Published February 15th, 2022
Lara Babarinsa is the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Program Manager at Intel.
“How did I get here?”
It’s as much a happy exclamation as it is a question I’ve reflected on as I prepared to write this blog. I am now a couple of months into my role as Intel Lab’s first Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Program Manager and I thought that Black History Month would be an opportune time to share a little bit about my journey to working at one of the world’s top tech companies.
How DID I get here? The truth is I might not have been offered the job were it not for our newly virtualized world and Intel Lab’s willingness to embrace it. I live in southern Maryland, and with two small children, I would not have been able to relocate to the west coast or any place far from my family’s home base. Yet here I am, working remotely from home, nearly 3000 miles away from Silicon Valley. But things are changing and my journey is fully reflective of those changes, changes that I anticipate will translate into more opportunities for diversity in the tech industry.
I suppose I am here for many reasons, not the least of which is that I do have the credentials—a master’s degree in organizational communication and Public Affairs, a doctoral degree in Organizational Change and Leadership, and a work history that includes extensive public service, management of groundbreaking programs aimed towards creating better access to education and careers, especially for those in underrepresented communities. I’ve even worked for a tech start-up. I'm ambitious. I've worked hard and I've worked deliberately.
Intel didn’t just choose me. I chose Intel.
I was pursuing my doctoral degree and exploring tech companies—Amazon, Microsoft, Intel, etc.—when I came across something on the Intel website that genuinely shocked me. In a good way. In an unprecedented show of corporate transparency, Intel had published its Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO-1) pay disclosures, something it has continued to do every year since 2015.
Even now, in a post-George Floyd world where large companies are under more pressure than ever to be more inclusive, very few companies are willing to disclose such highly sensitive information. And yet, here was Intel, a world leader in technology, saying, “This is a problem. And we intend on fixing it.” It was not a reactionary move, but one pure intent to be better.
Since earning my undergraduate degree, I've been fortunate to work in highly fulfilling positions where I was able to pursue my passion for advancing the education and careers of underrepresented minorities (URM) and communities. I loved the work. But as I worked my way up through the ranks of these companies, I couldn’t help but be discouraged by the absence of women that looked like me in senior management roles. On the other hand, there was Intel, actively setting and effectively chipping away at goals that included doubling the number of women and underrepresented minorities in its senior leadership roles by 2030 and increasing global annual spending with diverse-owned suppliers globally to $2 billion by 2030.
Needless to say, Intel was on my radar from that point on.
I was working at a non-profit organization helping URM candidates achieve their dream of attending some of the top MBA programs in the country, as well as helping some of the nation's premier corporations including Target, Goldman Sachs, and others source high-achieving minority talent for their organizations when I got the call that would lead me to become Intel Lab’s first Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Program Manager.
The job offer happened to coincide with the height of the Covid pandemic. The timing was serendipitous for me and my ties to the east coast. Pre-pandemic the position would most likely have involved a move to the west coast. Fortunately for my family and me, the position was offered as a full-time remote. Indefinitely.
My story is not unlike so many others who dream of a tech career but aren't geographically well-placed for an opportunity. As companies like Intel become increasingly open to remote working, they also find their pool of talent expanding. That makes me optimistic about Intel’s endeavors to find and hire more minorities.
Now That I Am Here
Intel may be among the first large tech firms to aggressively pursue these initiatives, but the competition for highly educated, STEM-focused minorities is growing as recent racial unrest has placed more pressure on companies to increase workplace diversity.
It’s a challenging moment, but an exciting one for me in this new position. I’m proud of having already introduced some new activities in support of Black History Month. These include the creation of Intel Lab’s first Black History Book Club, providing employees with a list of books by black authors. We also distributed lists of black-owned restaurants and businesses that are local to Portland and encouraged other Intel locales to seek out black-owned businesses in their areas. We plan to do the same for other Heritage months, including Native American, Asian, Hispanic, and Pacific Islander.
I am also super-focused on growing the URM talent pool so that Intel can advance the goals it has set as part of its RISE “to create a more responsible, inclusive, and sustainable world, enabled through technology and our collective actions.” I am actively reaching out to networks that I've been aligned with in the past, many of whom are an excellent resource for URM talent, including those who are in pursuit of advanced degrees and STEM careers. We're collecting and sharing new resumes with various Intel departments, including Intel Labs, which is primarily interested in candidates with PhDs.
I feel very blessed to be a part of a company that truly believes in diversity, equity, and inclusion. We are at the forefront of change, and I can't wait to see how the work we are doing will change people's lives, not just by giving them the kind of future and job security that we all want but allowing them to work with this fascinating technology.
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