ST. PETERSBURG — When protests broke out against police violence last summer, many companies began looking at staff diversity and reevaluating the paths for success they provide employees of color.
Digital brand management firm PowerChord had already started that work at the beginning of 2020. But the national conversations around race hastened their efforts “to get the systems in place so we could effectively grow everyone, not just one segment of the population,” said chief executive William Volmuth.
Based in St. Petersburg, PowerChord has 82 employees. It ranked No. 31 among small businesses included in the Tampa Bay Times Top Workplaces for 2021. The company prides itself on its commitment to local communities and that its workforce is 44 percent women, a higher percentage than tech firms typically have.
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But the company is also largely white, something it is seeking to change.
Driving the company’s diversity efforts is Evan Waechter, who was hired as its director of people and culture at the end of 2019. Coming from a corporate background, Waechter immediately took interest in expanding the pool of candidates the company hires from and implementing training programs for existing employees and executives.
“(I) realized that there’s a lot of potential where diversity initiatives can make a huge difference and impact,” she said.
Expanding the hiring pool meant thinking differently about where it typically pulls candidates from. Waechter is reaching out to local tech community groups to learn which companies were most effective when it came to diversity and how PowerChord might go about hiring differently.
Volmuth is working with other tech executives in the area to create stronger pipelines from local universities, including participating in tuition reimbursement programs to help lower-income students access programs that would let them enter the technology sector. He is also looking at how to partner with junior high and high schools to introduce kids to technology jobs early on.
“From my perspective, it got more fundamental,” Volmuth said. “How do we as a company help drive people (in the community) into tech businesses?”
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He realized his company needed to be more diverse when he attended a training that a startup was hosting. The startup’s staff had a high percentage of employees of color, and the ideas generated from the training were ones he had not previously considered.
The more backgrounds a company’s staff comes from, he said, “the more you’re going to have the ability to create beautiful things and have an environment that that is discussed in a very free and open way.”
PowerChord is currently working to implement a number of training programs for employees, including three employee resource groups. One will be focused on supporting LGBTQ employees and allies, another will be focused on employees of color and a third will focus on women in technology and leadership. The groups will not have a say in hiring, however, unless one of the members is also on the hiring team.
The company plans to conduct diversity training in the third quarter of this year, and by the end of the year, employees will be able to sign up for the three groups.
ABOUT THE COMPANY
PowerChord is a software firm that provides digital brand management technology. Its employees are nearly 50 percent women, as is its leadership team.
“My director genuinely cares about my career path and growth and has invested a great deal of time and energy in preparing me for success. My team is very collaborative and supportive making for a very positive work vibe.”
“We are open and honest. I feel like I can make a long-term impact on the success of the company.”
“My current supervisor is fantastic and my team is the best group I have ever worked with. Information is shared freely, and everyone is eager to pitch in. If I ask a question in one of our channels, I immediately get assistance; this encourages me and everyone else on the team to respond in-kind.”