After earning a degree in electrical engineering and spending years working as a product manager in the pharmaceutical industry, Kimberly Bryant wanted to help girls of color get involved with computing. So in 2011 she launched Black Girls Code, a nonprofit that is inspiring students to learn more about technology at workshops in more than 10 locations around the U.S.
When your business is thriving, it’s tempting to expand your vision. That isn’t always the right move. “There’s not enough said about the beauty of being able to focus on what you do well. We know how to reach black girls,” Bryant said at the Fast Company Innovation Festival in November. “If we just do this and we get it right, our impact will be indelible. There is strength in that. As business leaders and entrepreneurs, you can get distracted by all the opportunities. But we’re going to focus, we’re going to get it right, and we’re going to do it better than anybody else.”
Attracting the right team is about more than just talent. “If people are not tied to the work from a mission-driven focus, I don’t think you’re going to motivate them. And people need to grow. I ask people we’re interviewing, ‘What do you want out of this experience?’ Then I can give them assignments that [make them] feel fulfilled.”
Bryant has never hesitated to share her message of empowerment. “From the beginning, [I have dealt with] naysayers. You know, ‘Why does this need to be called Black Girls Code?’ Someone recently tweeted to me that ‘your organization is unapologetically black.’ That’s right. We are unapologetically black. My goal is to make sure the girls understand there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. This is about taking pride in our culture and advancing our culture.”