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Changing The Play: How A Football Coach Is Pushing The Culture Forward At HP

It’s late in the fourth quarter, and you’re down by three. You have the ball on the five-yard line. The defense is preparing to rush you because they know you’re either going to run the ball for the quick touchdown or move to better prepare for a game-tying field goal.

The quarterback recognizes the defense’s scheme and won’t settle for any other option than winning. He wants the touchdown. With the play clock swiftly dwindling, the quarterback calls an audible, yelling out the new play. Your team hears the change, makes the necessary adjustments and moves. It’s risky, but it works. You win late in the game all because the quarterback was able to see the need for change.

This is the path to which Tunde Agboke has committed himself: recognizing when to call an audible so he and his team are set up for success. Whether in the boardroom, the civic halls of government, the furrows of a nonprofit or the trenches of a football field, Agboke has never settled with the status quo. He’s always pursuing what it takes to go to the next level.

It was this attitude and passion that led him to the tech-savvy world of HP. Agboke began his journey as an intern, and after successful tenure in that role, he was offered the position of Business Strategy Manager, HP Worldwide Education. Now, he’s responsible for developing education solutions that create equitable opportunities for students across the globe.

Recently, AfroTech had the opportunity to sit down with Agboke and learn more about his work with HP.

Forging His Own Path to Success

With a resume that’s packing a range of experience, it’s no surprise that Agboke decided to explore a role in HP’s education division. Learning about it through colleagues first, Agboke was a little skeptical about all the hype for the company’s work in education. Deciding to do his own research, he was blown away by the impact the organization had already made and was excited about the future of the division.

“I got connected to HP’s Global Head of Education Bill Avey and Charles Radman, HP’s Global Head of K12. I spoke with both of them about my goals and ambitions within the education industry. Both conversations went great, so when Bill offered me a unique position in his Global Education team, it was a no-brainer. The role and the team checked all of my boxes. All of my work since joining has had a sustainability and global impact focus,” Agboke said.

Coming to this ideal role is a part of Agboke’s nontraditional career route, where he built what he calls a “career portfolio.” At every step, he was able to identify spaces where his skills were transferable. Whether it was coalition building and strategic partnerships at nonprofits or leading collegiate athletes as a football coach, Agboke has been able to make it all make sense and connect the dots to land where he is today. Translating his skills meant synthesizing diverse pieces of information and building his toolbox to make impactful change.

Let’s Take It Up a Notch

When Agboke sees an opportunity to push the culture of his industry forward, he jumps at it. HP currently hosts the HBCU Business Challenge to bring together students from HBCU business schools and give them a real-life challenge to solve. The team with the best solution is invited to interview for a role at HP. While the challenge’s impact was felt among HBCU students, the company knew it could do more.

HP leaders Jeff Chen, Global Head of Higher Education; Boz Bell, Account Manager U.S. Public Sector Sales; Lesley Slaton Brown, Chief Diversity Officer; and Avey came together to build out an entire conference around HBCUs. Much of the feedback they received was that nothing in the existing challenge specifically targeted HBCU students interested in tech. So, the group created a council of 11 HBCU Chief Information Officers to determine the best approach to building a conference that would provide value to every student.

This value was found by creating individual tracks for HBCU students in tech, IT professionals and faculty/staff. The HBCU Tech Conference started to take shape. Deciding how these tracks would be managed, Bell, Brown and Avey approached Agboke about managing the student track. For Agboke, that wasn’t even a real question — he was more than interested.

With a really short timeline to bring this all together, the conference evolved to be much bigger than the original idea. And Agboke knew exactly how to handle that evolution.

“If we’re going to do this, let’s try to see if we can pull in some external partners who can add real value. Our goal is for students to walk away from the conference and say ‘I got this skill, and this skill can get me a job,’” he explains.

From this point, it was full steam ahead. One of the first partners of the conference was Microsoft, led by Raamel Mitchell, Director of Central US Corporate Citizenship. Mitchell and his team built a curriculum that would be the first of its kind. That’s when the Future of Work Academy was born. The idea was to prepare students with skills to be successful in the workforce and develop them for roles that haven’t even been created yet. It was about creating real change and providing access to a demographic that may not otherwise have it. HP even decided to drop its name from the title of the conference so the conversation would remain focused on the students.

With the conference team and HP’s executives 100% on board, the Future of Work Academy at the HBCU Tech Conference went live on September 14, 2021. It started with a two-day symposium that included attendees from 48 HBCUs and concluded with a multi-week bot-a-thon competition with 33 HBCUs participating and three winning teams.

Although the conference has ended, the relationships and mentoring are continuing. This includes an upcoming meeting with the winning teams and HP’s C-Suite and executives: Alex Cho (President, Personal Systems), Karen Kahn (Head of Corporate Affairs & Chief Communications Officer), Ron Guerrier (Chief Information Officer), and Andy Rhodes (General Manager and Global Head Commercial Systems and Display Solutions).

In addition to this opportunity, the conference was able to recognize emerging talent and create a portal to capture resumes from HBCU students and hosted several virtual info sessions on all positions that only HBCU students were invited to attend.

It Takes Commitment

Agboke, Kriti Kapoor (HP Director of Digital Practices), Karen Cage (Strategic Brand Partnerships) and the HP team are dedicated to making sure they’re intentional in providing opportunities for HBCU students and other historically excluded communities.

“It is very important to have conferences and programs that are race-forward. Some communities have been traditionally underserved. This work accelerates digital equity,” Agboke says.

He’s personally invested in this work, not only as a Black man but as someone who’s benefited from others reaching back and making sure he was at the right tables. So, it’s his working mission to lower the barriers to entry and demystify tech. No matter a person’s background, Agboke wants people to know they belong. To this end, he’s loved the culture of support he’s experienced from the very beginning and is excited to be a part of an organization that will keep pushing the culture forward.

HP isn’t limiting its social justice work to the HBCU Tech conference. It has plans to work with global partners like 1 Million Teachers and Girl Rising to use its HP LIFE platform to help community members take courses to advance their skills. Additionally, Agboke is a part of the core digital equity team, which supports HP’s goals of accelerating digital equity for 150M people by 2030 and enabling better learning outcomes for 100M people by 2025. While these numbers seem out of reach to some, HP is up for the challenge. Creating intentional programming means putting people first and understanding what it takes to shift culture and break down systemic barriers.

HP has the ambition to become the world’s most sustainable and just company in tech. Lofty goal? Maybe, but HP is being intentional in making it happen. From global education to product development, the organization has a culture of bringing in people who are committed to taking actions that will drive social impact and the goal of creating a more just future.

Click here to learn more about the work HP is doing to create more equity in tech.

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