Serena Williams backs Karat’s Brilliant Black Minds programme

Williams has invested in Karat to improve career prospects for Black engineers

Tennis star and investor Serena Williams has announced a strategic investment in Karat, the world’s largest interviewing company, to boost inclusive hiring for Black tech talent.

The funds will scale Karat’s Brilliant Black Minds programme, improving Black talent inclusion across the tech industry via digital interview practice.

Williams serves as Karat’s “Champion of Brilliance,” where she will teach candidates the importance of practice and building a championship mindset, and the programme is open “to all current and aspiring Black software engineers.” She also supports the firm’s mission to help over 100,000 new Black engineers enter the tech sector in the next decade.

The Brilliant Black Minds programme was launched to close the interview access gap for Black software engineers. The programme uses Karat’s Interviewing Cloud to offer free interview practice, feedback and coaching to improve their chances of gaining a position.

The Interviewing Cloud offers candidates live technical interviews conducted by a global network of interview engineers. This data has also helped Karat create more candidate-centric experiences in its service offerings.

The interview access gap experienced by Black engineers is evidenced in hard-hitting statistics. Black software engineers only account for 5% of all software engineers in the US. They face many barriers to careers in tech, from structural inequities, including little early exposure to computer science, to a lack of information about industry hiring practices and few professional networks. They also have fewer opportunities to gain practice in technical interviews.

In fact, only 50% of the Black engineers that Karat and Howard University surveyed experienced a technical interview before they looked for a job. However, the same research shows that confidence increases with more interview practice, 79% of respondents with three practice interviews say they are more likely to succeed.

Equal access to interview practice also positively impacts early career opportunities like internships; the research found that respondents with more than three practice interviews are six times more likely to have had an engineering internship than those who haven’t.

This isn’t Williams’ first foray into social impact investing. In 2014, she founded Serena Ventures, an early-stage fund that largely invests in diverse-led businesses. Last year, her firm invested in a rent-reporting fintech company Esusu that helps underserved communities by helping them build and improve their credit history.

Serena Williams said: “The technology industry is focused on solving some of the world’s biggest challenges. My focus is on ensuring the solutions to those challenges are developed by all of us. There has never been a shortage of brilliance in Black America; only limits to the access and opportunities extended to our community. That is why I am proud to team up with companies like Karat who are taking actionable steps to bring more diversity and equity to the industry, as well as call on others to be part of the change.”

Mohit Bhende, Co-Founder and CEO of Karat, said: “We’re living in a world where engineering time grows more valuable every day, yet organisations are grappling with a multi-decade shortage of software engineers. The current approach is to source talent from the same talent pool over and over again, which reinforces the industry’s lack of diversity and makes it harder to find technical talent.

“The Brilliant Black Minds programme helps solve this major business challenge by giving organisations access to a deeper, interview-ready talent pool. More engineers ultimately unlock more engineering time, driving diverse and powerful innovations.”

To get involved in the Brilliant Black Minds programme, click here.

In this article, you learned that:

  • Karat’s Brilliant Black Minds programme is open to all current and aspiring Black software engineers and will help them with interview practice.
  • There is a multi-decade shortage of software engineers and a need for a more diverse talent pool to choose from.
  • Only 50% of the Black engineers that Karat and Howard University surveyed experienced a technical interview before they looked for a job.
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