This Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Vimbai Mhungu, a software product manager working on AI and machine vision, discusses the legacy of Dr. King, and what this meant to him growing up in apartheid-era Rhodesia. Now, completing 19 years at Intel, he’s made a commitment to continue weaving community service and mentorship into his every day life.
What does MLK Day mean to you?
I grew up in Zimbabwe – when I was born, during the apartheid, it was called Rhodesia. My early childhood years were very distressing due to the civil conflict, and it wasn’t until high school that we gained independence. Thinking about civil rights and everything that was happening in the 1980s in Zimbabwe, you can understand that MLK Day means a great deal to me. I'm extremely grateful to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for his leadership because that’s what precipitated all the other countries – including Zimbabwe– to strive for a better, united future.
How have those values shaped the way you work and the way you interact with your teammates on a day-to-day basis?
Emigrating to the US in 1999, I brought a deep sense of justice and equity. I believe everybody should have the same opportunities regardless of their background, their color, etc. and that’s what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood for.
Professionally, I look at people based on what they can contribute, beyond what they look like and beyond what they sound like. I believe Intel has one of the largest diverse populations you can find in the world and being on the board of Intel’s Network of Intel African Ancestry, I was directly able to see diversity of people and thought being championed. So, I cherish that and try to bring out the best that people have to offer, by being their authentic selves.
Community service is also a big part of your background and MLK Day. What are some of the ways you’ve contributed to your service?
Well, I just celebrated my 19-year anniversary at Intel, and I've been involved a lot in community service throughout that time. First, I was involved in fundraising for non-profits. A couple of us employees passionate about global causes, formalized a club and raised over $100,000 to give to organizations committed to helping disadvantaged groups. Some notable contributions were to vocational training for women in Honduras, orphanage support in India, and human trafficking prevention.
Additionally, through Intel’s Education Service Corps, I've also been involved in supporting youth education. After finishing some fundraising for a local’s girl school, I went to Kenya with a team, in person. There was a special program there that taught the school children technical skills and provided food for them. Connecting Intel talent with this program, I was able to share my knowledge on computers and taught the trainers other digital skills. The whole experience was amazing!
Now, I actively contribute through other Employee Resource Groups like Partners for Inclusion and Equity, the Intel Bible-based Christian Network, and more.
In terms of giving back, you’ve also mentioned mentorship as an investment into the next generation. How do you personally take on this mission?
Yes, I've joined the recruiting team in the past when making trips to colleges, and I've really focused on historically Black colleges like in North Carolina, Washington DC, and Maryland. I love to mentor and share my experiences with these students, but also hear from them because I believe that mentorship is a two-way process. That’s always been my approach when I go into a relationship, whether it be a mentoring or coaching, I'm always trying to share and learn from this person.
I’ve also went through an Intel program called “Blueprint for Leadership Development,” which was aimed at coaching underrepresented minorities. We learned: 1) You’ve got to have a brand 2) You’ve got to have a plan, and 3) You’ve got to have advocates, mentors, sponsors, and coaches. I’m grateful for that experience and feel lucky to be able to pass that information on, to help others thrive, today and every day.
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