Ask, Serve, & Succeed With José Piñero
Do you have trouble speaking up and asking for what you need? Are you longing for a "seat at the table" but don't know how to make that happen? Do you feel held back by people you encounter or situations you find yourself in? If this is you, then don't miss this episode! Tune in as host Ellie Shefi chats with guest expert José Piñero as he shares his tips and strategies to help you ask for what you want, access the opportunities you need, serve at your highest level, and succeed. José is a highly decorated tech entrepreneur, former Fortune 100 corporate executive, sought-after international speaker, trainer, strategist, ICF certified coach, and mentor committed to creating opportunities in the start-up and corporate worlds for diverse and underrepresented groups. He is the Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of Tech Pass, a career pathway platform that helps college students connect with corporate recruiters and land their first job in tech. In addition to almost three decades of service at some of the world's largest and most prestigious companies, he is a dedicated philanthropist who currently serves on the Board of Directors of the International Coach Federation Foundation and the Institute for Sustainable Diversity and Inclusion. José has been named one of Latin Business Magazine’s “Top 100 U.S. Hispanics to Watch” and one of the “Top 100 Prominent Latinos in the Business World”, and he has received the prestigious National Urban League’s Donald H. McGannon Service Award. If you are looking for actionable tools to set you on a path to success, this episode is for you!
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Ask, Serve, & Succeed With José Piñero
Today's guest is a highly decorated tech entrepreneur, former Fortune 100 corporate executive, sought-after international speaker, trainer, strategist, ICF-certified coach, and mentor who is committed to creating opportunities in the start-up and corporate worlds for diverse and underrepresented groups. He is the Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of TechPass, a career pathway platform that helps college students connect with corporate recruiters and land their first job in tech.
In addition to almost three decades of service at some of the world's largest and most prestigious companies, he is a dedicated philanthropist. He serves on the Board of Directors of the International Coach Federation Foundation and the Institute for Sustainable Diversity and Inclusion.
Please welcome Latin Business Magazine’s Top 100 US Hispanics to Watch and Top 100 Prominent Latinos in the Business World honorary, José Piñero.
Welcome, José. It is an honor to have you with us.
First of all, it's great to see you. What a pleasure to be here with you. Thank you for having me.
Thank you so much for being here. What an important field that you're in. How did you get so passionate about empowering the underestimated and creating opportunities for diverse talent in both the start-up and the corporate worlds?
This is very close to my heart. I’m Latino. I was born and grew up in Puerto Rico. I came to the States for college and then worked in Corporate America. In my more than 25 years in Corporate America, at some point, I led all diversity and multicultural for Microsoft. It opened my eyes to see what the challenges and problems were, and what some of the hurdles that women, people of color, and people from different origins, different orientations, and different abilities have and face every day. At that point, these became part of my life mission.
People like you and I are very lucky. We are lucky that we have had access to so many things. It's so important for us to continue opening the door for other people and making things easier and better for them. That's why I'm so committed to empowering and ensuring that what I call the underestimated groups, which have traditionally been underrepresented, get their fair share and fair shot. To do that, there's so much that needs to be done.
I'm super thrilled to be here with you to tell you about it. This is something that I have lived, seen, and taken as a personal mission to accomplish. I'm thrilled to be here with you. I would love to tell you a lot more about what we're doing, how, and how other people can also join the effort and help make things better for future generations.
There is no question that there truly is disparate access to education. There's disparate access to opportunity, funding, support, and mentorship. I love that you are rolling up your sleeves and leading the charge. Tell us more about how you're doing that.
When we look at the challenges in terms of disparate access, we can look at two things. We can look at what's happening in terms of underrepresented and underestimated groups becoming part of corporate America. We can also look at this from the perspective of the startup world. Let’s start with corporate America. When you go into tech, it's even worse. In tech, women represent only about 25% of the workforce. On top of that, women get paid less than men for doing comparable jobs. That's terrible. It's something that needs to be addressed.
It doesn't matter where you go. You find the same challenges. Maybe the titles or the names of the problems change, but they're the same things.
When we look at the percentages of the population, for example, Latinos are about 19% of the US population. We are still in the single digits in most corporate America jobs. If we go to high tech, it’s even lower. The same thing is for African-Americans. I hope that we get to the parity that we can represent the communities in which we live and work in the same way and in the same proportion.
We need to ensure that women, people of color, indigenous, and people with different abilities and orientations get access to information and resources. They should find mentors and sponsors. They should understand how the game gets played, what works, and what doesn't work. A lot of these are about education, access to information, sharing best practices, coaching, sponsoring, mentorship, etc.
I've done a lot in that area. As an executive coach, I have coached tons of people who are working in top companies. It doesn't matter where you go. You find the same challenges. When I started my career, I said, “Things are very hard now, but when I get to an executive level, things will be easy.” Guess what? It wasn't. It was as difficult and challenging. Maybe the titles change. Maybe the names of the problems change, but it's the same thing.
It's so important to provide that support. Support is something that everybody needs.
There's a myth about the lone champion. They’re like, “She was the person who achieved this. She did it by herself. Nobody helped her.” It’s the same thing with the CEO. They’re like, “He did this all by himself. He moved a mountain and achieved success.” It's not real. It’s a myth.
Success takes a village, right?
Yeah. I’ve worked with executives of companies. Luckily for them, they have an army of people. They have a chief of staff, speechwriter, communications manager, liaison, planner, analysts, and technical support. It's an army. People that come from diverse backgrounds have a harder time asking for help. There's a lot of cultural bias. We were raised to keep our mouths shut. We’ve been told, “Don't rock the boat. Don't make a big fuss. Don't ask for a lot of help.” We have to change that. It’s education. The key word here is access.
That part of the struggle to ask for help or to speak up when you see disparate access, or if you're not getting the support, or there aren't the processes in place, do you think part of that hesitancy can also be the lack of community? If you think you're the lone wolf, the token one, or whatever the case may be, and you're so "lucky" to have been chosen or have that spot, the notion of rocking the boat or speaking up, there's a layer of, “I could be replaced.” There's a layer of, “I don't want to be the troublemaker.” There's a layer of, “I should be so grateful that I was chosen and I've made it.”
All of those things are true. You're right about all of those things. There are a few factors right there. One, there are cultural values. In the work I do with seminars and leadership development, we address a lot of the cultural values of how we were raised. For example, in Asian culture, silence is a sign of respect. When the elders speak, you keep your mouth shut. You don't say anything.
If somebody that has grown up with that value goes into corporate America and he, she, or they don't speak up in a meeting because they agree with what's being said or because it’s a sign of respect, guess what happens? The leader in that meeting goes, “I'm not sure that Paul is that engaged. I'm not sure he's committed to this project. However, Mary was speaking a lot in the meeting. She's a go-getter. She's going to make it happen.” One person gets penalized or misses the opportunity. That's a classic example of where cultural values come into play.
The other thing that is very interesting to consider is role models. It was Earl Nightingale who said something like, “We define our opportunities based on what we see and what we know.” For example, if the best I saw in my community was that I could be the owner of the corner store, then that's what I aim for. When we go to a large company, if we don't see anybody that we can relate to or that we can say, “That could be me. I could be the next Ellie. I could be the next John,” then it's hard for us to even visualize that that's possible. That's why moving people up and ensuring that we have the right role models so people can see somebody that they can reflect on and see themselves in that person is so important.
There was an example. There was a very successful Microsoft executive. He was Latino. He had a thick accent. I cannot tell you how many people told me regularly later, “Since this other person is the leader of the entire sales organization for Microsoft and he has a big accent, I feel that I can also do it.” It's something where you need that extra push or pull from somebody. You're right. Having no community and no role models makes things 10x more difficult. That’s for women, people of color, people from different groups, etc.
You have to see it in order to even know that it's possible. That’s why I have my nonprofit, the Made 2 Change the World Foundation. It's all about bringing in the mentorship. It's all about expanding the possibilities, allowing people to dream, and knowing anything you want is possible. This is what it looks like, and there is a path that you can follow to get there. You don't have to reinvent the wheel.
That's so much about what you do with your mentorship, the programs you offer, the processes you put in place, and all of the workshops you've done. It's about your point earlier. These are the best practices. These are the processes that you can follow. These are the routes that you can take. These are what opportunities look like. These are where there are gaps in the opportunities that can be filled.
One of the most rewarding things that I experience every few weeks when I'm doing either some coaching or some leadership development seminar and see the moment where things click and someone says, “Oh, that's why.” It’s the high moment where it clicks for them. They're like, “That's exactly what happens with my boss,” or, “That's why I feel this way.”
For example, a lot of Latinos and African-Americans in the workplace in corporate America, in a way, are looking to replicate the familiar and supportive bonds they have in their communities. I cannot tell you how many executives have told me, “I wish my boss would treat me on a Monday like my friends or my family treat me.” They're looking for that. In a way, the employee is right, but, at the same time, we cannot expect the non-Latino and non-African-American manager to know what those cultural norms are.
For example, on a Monday morning, the first thing I'd say is, “How are you doing? How's the project going?” If I didn't ask you about your weekend or what happened, you might feel like, “This person doesn't care about me.” There's so much when it comes to cultural values and best practices!
The best ideas come out of conversations, discussions, and exchanges of different points of view.
There’s a lot of understanding and a lot of education. These are the things that I wish somebody had told me when I was starting my career. I was flying blind. I didn't know. I replicated what I did in my childhood. Sometimes, that worked. Sometimes, that didn't work.
We have to help women assert their worth in the workplace. I cannot tell you how many female executives have told me, “I had this idea. I said it in the meeting, but nobody responded. Some male person in the room said exactly the same thing and everybody was so excited and supportive.” I'm like, “Wow.”
The sad thing is that there's an extra burden of doing extra work for underestimated and underrepresented groups, but we have to do it. Otherwise, we don't change things. Bottom line, a lot of the work I do with companies is both working with the diverse employee to help him, her, or they understand what works best, what the best practices are, and what the gotchas are, and working with a non-diverse leader or manager to help them understand how they can best work with people like us. It's a two-way street. We have to meet in the middle. We cannot expect either the employee or the manager to do all the work. They have to meet somewhere in the middle. To me, that's a success model I have seen in working with companies.
One of the things that you mentioned is so important. I want to circle back to it. It’s the need to be seen, heard, valued, and respected, whether that looks like recognizing the cultural values, suggestions, and ideas that are done in a meeting, or whether it's done in some other way, the need to be seen, heard, valued, supported, and celebrated are human values.
If you are in corporate America and you're an executive, the Caucasian contingent is the majority. They’ve had that natural comradery. To cross those cultural lines and racial lines is to be a human family. There's a huge push to humanize the workforce. Richard Branson and Virgin Unite have the 100% Human at Work initiative. We've got B-corps using business as a force for good. We have impact economics using business as a force for good.
I love that you're saying, “How can we take those broader concepts and apply them to the workforce?” It's expanded opportunities and more inclusive opportunities. The magic happens when we have that cross-cultural or cross-racial representation. When a company looks like a community and it's got an open dialogue and a culture of support, training, and inclusivity, that's when innovation can happen. That's when things can become more efficient. That's when productivity goes up. All around, it’s a win.
You're right. The best ideas come out of a conversation or discussion of exchanging different points of view. The McKinsey story proves that companies that embrace diversity end up being more successful and more profitable. There's data supporting that. Unfortunately, sometimes people go, “I want the fast decision and the fast outcome.” That may not be the best one. When there's some creative tension and people say, “Have you thought of this? I saw this other thing out here. Is there any relationship to this?”, that's when you end up with a better plan. It's super important to create inclusive, welcoming spaces where the different people feel that they can be a part of something.
This is a basic human right. I joke with people when I'm coaching them. I say, “Find me somebody that doesn't want to be valued, respected, or loved. If you find that person, I want to meet him, her, or they.” Unless somebody is a sociopath or mentally ill, that's a basic human need. We all need that. The thing is that some people need it in some potentially different ways. White males in corporate America and in the VC world benefited from the privilege that they have. It's nobody's fault if they enjoy a privilege, but once you become aware of the challenges for others, it's our duty to make things better for others. That's how I look at this.
One thing that I want to touch on is the impact of COVID on all the things and all these challenges. Let's be open. The world and the corporate world were somewhat challenging for minorities and for women before. With what happened with COVID, most people and most companies went into hybrid or remote work arrangements (specifically when we talk about information workers, people who are not in the frontline, or consumer or customer-facing).
Unfortunately, African-Americans, Black, and Brown people are quitting more than the average White people. The other thing that's happening is that as companies are starting to try to pull people back into the office, more people of color and women want to stay at home or work from home more days. Let's look at the reasons for this.
One, they're at home, but they're also taking care of other things that are happening with their families and their communities. Second, they may have less access to services, nannies, childcare, or other things. Third, it could also mean that some of us didn't feel as welcome in the office as we wanted to so we feel better at home. That brings that other set of challenges.
We were talking before about speaking up in a meeting. I work with a lot of companies, and a lot of teams ask me, “How do I show up in a hybrid or virtual world where most of the calls are on Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Slack, or some kind of video conference?” The answer is you have to be a little bit more proactive to show up.
Here's the danger. Let's take an average woman. You're doing your job. You show up to the meeting. There are 10 or 12 people in the meeting. You’re one tile on the screen. You’re listening and taking notes and you agree with what's happening in the meeting. The meeting ends and you go and do the rest of your job. If you did not say anything in the meeting, some people might think that you were not there. They will say you don't care, are not committed, or are multitasking. It's an extra onus on us. Not only do we have to be there, but we also have to make sure that our presence is felt. Out of sight, out of mind.
For example, when I coach people, I tell them, “No matter what, you have to say something in the meeting. You cannot be silent.”
But here’s the question people ask, “What if I agree with everything and I don't have any questions or anything to add?” The feedback and the suggestion I give to people is, “At least say that you agree with what somebody said. What’s even better, ask a neutral clarifying question.” Don't ask a question to say, “I'm not sure about what you said.” Don't do that. Don't challenge somebody.
If you say, “I love what you shared with that point about inclusion. Is there anything that we can also bring from this other effort into this?” or, “I love where you're going with this idea. Can you tell me more?” Right there, it's a completely neutral to a positive statement. It opens the door for more conversation. You, as an employee, get the points for participating. We have to work with those things.
Another thing that is very important is how you show up. Some people are in the meeting and the camera is up and centered, but they’re looking to the side or looking down. When that happens, you don't feel they care.
We had this meeting with this executive. He kept turning off the camera because he was eating. At some point, we had to say, “It’s not cool for you to be eating. Even if you turn off the camera right there, the subliminal message you're sending to all of us is that you don't care that much.” You have to think through those things. It's easier to put something in the chat than to say, “I want to add something,” or, “I want to say that I agree with what Ellie said.” It's harder, but we have to do that. Otherwise, you can fall farther behind, and that's not good for anybody.
To your point of "out of sight, out of mind," it is so important in this Zoom universe to speak up and to have your presence not just seen but felt. I love the action item or tip and trick that you've given that anyone can use. Whether you are in corporate America or you're an entrepreneur, it doesn't matter. We're all living on Zoom.
Once we become aware of the challenges for other people, it's our duty to make things better for them.
I love the idea of acknowledging and asking a follow-up question. Even if that follow-up question is like, “Tell us more about that,” or, “Is there anything else we can do?” That is an incredibly powerful question because it shows not only that you're present but that you're paying attention, engaged, and you care. It’s so valuable. Thank you so much for bringing that up. It’s super important.
Showing that you care goes so long. There are all these research studies on employee satisfaction. There are so many hot topics because of the pandemic and the future of work, but engagement is one of the key metrics. Leaders want to know that their teams are engaged. Being engaged means showing up and showing that you care. You’re taking action. It's so important.
I work with all these companies that have all these engagement tools. Engagement is a super hot topic.
The other one is well-being. They’re like, “How do we ensure that our people are all right?” At no point in history has well-being in the workplace been more important than now. The pandemic brought a lot of challenges, hardship, and unfortunate things. On the other side, the pandemic has accelerated the need for all these systems and services that are going to support employees and are going to make employees feel more engaged, rewarded, purposeful, and more included in the work.
There's a good side to what happened because a lot of companies thought they had 3 to 5 years to figure out, “What's the future of learning and development? What are the future benefits? What's the future of diversity and inclusion? How can we make the employee experience better?” COVID accelerated that and said, “All those things are needed now.”
The challenge here is if we had asked companies a couple of years ago, “Do you trust your employees to work from home and not waste their time or be lazy?” They would have said, “No way.” It sounds awful, but people would have said that. Guess what happened? We are all having to work remotely. And frankly, what matters is the outcome. What outcomes are you producing?
When I talk to a lot of people who are looking for jobs or switching careers and go into interviews, I’ll ask the classic question, “Tell me a little bit about yourself.” People think that that question is about you telling your life story. It's not. That question is the setup for you to say or tell that person across the table what value you are going to deliver for that company. Ultimately, companies pay us to solve a problem, fill a gap, manage something, take care of something, increase revenue, or lower costs. That's why companies pay us.
I have coached people and said to them, “Tell me a little bit about yourself,” or, “Why are you a good fit for this job?” The person starts saying, “I'm a great fit because I'm looking for this and that. I want this. This thing is very important to me.” I'm like, “It’s not about you. When you're interviewing, it's all about what you can do for the company.” When I tell people that, their first reaction is not good, but it's a good shifting frame. If you go into an interview by you saying and clearly communicating the value you will bring and the outcomes you'll create, they're going to want to hire you. It’s a mind shift.
That's so important because there are a lot of openings in the workforce. There are a lot of people looking for jobs. That's a powerful tidbit that I want to highlight. It's not about you. It's about how you can serve. It's about the value that you can bring.
We've been talking a lot about being in a corporate setting, but so much of this also applies to entrepreneurship and the VC world. I would love to dive in to that a little bit more specifically.
If you're in that startup model, we know that there historically have been quite a few additional hurdles for underrepresented communities in securing the capital or the infrastructure needed to get their business up and running. I also think that coming from that place of the value that you can bring, how you can serve, and how you can help goes a long way with investors and securing capital as well. That's a multi-dimensional tip that you gave.
Thank you. Let's shift gears and talk about the startup world and underrepresented groups. I love using the word underestimated because people underestimate us. People underestimate women and people with certain abilities. I spent more than 25 years in corporate America. In 2021, I immersed myself in the startup world. I went in, frankly, not knowing much. I know from my experience in the corporate world and creating products and things. When I went into the startup world, guess what I found? It had the same challenges. There is very little female, African-American, Black, Latino, people of color, indigenous, etc., representation.
There are a few things there. One, the startup world is so important because it's an engine of economic growth. It’s also an engine for empowering communities. I say this because it's proven. When you have a female CEO or co-CEO, guess what happens? The company hires more women. When you have a diverse leader, guess what happens? It could be a function of a deliberate effort from the leader. Let’s go back to role modeling. If I’m like, “There's a company. The leader is inspiring. I can see myself being like her,” then you get attracted to that, and then you also join that.
The startup world is fascinating because it's where a lot of innovation is happening. It's all about solving problems. When you're in a startup, your job is to solve a problem that either tons of companies have or tons of people have. If you solve the problem the right way, people are going to give you their money because it's a value exchange.
When we go to a coffee shop and we pay $5 for the coffee, it’s a good deal for us. If the experience, the flavor, and the taste are good, I'm happy to pay $5. Guess how we prove that? It's a great value because I keep doing that. I go to the coffee shop I love every other day and get a coffee. People talk about McDonald's. If you pay $3.99 and you get a burger and fries, what you pay is a great value. If you buy a Tesla, it's a great value. You get an amazing car and experience for what you pay. The point is people are very happy to pay money if the perceived value they receive is greater.
I love technology. I love that it presents scalable solutions. If we want to continue elevating women, communities of color, etc., we need to get those groups to not be just consumers of solutions and technology, but the creators and producers of it. That's why it's so important that we bring in more women and more people of color into this venture world. There are so many opportunities. There are also some challenges. The first challenge is the lack of information and guidance.
The venture world has been historically White male. That's what happened. It was like a club. You would get in and would work for one of these VC firms or one of the startups that were successful. It’s a hits model. People love betting again and again on people that have been successful. The hardest thing is raising your money for your first startup and then being successful. Once you're successful one time, you're golden. You can then continue recreating, etc.
For example, TechCrunch has some data on this. We have seen increases in the funding for early-stage startups for African-Americans to go up in the last couple of years. Unfortunately, for Latinx, it has been flat. That's an issue. A bunch of us got together a couple of months ago to discuss this problem because we need to make sure that we see that change. The most important thing is access to information, sharing success models, sharing best practices, and making sure that we ask for help. There are many resources.
One of life's purposes is for us to get lost in the service of others.
Female, Brown, and Black entrepreneurs who want to go into the startup world shouldn't go or start alone. They should work with accelerators, incubators, startup studios, or mentorships because there are so many challenges. You are going to face the same challenges but if you work with any of these other organizations, you may be able to learn from the best practices and avoid some very common mistakes.
The other thing I'll say is there's so much content online. There’s the YCombinator video series, and all these other groups. There's so much information out there. If anybody has time, they can learn more. To make a long story short, one of the efforts I'm doing is helping diverse founders start their own ventures or companies. If anybody is interested and you are a female, Black, Brown, a person with special abilities, a person with a different sexual orientation, etc., please reach out to me because I can point you in the right direction. I am personally committed to bringing more diverse entrepreneurs into this world to point them in the right direction.
Every week, I talk to 3 or 4 entrepreneurs with some great and brilliant ideas and some others that are harder to execute. What I want to make sure people understand is that there's a huge opportunity. Companies have problems that they want to solve and they don't have a technology solution for that. The world is changing. Keep thinking about new categories. What are the services that people may need in the future?
Airbnb had to change a couple of times. Uber was a disaster in the beginning. These are now billion-dollar companies. It's not crazy for somebody to say, “I have an idea,” raise a little bit of money, do a minimum viable product, show that it works, get some people excited, and raise more money. Suddenly, 1 or 2 years later, that company may be worth $10 million or $20 million. You would have ownership of that. Your employees, the people that join you and ideally follow you, may also benefit from that valuation and equity.
It's a wonderful model and people don't know enough about it. I go into some of these groups and we look at each other. There is a small percentage of women and Black and Brown people. We need to invite more people and create the right environments so more people also create technology solutions that will empower us.
To your point, there are a lot of resources that are available. There are so many groups that are out there, whether you find them through your local Chamber of Commerce or you reach out to a local university and find out what organizations or groups they have in business school, for example. Reach out to the Small Business Association. Reach out to Chambers of Commerce. Look on Meetup. There are so many incredible organizations and groups where you can find mentors. You can find other people who are further along on the journey. A lot of these resources are free. It takes a little bit of searching but it's worth it.
Many people think, “I have this idea. I want to do it. It would be amazing,” but there's always a but. They’re like, “But I don't know where to start. But I don't have the money. But I don't have the actual materials to make the prototype. But I can't get into the rooms where the decisions are made.” I love the fact that we're highlighting that these resources do exist. It's just a matter of doing some research of finding them, reaching out, asking for help, asking to join, asking for a call, or setting up a call.
Get into circles of like-minded individuals. Get into circles of people looking to take inspired action, who are looking to make a difference, and who are looking to do the things you want to do. It’s especially the circles where they have people at different stages of the journey. Those are people who are further along. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. There's no need to go at it alone. There's no need to try to slog through and make all of the mistakes.
If you can find someone that's already done it and they can say, “Take my hand. Let me guide you. Don't step there. That's a big landmine. That's going to derail you,” or, “That's going to cost you a lot of money. Let me show you this shortcut over here,” that's how change is going to happen in the entrepreneurial space or VC space. Get into those circles. Build the community. Empower one another.
I agree. This is a nice segue because I'm working on something that bridges these two worlds. We created a startup called TechPass. TechPass is a classic startup company. It's exciting because it's a platform to connect diverse college students with high-paying jobs in tech. To your point, freshmen and sophomores in college are like, “I hear about all these high-paying jobs in technology, but I don't know how to get one. I don't know where to start.” Guess what we created? We created a platform that gives the students a guided roadmap so they can see exactly the steps and training they need to take and the activities, meetups, and resources available.
We show the roadmap for the student. When the student completes a certain part of the roadmap, we tell them, “You're ready. We can introduce you to a recruiter at Company X. The recruiter wants to start to get to know you.” The recruiters from the companies get to meet the students earlier than ever. They start building a relationship. Guess what happens? If you do the things that we recommend, you're going to be a great candidate to win an internship or a real job. Students need guidance. The student needs to know, “What are the things and the steps I need to take?”
If you don't come from the right network, you may not have somebody saying, “Here's what you need to do. Let me tap on your shoulder and bring you this way,” so we're doing that. Companies are hungry to discover amazing, diverse talent as early as possible. It's a platform that’s called TechPass. The URL is TechPass.ai. Check it out. It's a wonderful system that connects students and companies. We're very excited about that because that will get more diverse people into technology so they can learn how to program. They can learn about data science, jobs, etc.
We're also helping companies because they're going to find greater talent. We go beyond what a company typically sees on the radar. We do a good job of presenting the candidates in the best possible way. We joke about it. We say, “It's more than the resume.” We want to share your story. Many of us have great stories that are not only about, “Here are the classes. Here are the jobs,” but, “Here's what I do for my community. Here are some challenges I had to overcome. Here's something interesting about my personal experience.” We want to present that whole story.
We're very excited about TechPass. We're doing the pilot in the Midwest with about twelve companies. It's going very well. I'm excited to open doors for more diverse talent to get into technology. That is one example of a startup. People have all kinds of ideas. Find the resources and ask for help. Anybody can connect with me on LinkedIn. It's very easy. Reach out.
I heard a recommendation and advice from this person, Mickey Ibarra. He was an advisor to President Bill Clinton. He said to me, “What's the most powerful word in the English language?” I'm like, “I don't know. Maybe love.” He said, “It’s a three-letter word.” I'm thinking, “Yes.” He was like, “That's not it. The most powerful word in the English language is the word "Ask." You need to ask. If you don't ask, you're not going to get it.
You need to learn how to continuously ask. Ask for what you want. Ask people for help. Ask people questions. It was an eye-opening experience for me. I'm like, “I've never thought of it that way.” Sometimes, we don't want to bother people. Sometimes, we just want to take care of people and don't rock the boat. We need to ask, think about what we want to achieve, and then go for it.
Sometimes it's not about the humongous things you do. It's a lot about the many smaller things you do. When you look at that from a very macro perspective, you can see the trend and the impact.
That's so powerful. Ask. Use your voice. Get clear on what you want. Get clear on what you need. Get clear on where you want to go. Find the resources and the support and then ask. Ask for help. Ask for what you need. Ask for recommendations. Ask for referrals. I love that.
What would you say is your best tip for resiliency or coping for someone who asks and then maybe hears a whole lot of "No?" How can you help them to continue?
I like knowing my odds. I like knowing my probability. For example, in the startup world, it's a 90% rejection business. You're going to ask 100 people and 90 are going to say, “Thanks, but no, thanks. I’m not interested. Not now. Talk to me later,” etc. Once you know that upfront, then you don't feel bad. The other line that I like, and a friend of mine gave this one to me, is when you get a no, you can think about this: A no is a step closer to a yes. You know that person's not ready, but you learn from that conversation and go to the next one. You need to know the probabilities and not take these things personally.
The startup world is not for everybody because the rejection and the challenges are huge. Somebody asked Elon Musk, “What advice do you have for entrepreneurs? What motivation can you give to them?” His answer was pretty funny. He said, “If you need motivation and encouragement, then you shouldn't do it.” As with a lot of the things he has done, these are hard things sometimes. You have to have a strong belief in what you're doing is the right thing and you're going to find a way while at the same time being very open and flexible.
In the startup world, most successful startups had to pivot, change, and modify things. Sometimes, we think the winning idea is X, and then as you talk with 25 potential customers, you realize that what they want and need is something different. You adjust for that. You have to have that balance.
The other part that comes to mind is more around mental, physical, and emotional health and well-being. It's important for people to do self-care and take good care of themselves.
Nobody can run a marathon 24/7 for ten years. We all need rest. We all need to take care of ourselves. We need to make sure that we have enough positive experiences. Some of us are sitting in front of a computer all day long. We need to get up and walk. We need to move. Being seated all day long is not healthy for anybody. There are so many things. Some people do yoga. Some people do mindfulness or meditation. A lot of those apps are wonderful. I know a lot of people that use them.
Pick something. Pick 1 or 2 things that work for you. For some people, it may be taking a nice bath. For somebody else, it may be going out for a run. For somebody else, it’s sitting and looking at nature. For somebody else, it may be talking to a loved one on the phone. Pick something that feeds your spirit and makes you feel alive and good. Make sure that you sprinkle that through your days. Whether you're in corporate or you're doing your startup, a lot of people are going to be working very hard. It's important to pace ourselves.
What do you do to fill your cup? What's your self-care routine?
There are a couple of things that bring me a lot of joy. One is going for my coffee. I live in Seattle. I didn't drink coffee a long time ago. Now, I drink coffee. I enjoy that moment, so I love that. I also play a lot of guitar. It brings me a lot of joy. When I hear a song on the radio or online, I try to figure it out and play it. That puts me in a great space and brings me a lot of happiness. I also love doing things with family and loved ones. Conversations with my kids or loved ones are something that brings me a lot of joy.
Something that sounds weird, but I get a lot of satisfaction and reward from doing things for other people. I do believe in service. There’s a quote and I'm going to butcher it. It's something like, “One of life's purposes is for us to get lost in the service of others.” When we are providing service to others, it’s something beautiful. It brings me a lot of joy.
Don't lose yourself. Don't neglect yourself. I believe in the oxygen mask in the airplane analogy. You have to put the oxygen mask on you first before you can help those people around you. If you don't put on the oxygen mask and help everybody else, then you die. Put the oxygen mask first. Take good care of yourself and then be of service to others. That brings me a lot of joy. There are a lot of other little things. I love reading. I'm super curious, and reading brings me a lot of joy. I’m a nerd for useless factoids about a lot of things in life. Things that bring a smile to my face are good for the heart and for the mind.
You live a life of service. You live a life of impact. You bring so much joy to the world. You show up so powerfully in the world. As we start to wind down here, let's imagine that you have come to the end of your best life. It has been a life lived full to the brim. It’s your life best lived. What do you want them to say about you when you're gone? What do you want to be remembered for?
My personal motto is very simple. It’s to leave things better than I found them. I do my best. I try to live that and embody that every day. To me, there's a very easy way to think about it. It doesn't matter who it is or what happens. If I have an engagement or I have a conversation with you, I hope that at least you feel a little bit better than before we met. You’re a little bit more uplifted, excited about the future, and encouraged about what you're doing and other possibilities.
It doesn't matter whether the conversation was a two-minute conversation or a two-hour conversation. We all have the power to do that. I want people to feel better. I want people to think, “Whatever engagement or interaction I had with him, he made me feel good. He was able to show me something greater than what I believed at the time.” That's how I want to live life.
Sometimes, it's not about the humongous things you do. It's about the many smaller things you do. When you look at that from a macro perspective, you can see the trend and the impact. That's how I think about this. I want to make sure that more underestimated people, whether they’re women, Black, Brown, or other diverse groups, end up in a better place. That's why we're doing TechPass. That's why I’m doing all the work with startups. That’s why I do the work with corporations. There are a lot of upsides there. A lot needs to be done. It's up to us to make that change.
20 or 30 years from now, I want to look at companies' numbers and say, “Women are not 25% of the workforce in tech companies. Women are 55%.” I want women to be more than half. I want people of color to be represented at the same level as they are in the general population in the US. Those are some benchmarks for me to think about. That's it. Hopefully, I’m helping make things and life better for others.
Thank you so much for being here. Thank you for the work that you do. Thank you for the opportunities you create, the communities you build, and the people you nurture. I know that you're living and creating this legacy that you envision every day. Thank you so much for joining us.
Thank you so much for having me. Thank you so much for all the work you're doing to also drive incredibly powerful, super positive social impact, create opportunities, and help people achieve their dreams. That's super important. I applaud you for your work. Thank you so much.
Thank you. Until next time.
About José Piñero
José Piñero is a tech entrepreneur, former corporate executive, and ICF-certified coach. He is also the Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of TechPass, a career pathway platform that helps college students connect with recruiters from companies and land their first job in tech. José is committed to creating opportunities in the startup and corporate world for diverse and underrepresented groups.