across Canada, the US, and the UK.
“When it gets tough, I remember that I stand on the shoulders of giants, I rest on the wisdom of my tribe, focus on the impact of my work and trust the God who has entrusted me with what is in my hands.”
Chioma wants to see more people who are reflective of the entire population in leadership positions. And more programs that are accessible to all. “We have the stats and facts. Now we need to get to work!”
To her, moving the dial isn’t the responsibility of a select few, but of all members of the population.
“I always say, ‘What have you done with what is in your hands?’ What impact can you have with the access you have been given? Moving the dial is not the job of women or members of underrepresented groups. With great access comes great responsibility!”
Chioma is excited about a lot of things these days, for starters, the future of health care and new technology leading to better outcomes for people. But on a personal level, she’s gearing
up for My African Corner’s first BUILDfest conference. After that, she’s looking to launch her own design thinking strategy workshops.
Baanu Ratneswaran & Darryl Silva
Dads for Daughters in STEM
The first few times Darryl Silva tried to find a show for his daughter to watch or a toy for her to play with, he was struck by the gender divide. The shows and toys aimed at boys were all focused on building things and mechanics while the options for girls were almost always about crafting or fashion. Now combine that knowledge with the realization that STEM jobs are the fastest growing and best paying yet employ less than 25 percent women? Dads for Daughters in STEM was born.
“If men who represent 80% of current STEM jobs, play a more active and nurturing role with their daughters and female colleagues, STEM curiosity and confidence will increase and make a profound difference.”
Along with his colleague and co-founder Baanu, Darryl started D4Ds to ensure Canadian kids – particularly girls in lower socio-economic areas - are given equal opportunity to build our future through curiosity, confidence and critical skills in STEM. They do this by engaging an untapped resource - parents and caregivers.
“It isn’t about whether daughters become an engineer or computer scientist—it’s simply about parents and caregivers encouraging curiosity and confidence and exposing their daughters and sons to the subject matter that allows them to participate and compete equally.”
They focus on children as young as three years old. And for good reason - girls are opting out of STEM by the time they turn 7 because of biases, media, gender-focused toys and stereotypes.
By focusing on early pipeline engagement, they ensure the widest funnel.
“The challenge to foster female interest in STEM begins in childhood and building curiosity and confidence, including perseverance - not perfection - is critical.”
If you want to get involved, it’s easy. Just be curious, be confident, be contagious (We’re not talking about colds and flu here… We mean to share your STEM activities with kids and online) and finally, be a change agent. You can make a difference in the lives of your daughters, grand-daughters and nieces.