You Can Thrive Here: Local Leaders on Philly’s Move Into Ethical Tech

28 May 2024 5 Back to episodes
Digital Citizen:

You Can Thrive Here: Local Leaders on Philly’s Move Into Ethical Tech

28 May 2024 Season 3

We explore Philadelphia’s thriving tech scene and share expert advice on how to succeed in the city. From attracting and retaining tech talent to building a sense of community, we’re joined by two special guests who are passionate about helping individuals and companies thrive.

Episode Notes

In this special LIVE recording of Fastmail’s Philly Tech Week event “You Can Thrive Here: Local Leaders on Philly’s Move Into Ethical Tech”, listen to the Co-Host and Senior Producer of Digital Citizen Haley Hnatuk in conversation with Senzwa Ntshepe and Tempest Carter, two people on the cutting edge of building Philadelphia technology scene.

▶️ Guest Interview – Tempest Carter and Senzwa Ntshepe

🗣️ Discussion Points

  • Tempest Carter’s work is centered around building an ecosystem in Philadelphia that allows tech companies to thrive. She is also responsible for creating a series of events called Tech Talks, which aim to bring people together and foster connections.
  • As President of The Connect, Senzwa Ntshepe is dedicated to solving the problem of black and brown professionals leaving Philadelphia by fostering a sense of community and validation among its members. With a community of over 20,000 professionals nationwide, they focus on community needs and how people can thrive in Philadelphia.
  • Philadelphia is a great place for tech, with over 100,000 tech positions and over 9,000 tech companies in the region. Additionally, the city is home to universities, robotics, and other innovative fields that offer unique career paths. Philadelphia has something for everyone whether you’re looking for a lively atmosphere or a more laid-back space.
  • If you are breaking or transitioning into tech, do a personal audit and determine what you love to do. Be aware of what skills you need to work on, and don’t be afraid to upscale and seek education. Rather than chasing a job, focus on finding a mission that aligns with your values.
  • Balance is so important. Your mind works better when it’s not plugged in all the time.

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Haley Hnatuk: Hi, everyone. I’m Haley Hnatuk, the Co-Host and Senior Producer of Digital Citizen. Thank you for joining us for our first ever live-streamed recorded episode of our podcast about living your best digital life. Today I’ll be talking with Senzwa Ntshepe and Tempest Carter, who are two of the savviest digital citizens in Philadelphia about why Philly is a great place to work in tech, ways to connect with other professionals to gain skills and power up a job hunt or career change, and what Philadelphians can do to be good digital citizens. I am so excited for you all to hear from them. So let’s get to know our experts. Tempest, you are the Director of Strategic Technology Initiatives for the Philadelphia Department of Commerce. Can you tell me a little bit more about your work there?

Tempest Carter: Yeah, no problem. Thank you so much for inviting me. This is so exciting. My role as Director of Strategic Tech Initiatives for the city is to attract, retain, and grow tech talent and tech firms here in the city of Philadelphia. So that’s the long and short of what I do. And then I do it in a few ways. So when there are companies that are outside of Philadelphia, I try to attract them to Philadelphia, let them know about our culture, let them know about the incredible talent we have here, let them know about the savings that they have in terms of cost per square footage or how quickly they can get to the rest of the country. And even if there are ways that we could connect with them to help them with investors or things like that, we try to do that. And then for the companies that are here, whether they’re pre-seed and they haven’t gotten a bunch of venture capital or they’re a huge company, we try to figure out where their weak points are.

Tempest Carter: Are you having issues with finding space? Are you having issues with finding the right talent? Do you not know how to get funding for yourself? And I try to patch those holes up. I connect them to the Chamber of Commerce or to angel investors. The city can’t directly invest into companies at this time, so it’s up to us to act as a bridge to what they need. And then I curate events and work to build and cultivate an ecosystem that allows for all tech companies to thrive and feel at home here in Philly. And I do that through my series called Tech Talks. We just had our third one at Wharton School of Business, so that was really cool. It was our first collaboration. It was a lot of fun. And people in the room were like, “I don’t think I’ve ever heard Penn speak so transparently about equity and tech and the ways in which they can grow the ecosystem here.” So we have real conversations and then we party, you know? Which is what the tech community needs and desires, a space for people to learn each other, know each other, and to be able to even do business to business by building those bonds. So that’s the long and short of what I do.

Haley Hnatuk: Yeah, I mean that work is so important. And I’m also curious because we have some job seekers in the audience and also some job seekers tuning in to hear a little bit more about what your career path looks like. And, you know, did you always want to work for the city? How did you end up where you are today?

Tempest Carter: So my road to the city is pretty winding. I come from a family of bureaucrats where their first entry point into middle class life in the seventies was governmental work. So I was told all my life that working for the city or working for the state was about the highest you could hope to achieve in certain effects. And I kind of acted as a rebel child and I was like, “No, I want to do something else.” And for something else, for me, it ended up being nonprofit. And so after I did the Peace Corps, I served in the Peace Corps in Panama from 2012 to 2014 in a small ranching village about four hours away from Panama City where there were more cow than people. And I worked there for two and a half years. And when I came back, I said, I want to actually build my community up the best way that I could.

Tempest Carter: I started working at Esperanza, which was a Latino organization is a Latino nonprofit that’s sprawling. I mean, it has a college campus on it, it has middle schools, it has a huge CDC and nonprofit arm. So I worked there and then I went to the enterprise center where I really fell in love with working with entrepreneurs and helping them gain their first bit of capital, like how can I help mom and pop businesses grow, or how can I help them reform what their businesses are doing? So we had a lot of legacy businesses. We looked at cooperative models, right? What happens when you need to retire? What is your legacy planning going to be so that we can continue to have, particularly in that case, thriving black-owned businesses in a black majority neighborhood? And then I moved on to Achievability on 60th Street, which was more service-based, but I still led their economic development work.

Tempest Carter: And so I was both implementing, but also creating and imagining what economic viability and economic sovereignty looks like in the hood, and at the same time helping to bridge folks to the services they need. And we did that at the height of the pandemic. So you can imagine that was quite difficult. I mean, I was processing maybe 300 rental checks. You know we were doing a rental assistance program where we put out over $250,000 worth of rental assistance. We were also doing free taxes. We were actually doing the taxes and also being out on the street like after my business owner was shot and killed, and doing resource fairs. So I got pretty burnt out on that and said, “Hey, remember this city?” And I got the opportunity to actually come over and work with the Commerce Department who had been funding my work my entire career.

Tempest Carter: So I always looked to them as mentors and as funders and as active partners, but for most of my career hadn’t been looking at them as a viable place for me to work. I think people have this idea of bureaucratic work as boring or not flashy or not a space for you to grow, not very sexy. But especially with the Commerce Department, that is not the truth. It’s an engaging space, a space where you could grow a space where you’re respected and honored as a professional, a space where people hold each other accountable but also don’t denigrate. And the longer you’re loyal to them, the more you actually get paid into a pension. And we don’t talk about that anymore, but that is actually really dope to actually be paid for your loyalty. So I quickly learned actually the city is the place to be. And if you could be anywhere in the city, I would always say you should be at Commerce. It’s very entrepreneurial. We dream up things and then we go and do it. And so I had the opportunity to join them and join the business development team, and I’ve been thriving and being able to still be of service to my community, but do it on a larger scale, and I’m just really appreciative of that.

Haley Hnatuk: Yeah, it’s so amazing to learn a little bit more about your past.

Tempest Carter: Yeah, thank you.

Haley Hnatuk: So Senzwa, let’s hear more about you. Can you tell the audience a little bit about yourself and your work at The Connect and what it looks like?

Senzwa Ntshepe: Sure. I guess I’ll go Connect first because that’s widely more interesting than myself. So The Connect, actually much like Tempest, is an ecosystem builder for the city of Philadelphia. Our job is to retain, attract, and develop professionals of color here in Philadelphia. The Connect was founded to solve a problem, the problem was that specifically black and brown professionals were leaving Philadelphia to go to other cities. You have your Atlantas, you have your DCs, you have your LAs, you have your New Yorks. Why? Why are those cities that much more attractive that people want to live, work, and play there? So we came together, me and my business partner here, Stephon [Braithwaite-Martin], who’s in the audience to say, “Hey, what does a programmatic solution look like on the community side, right?” So much like Tempest who is really focusing on the retention and attraction of the large companies and organizations, which we do some of that work, too. We’re really focusing on what are those community needs to say, “Hey, this is a place where you… This is a necessary place for you to be, right?. How do you thrive here?” We talk a lot about thriving here in Philadelphia. So, that’s the nascent of The Connect and it’s grown to a network organization of 20,000 black and brown professionals and professionals of color between all across the Tri-state and the East coast really. We do a litany of things, everything from kind of event marketing, we say we’re kind of the nexus of information for the community side. So if Commerce… and shout out to Commerce, we love Commerce.

Tempest Carter: We love you back.

Senzwa Ntshepe: We love Commerce. But if they have, you know,events or resources, et cetera, how do we sensationalize? How do we get it to the layman’s terms of, you know, this is what’s going on in the city and these resources are accessible to you, right? They’re just not up in this kind of, almost like an ivory tower of academia or inaccessibility. No, these are things that everyday people can have access to. How do we bring those to the people that necessarily need them? So we do a lot of event and resource marketing. We host a convening every first Friday called Like-Minded. We actually just had it here for the second time in a row at RecPhilly. Shout out to RecPhilly for hosting us.

Haley Hnatuk: Shout out to RecPhilly.

Senzwa Ntshepe: Shout out to RecPhilly. It was great. And it brings out 300 to 400 professionals of color everywhere from New York to D.C. every month. And I mean, it’s a really rare space because it’s a very genuine networking opportunity. So it’s not performative. You don’t have to walk in and just say, “Hi, my name is,” et cetera. Even our dress code, we say, come as you want to be remembered, right? So I’m giving you the autonomy back to the individual to say, “Hey, this is how you want to present yourself.” But then we have music, we have food. You can get your headshots done, you can photo booth. The last time we had someone who was doing LinkedIn audits and resume reviews, all kind of within the same space. And it’s a celebration of fellowship, it’s a celebration of convening, but it’s also a celebration of the validation of your cultural style, right?

Senzwa Ntshepe: So one of the things that I really say that is like, is we’re in the business of belonging, and a lot of people leave where they are because they feel like they do not belong. Tying into my life, I’ve lived in a litany of spaces in which I feel like I didn’t belong. I was too smart for the hood kids and too hood for the white kids, right? So where was my space? Where was my people? And this is what we give to the connect, not only belonging and concretized identity and cultural style, but also access to what they need for a city to feel like they can thrive here in the city, so the events, the convenings. But then it’s also the development portion, right? So we actually partner and kind of on the tech side and sorry, I talk a lot, so let me know when I’m done, but we essentially we’re industry agnostic, so we’re across all industries. We do have a focus on tech as well. We have a focus on enabling people to do what they do best with technology, right? So we partner with an AI accelerator right now, DiverseForce GameChangers Accelerator to make sure that people don’t get left behind, specifically if people of color don’t get left behind in this tech boom, right? So how do you use AI and automation in order to 10x your productivity, right? We do that for individuals. And then also on our side, we’re developing an agency as well to teach small businesses and non-profits, “Hey, this is how you… If there’s a gap and you don’t have enough money to hire X, Y, and Z, here’s how you automate some of these processes.” Right? Because we’re seeing a lot of these, we have a lot of small businesses in our network. We see a lot of these gaps. So we’re trying to fill in these gaps as much as possible, making folks more tech-savvy, making folks more tech enabled, making folks more tech fluent.

Senzwa Ntshepe: We also are on the talent solution side. So we have a connect search firm, which we’ve matched folks to employers that are looking for work. We’ve been doing some work with the city as well. There are a lot of open positions in the city. We’re trying to also change the narrative about working for the city, because it’s actually pretty cool. So how do we get folks excited to be a part of changing Philadelphia again, right? Not just being passive consumers of what happens, but actually active participants on the civic side and on the job side as well. So we do that and then we have policy and advocacy work, right? So we actually put out an impact report, shout out to Commerce, that Commerce funded, that studied the perceptions, behaviors and attitudes of black and brown professionals here in Philly. Why do we stay? Why do we leave? What our migration patterns look like? And then what do we need to feel like this is a salubrious ecosystem in which I can thrive, not that I need to leave?

Senzwa Ntshepe: So that’s kind of a high-level overview of The Connect and how it functions currently. We are a very burgeoning and lovely team. About me personally, I think my life has always kind of been at the nexus of technology and DEI. So previously I’ve co-founded a platform that was kind of like a LinkedIn for people of color, making sure people that have opportunities. So it was a physical platform, it was called Elevate, actually partnered with some folks over at Wharton with that. But you know pandemic came, hit, and nobody was giving money anymore. And we need money.

Tempest Carter: Yes.

Senzwa Ntshepe: We need money, guys.

Tempest Carter: Yes.

Senzwa Ntshepe: So I‘ve always — I always tell people, I’ve had this mission, it’s just looked differently at different points in time. But, you know, ultimately right now where we settled, I’m really, really happy about what The Connect is doing and how we’re able to collaborate with organizations, public, private, philanthropic, you know, especially Commerce and other organizations to really amplify the richness of Philadelphia. So that’s a very long-winded answer.

Haley Hnatuk: Yes. Well, it was great learning a little bit more about you and your path as well, and also hearing, you know, about what The Connect does. For the people who are here in person or the people who are listening online, if they want to get involved with The Connect, what can they do?

Senzwa Ntshepe: Sure. So we have a website, www.theconnect.pro, P-R-O like professional. If you’re on Instagram, it’s @theconnectphl. We also do have a D.C. chapter, because we see this model works really well and there’s other cities that we can apply it to. So we’re having those conversations. And then through there we’re creating pipelines from different cities, right?. What are the best things from DC that we can learn to apply to Philadelphia? You know, Jersey, we’re looking Austin, these other places. So the Connect PHL, and then we’re on LinkedIn as well at The Connect. There’s a space between The and the Connect, but those are the three ways that you can get in contact with us.

Haley Hnatuk: Perfect. Run, don’t walk to check them out. So also both of you were talking about how your work is really centered around retaining and attracting talent to this incredible city of Philadelphia. So let’s shift to some Philly-centric conversation. For the both of you, why do you think that Philly is a great place to work in tech?

Tempest Carter: I think we have some of the best soil to do work in. And when I mean that the ecosystem is full of incredible companies, we have over 100,000 tech positions in the region. We have over 9,000 tech companies in the region. Some are really tiny startups, some are mid-sized, some are large. You know, and you can work anywhere. You can work for any of our anchor institutions or universities or you can work for a robotics company. We have several. I know people know about Ghost, but we have Exyn Technologies, we have Boro. They’re creating these incredible ag tech robots that are not meant to replace workers, but walk side-by-side with them to help them collect more of their cart, more of their grapes or cocoa or whatever else they’re picking. And it walks, it drives autonomously next to them and will remember their path. So it can go up and down the roads, rows of farmland for hours.

Tempest Carter: You can do any of that sort of work. And we’re not even talking about the life sciences space where there is just extraordinary stuff happening in gene cell therapy. People are literally changing the DNA and the cellular structure of people’s bodies here in Philadelphia to help them fight diseases. And so, you know, a lot of the stuff that was happening with the mRNA vaccines, that was created here and overnight, just like the Gilded Age and the Industrial Revolution, we are going through our own revolution here as it relates to precision medicine and biotechnology where, I mean, people are creating billion-dollar companies over, you know, over a course of some years. People go from renting a tabletop in CIC to taking the whole room, to two years later having their own floor and having over 100 people working for them. That’s happening time and time again in this city and that doesn’t even take into account outside of the work, just zooming out from just the work portion.

Tempest Carter: Living here is incredible. We have various types of housing styles. We have really dope neighborhoods. We’re like a city of neighborhoods. So if you like gritty and kind of industrial, you can go to Spring Garden or Northern Liberties or Kensington. You can go, you know, to West Philly for more Bohemian experience, you can go uptown and be in Mount Airy and Germantown and get more of that kind of leafy green, almost village feel. You can be around and have the best food. We have so many James Beard award winners. We are direct competitors to Chicago, direct competitors to New York when it comes to the food scene.

Tempest Carter: But unlike Chicago, New York, Boston, LA, you can actually afford to live here. We’re one of the only metros in the country where you can make less than $100,000 and own your home. And I know that both from a data perspective, but also anecdotally. I bought my first home when I was still working at nonprofits and definitely made at the height at that time was making 70K and had a three-bedroom home, front porch, back porch, and my neighbors had been there for decades. It’s a space where you can still do that. You don’t have to be, you know, a multimillionaire with your own startup to be able to live. And so yeah, I think Philly is a kind of gem that isn’t often recognized for its beauty and that’s a marketing problem. But thankfully we have folks like Senzwa and The Connect and other folks that are helping to change that.

Senzwa Ntshepe: Are you sure you didn’t work at Visit Philly too? Because that was great.

Tempest Carter: Love it.

Senzwa Ntshepe: So I think, there’s not much to add on my side, but I do want to talk more about the community aspect. So I have a lot of… Unfortunately, the reason why Connect exists is because I’ve had friends that left to go to other cities, right? While they say they enjoyed probably the influx of larger companies and, kind of you know, those types of things, they always say they miss the community of Philly, and that is manifested. And you see a lot of the organizations here in Philly, especially around tech, are very supportive. You have a lot of very supportive organizations that will allow you not to only grow and develop irregardless of whatever stage you’re in, but at the same time, you know, really help you and walk you through your journey if you’re a founder, if you’re a practitioner, kind of wherever. And we can go down the list so we can talk about 1Philadelphia and, you know, their mission.

Tempest Carter: Love that.

Senzwa Ntshepe: Shout out to 1Philadelphia. Of, you know, really making sure that Philly is a hub of tech equity here in the city. We can talk about Philly startup leaders. We can talk about all the workforce development organizations that we have. We have Hopeworks, we have Prescolas, we have LaunchCode, all of these organizations that really focus on, you know, making sure the local workforce has that access to opportunity. So I mean, there’s a really strong and robust supportive community here that allows you to elevate your tech journey. And, you know for me, I’m obsessed with community and I think that’s, you know, probably one of the biggest draws on top of all the structural things and the fact that Philly is a great city just to live and for food and all these other things. But, you know, community is where you find love, community is where you find validation, community is where you find support. Who are those people that are around you, that are on that same journey? You can find a lot of that community here in Philly and then also at The Connect as well. So that’s I think the only thing I needed to add.

Haley Hnatuk: Yeah. Well, you touched on 1Philadelphia and you and Tempest are both on the board of 1Philadelphia. So can you talk a little bit about how 1Philadelphia is changing the future of Philly’s technology community?

Tempest Carter: 1Philadelphia brings us all together, I mean, and they do it in such an extraordinary way. So I mean they’re doing ecosystem drivers where they bring all of the ecosystem partners together, whether it’s on the workforce side, whether it’s on the tech and employment side. They’ll bring us all in a room and try to figure out where these gaps are. We know that we are not a top 10 tech hub in the country at this time, right? How do we get there? What do we need? What do our people need to be able to thrive? And then they’re able to kind of compile that information in a visually pleasing way and also a way that’s kind of potent.

Tempest Carter: There are some of our strongest advocates for equity in this space, right? When you have the average wage being $155,000 in tech in Philly, but your black and brown participation rate is about 4% or 5% outside of Asian, we’re talking about Hispanic and black, that number’s far… It’s not reflective of the city itself. And I think 1Philadelphia is one of the largest advocates on trying to broaden that and they just do it at such a high level and they work well with others. Right? I mean like…

Senzwa Ntshepe: Absolutely.

Tempest Carter: So it’s not just like bringing on us, but who else are they partnering with right now? Philly Tech Week is happening right now, and they partnered with Technical.ly to deliver a high quality event that it’s these sorts of events and offerings that kind of put us in the national spotlight in a way that we haven’t been. So we’re known for more than just sports or, you know, violence, and we’re trying to cut through the narratives of what Philadelphia can be and how we can achieve. And 1Philadelphia is just one of the biggest advocates for that.

Senzwa Ntshepe: Yeah. I mean, the only thing I can add is a lot of people complain about things in Philly that they’re done in silos. Everyone has a great idea, but everyone wants to be the owner of that idea and benefit from that idea. 1Philadelphia is really great at pulling people out of those silos and say, “Hey, these problems of equity are a collective problem.” I mean, being disadvantaged, being disenfranchised was a collective endeavor. So the opposite has to be an even more robust and powerful collective. And organizations like One Philadelphia and what we also do at The Connect as well is really bring people together. Who needs to be at this table? I mean, our last… We’re actually, me and Tempest are like best friends now because we’re actually on the same subcommittee as well, all about changing the narrative of Philadelphia and retention and traction.

Senzwa Ntshepe: But the last thing they said, “Who else needs to be at this table, right? Who else needs to be a part of this conversation?” And it’s not an ego thing. This is the problem that we need to solve. Let’s really put heads together to say, “Hey, this is how we do it.” And the people who are most affected also need to have a voice. How else do we get this data? How else do we best make recommendations and insights? You’ve got to listen to the people who are affected. So 1Philadelphia is great at breaking people out of their silos and saying, “Hey, this is the problem. Let’s make it happen.” And then also bringing in subject matter experts from other cities.

Tempest Carter: Right.

Senzwa Ntshepe: Right?

Tempest Carter: Right.

Senzwa Ntshepe: So what was it? Light speed?

Tempest Carter: Lightship, Lightship Capital, they brought in… We worked together last year during this time. They brought in a startup training and they brought up like Lightship Capital, which is a black-owned equity firm just doing incredible stuff. Brian and Candace Brackeen, you know, they’re based in Ohio, Cincinnati, and also Miami. But they came through and kind of did almost an audit of where we were as an ecosystem. And sometimes we look at ourselves and compare ourselves to, you know, this city or that city, and they had the wherewithal to be able to say straight up, “Hey, we keep comparing ourselves to Atlanta, but as it relates to investment in the businesses, it’s actually a way better climate here than it is.” And we did think, we did not know that, we did not think that.

Senzwa Ntshepe: At all.

Tempest Carter: Right. We see the flashy things on social media and what’s happening in culture, and our friends leaving and we just are like, that’s where things are popping. But when you look at the dollars and cents of where black tech companies or where women-owned tech companies, where people who historically have not been able to access capital, where they gaining capital, where we were better positioned in some other spaces. So that was like really interesting to hear. And yeah, it was amazing.

Senzwa Ntshepe: And they also praised us as a more collaborative city than Atlanta.

Tempest Carter: Yeah.

Senzwa Ntshepe: Which is something that you would not think about. But as it pertained to the VC space and the startup space, they said, “Oh, you guys are light years ahead of collaboration in, you know, in Atlanta and some other cities.” So bringing that subject matter expertise allows us to frame shift where we are as we evaluate ourselves as a city.

Tempest Carter: Absolutely. Sometimes we, you know… Someone said this, Chris Wink from Technical.ly said he put this in the state of Philly tech, he’s like, you know, “Philly is not as bad as Philadelphians say it is.” It’s like we’re really humble and, you know, we kind of keep a lower profile.

Senzwa Ntshepe: Underdog narrative.

Tempest Carter: Underdog narrative. If you get too, you know, boastful, we’ll smash that down. That’s part of our culture, and part of that is awesome, right? We’re not walking around with huge egos like we’re all of this. But the flip side to that is oftentimes we are not seeing what the rest of the country can see when it comes to, like, how amazing we are. So our goal in this year is really to kind of puff up a little bit more, no, we’re awesome. We are dope and we are doing great things here in this city and making sure that we have the data to support that by actually going out there and sharing our stories and being, like, very intentional about sharing our stories and about where we are and what we’re doing so that the rest of the country can see. But also so that the incredible businesses that are here can see, you know. We talk about this all the time, like Guru, I talked to Rick [Nucci], the CEO of Guru, which is a tech company here, it’s been in existence for 10 years, and he was like, “I don’t want to be the only big fish. There are so many incredible companies here. I want other people to shine, have that same you know limelight that I have, but also to grow to the same level.” So how do we grow to more unicorns? How do we grow more, you know, just a more vibrant space? It’s time for us to do that.

Haley Hnatuk: Yeah, I mean, the act of being seen is so important and also seeing yourself. So I want to circle back to something you actually said, Senzwa. You talked about how, you know, The Connect and your work is really aligned with this business of belonging. Can you tell our listeners a little bit more about what you mean when you say that?

Senzwa Ntshepe: Sure. Again, it kind of goes back to, you know, the validation of what’d I say, your cultural style, who you are, right? You look to others to reaffirm that not only do you have an identity, but is my identity right? Am I right in the right space? Does this make sense, right? And that often, if you’re around a lot of folks who don’t look like you, don’t necessarily think like you, et cetera, you don’t feel like you are right as a person, which is harmful and deleterious to your productivity, to you know, how you see yourself, all these other things. So when I say I’m in a belonging business, I create and we create an ecosystem in order for you to feel like, “Hey, there are other people that look like me, that think me, that I can collaborate with that makes me feel like I belong in this space.” And then on a grander level, we work with other organizations to make you feel like you belong in this city, right?

Senzwa Ntshepe: Unfortunately, for black and brown folks, even though this is a majority black city, there’s a lot of places where we don’t feel like we belong. There’s a lot of places where we don’t feel like are receptive to our cultural style for whatever reasons, they think something bad is going to happen, they think it’s whatever, dah, dah, dah. So how do I change that narrative? How do we change that narrative in the actual structure of the city itself, right? Because I can surround people with like-minded individual, but at the same time, if we go to a specific venue and we try to host an event, they’re like, “Eh.” Because that’s what they usually do.

Senzwa Ntshepe: They won’t say no, but they’ll say, “Oh yeah, cool. You want to have an event? Well, it’s going to be a $12,000 minimum.” First of all, ain’t no minimum $12,000, that’s someone’s maximum. But at the same time, it’s just what we do we… There’s always the talk, right? So it’s like, how do I not only make me feel comfortable about the people around me, but then also the actual physical structures, the physical locations? I mean, I talk to city council folks all the time about, why don’t we have more black-owned brick-and-mortar businesses downtown, right? We have a bunch in our respective neighborhoods, which is great, but literally downtown, sometimes they go… Like I want to go take someone out to eat, and there are none, right? Why? How do we increase that equity in those physical locations? I go to D.C., man, when I go to D.C., let me tell you, I go sit down, I’m like, wow, I feel very comfortable here because everybody’s doing the same stuff I’m doing, right? It’s great. I’m like, wow, I feel like I’m validated. I feel like I belong. I feel like I’m welcome. Sometimes I always don’t feel like that here, right? So that’s also a part of our narrative and belonging conversation is like, how do we change the zeitgeist of the structure to be like, “Hey, you know, we have a strong footprint. If it’s about money, we got money. We can spend the money, right? But you also have to respect who we are as professionals, right?” So that’s the belonging business, making sure that you have like-minded individuals, but then making sure you also have receptive structures.

Haley Hnatuk: Yeah. Well, we’re going to shift gears just a little bit. Many of our audience members mentioned to us that they’re interested in breaking into the Philadelphia technology scene or just finding a new job within it. So for the both of you, what is one piece of advice that you have for job seekers or just career changers?

Tempest Carter: Outside of go outside and come to Philly Tech Week, outside of that, I would say do a personal audit. You know, where are your skill sets? What do you love to do versus isn’t in alignment with what you will be paid a lot of money to do? And oftentimes we think no, but oftentimes, yes. But maybe we’re doing what we love to do in a space that we never thought we would be doing it, right? Even if it’s like, “I want to work in tech,” I said that over 100,000 number about the technology positions here, most tech positions are not at tech companies here. You are going to maybe be working for a consultant, you will probably be working for a bank. You will maybe be working for a college and university. You may be working for a law firm. You may be working for the City of Philadelphia, right?

Tempest Carter: You will get access to the money that you desire. You will get access to sometimes the mission you desire, right? But reworking where that is is sometimes super important and really looking, when you do that audit, look and be real, “Oh man, I need to upskill. I think I want to work in tech.” And I’m looking on LinkedIn, and I’m looking at these other spaces, Glassdoor, and I’m seeing that for non-coder positions, I’m kind of stuck at $55,000, 60K. Okay, well, what sort of skills are going to garner the type of dollars I want, the income that I want? If you don’t have it, don’t feel scared to upscale. There are companies, there are programs we spoke about a few like HopeWorks, like Per Scholas like Launchpad, that will actually upscale you for little to no money. They may do it for free, you know? Or other bootcamp programs if you can’t find that, or going back to school. We have so many universities here, even if that means you start working at that university, you know? But do an audit, make sure that your skills are in alignment with what you desire and be okay with doing what you want to do in a space that you didn’t expect.

Senzwa Ntshepe: Can you repeat the question for me?

Haley Hnatuk: Yeah. So the question was, what is one piece of advice that you have for job seekers or career changers?

Senzwa Ntshepe: I have lots of pieces of advice, but I’m going to try to narrow it down to one. My general mantra is don’t necessarily chase the job, chase the mission. I’m more of a… I’ve seen… Don’t get me wrong, I want everybody to get paid. Get paid. However, I’ve seen people really happy making $50,000, and I’ve seen people miserable making 300. Right? And ultimately, I always ask people, what’s the ultimate goal? Is it attached to a certain number? Okay, then go for that number. Is it attached to a certain quality of life, right? Do you have family? Do you need to take time off? Those specific things? So one, again, kind of the audit that Tempest said, right? But really be honest with yourself, like what are you here doing this for? Is it the money for you to… Is it an ego thing? Like, “Hey, I just want to have stacks.” Cool. I like stacks. But at the same time, it’s like, okay, I want to be able to do some meaningful work. I want to be able to have a flexible work-life balance, and I want to be able to take care of my family, right? So really be as specific as you possibly can with your motivation of why you want to do this work and then start leaning into all the things that Tempest mentioned, right? Upscaling, understanding that your skills are transferable, right? Learning how to story tell and communicate those transferable skills is probably… You know… You’re essentially storytelling your way into the job, right? So being really good at those specific things. Yeah. And again, I think for me, it’s really just checking in with yourself and really understanding why you’re doing these things. I… Let me tell you something, entrepreneurship is not easy.

Tempest Carter: No.

Senzwa Ntshepe: It’s nothing easy about it.

Tempest Carter: It’s not.

Senzwa Ntshepe: There’s nothing. I’m tired. However, I love this, and I will get up and do this every single day, right? Even when it wasn’t doing well, I was doing the same thing, right? And it wasn’t a… I just felt purposeful, right? So find what makes you feel purposeful. For some people, it is financial. For some people, it is something else. But figure out what that is and then create a path for you to make all those steps happen along the way, I think.

Haley Hnatuk: Yeah. Well, I know you said you have lots of, you know, nuggets, of little information, and I actually want to tap your brain a little bit more and ask about The Connect Citywide Mentorship program and why you think mentorship is such an important piece of this.

Senzwa Ntshepe: Oh, yeah. I mean, I’m going to quote Beyoncé on this, but you can’t be what you can’t see. And that doesn’t mean… I mean, we see her, we can’t be her because she’s Beyonce, that’s crazy. But I think one of the most powerful things is visualization and understanding that there are… there’s so much more of a gamut of possibility. I think some of the problems that we see in undisturbed neighborhoods is the myopic view of what you can be, right? I did a career day a couple months back, and I’m asking people what they want to be, and it’s, “I want to play ball. I want to do this. I want to be a rapper. I want to do all this other stuff.” And I’m just like, “Cool. But if those things don’t happen, you know, what other possibilities?” And even for me, I went to a different school every year, I ended up at a really nice private school, and then I went to GW [George Washington University] for undergrad and there was a whole bunch of different majors. I had no idea. I barely knew what engineering was. Right? I should probably get my money back from my high school. But like… So the fact that one, mentorship really brings out an understanding of all the possibilities that you actually can undertake. And then two, a mentorship and even apprenticeship really accelerates your learning because it walks you through the nuances of what it takes to get there, right?

Senzwa Ntshepe: And I think a lot of those nuances are what we miss. People just say, “Oh, read this, or do X.” No, you need to understand how to build relationships. You need to understand time management. You need to understand, you know, respect. All these nuances that you have to watch someone do, that’s the power of mentorship, right? I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have a very great mentor who, you know, sometimes he’s told me things explicitly, and then other times I just watch him do things and I said, “Oh, this makes sense.” So if you’re talking about accelerated learning, there’s nothing more powerful than mentorship and apprenticeship. And Philly has a bunch of apprenticeship programs and things that they’re rolling out right now, but we really find that, you know, mentorship is kind of the key. If we’re talking about getting people from point A to point B very quickly, that’s mentorship. And then also mentorship has someone who is actually care about your life really outside of any external learning that you can have really invested in your wellbeing and in your growth. And if you’re looking at underserved communities, you need that comprehensive care. It’s not just, okay, you do this and you get here, but like tell me what else is going on. Because growth is a very multifaceted approach, and it needs to be, and I think mentorship really, really makes sure that happens. So what we’re looking at is connecting senior leaders to mid-level leaders, mid-level leaders to college students and college students, to high school students. Right? And we’re looking at this N plus one model. So it’s a big jump. If I have someone who is 16 to someone who is 45 and the CEO at XYZ, right, there’s a lot of steps along the way that they don’t really understand and that person may not necessarily be able to articulate, because they just didn’t. But if you have someone at each level along the way, you can articulate a gap between three or four years. How do you get to this next place? How do you get to this next place? So that’s what we’re looking at for our mentorship program to say, how do we fill in those gaps and how do we make sure that we have folks that are genuinely invested in the wellbeing and growth and development of Philadelphians?

Haley Hnatuk: Yeah. Well, we’re getting close to the end of the show, so we always like to close out our shows by asking our guests to reflect on concrete ways and takeaways for our audience members on how they can be better digital citizens. So I’m just going to run down these questions. The first one is, what is something you do or you wish you did more often that helps you lead a rich, healthy digital life?

Tempest Carter: Balance my time on all of these digital platforms. I think that there’s some kind of apps that help you lock certain things. I spent a lot of time on Twitter[renamed X] this weekend with the Kendrick Lamar stuff, I would say too much time. And what I wish I had done to be a better digital citizen was to lock Twitter for a few hours. Like, just give me 45 minutes to an hour to scroll and to look at what new disses came out, and then give me space for my mind to process that. Because I think we live in a physical world, and it’s beautiful that we can do so many things through tech, and we can do so many things in the digital landscape. But having that balance so that we’re able to create online, we’re able to share online. You know, that only comes when you have some clear space that comes from quiet and balance. So for me, I would say really fight for that balance because there are other folks that are fighting so that you don’t have any balance, so that every second that you are not sleeping, you are plugged in, and your mind works better when it’s not.

Senzwa Ntshepe: That was a bar. To add a hot 16, I’m a serial meditator. I meditate every day. I deal with anxiety a lot. It sucks. And meditation not only grounds me, but allows me to show up fully both in person and digitally. Instagram is social comparison on steroids, and you’re comparing what you know about your actual life to someone’s contrived version of their life, right? So you’re inherently going to feel some sort of disparate jealousy, something, right? Because they’re just like, “Why doesn’t my life look like this?” Because their life doesn’t look like that. We know this, right? What makes you get to a point where you can look at that and not necessarily internalize some of those messages for me is meditation. So I mean, that helps me with pretty much every aspect of my life, and that’s one of the things I’m always going to talk about that allows me to be more present, both virtually and in person.

Haley Hnatuk: Well, my final question for you is, what is one thing that you want Philadelphians to walk away with about how they can better participate in our local tech community or just digitally in the Philadelphia community?

Tempest Carter: Come on out, like, check in, use LinkedIn, use the Instagram, use Facebook. If you’re still there, you know use Twitter and start looking up stuff. The Commerce department, I know it’s not sexy, I know that it’s not the newest restaurant or the newest Raptis, right? But if you are looking for ways to engage with broadening your world and leveling up, follow them. Because when we drop new grants, you know, they’re there. When we have new events, they’re there. I mean, they’re even putting stuff up on TikTok. I mean, we have Gen Z working with us now. We’re really pushing. And so, you know, look at those things and push some of those positive things that you were seeing online up. If you see an incredible business or you see a wonderful new spot that you liked, kind of positively engage with that because I think sometimes we’re engaging in things that are inducing rage and sadness and hurt. And I think part of the way that we kind of change what our city is known for is actually engaging in more of what’s happening and going right here in this city. And there’s tons that are, so I would just say plug in, amplify, and then go out and meet us in the real world.

Senzwa Ntshepe: Sorry, I was laughing because I didn’t know y’all had TikTok. That’s great.

Tempest Carter: It’s wild. Big up to Soul, he’s getting us reels and stuff. People are doing skits. It’s wild over here.

Senzwa Ntshepe: Oh, Gen Z’ers. I love it. I’m going to touch back on the community piece. Sorry, I don’t drink coffee and I drank coffee so I’m a little jittery right now. The community piece is key, right? Like I said, there’s all these organizations that are making sure that you have what you need, and we receive information best when it comes from a trusted source. And that trusted source tends to be a community that you believe and are an active participant in. So tap into the communities, look at the Philly startup leaders, look at the Connects, look at the Hopeworks, look at the One Philadelphia’s, look at the, you know, the Tribaja’s. Look at all these other organizations that are really disseminating this information, because it’s also going to be information that’s highly tailored to your specific problem because you’re a part of that community.

Senzwa Ntshepe: It’s just… And I mean, you never know. It just amplifies you that much more as opposed to just trying to do it without a personal touch. So I always say, try to be high-tech and high touch. Really lean into the high touch part of that as well, because that will accelerate you so much farther. And then you also have, you know, friends who are thought leaders, right, who you can also tap into as you run into new problems, as you want to build something. So really just, you know, everything goes through people. Everything goes through people. Everything lives and dies by people. So really tap into the human element of it, and you never know where you can find yourself. But yeah, I think that’s it.

Haley Hnatuk: Yeah.

Tempest Carter: That’s awesome.

Haley Hnatuk: Thank you both for all of that incredible advice for sharing all your wisdom today. And thank you all for coming out today. Thank you to all of our listeners online, to our in-person participants, and also to anybody listening to this after the fact on any of the places you can find our podcast, Digital Citizen. And now, please join me in thanking our wonderful guests.

Tempest Carter: Yay.

Haley Hnatuk: Tempest, Senzwa, thank you so much for being here.

Tempest Carter: Thank you.

Haley Hnatuk: And thank you all for participating in our Philly Tech Week programming.

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