'We need to make sure inclusion is an action and not just a statement': HP CIO

HP Chief Information Officer Ron Guerrier joins Yahoo Finance's A Time For Change to discuss how the company is trying to recruit and build a more diverse team in big tech.

Video Transcript

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ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Welcome back to "A Time for Change." We are midday through Black History Month, when companies go out of their way to show support, whether genuine or not. HP's chief-- or information officer is one of a handful of Black execs at Fortune 500 companies. And he shared his thoughts on whether or not the month still holds any true value. Here's Anjalee Khemlani.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: That's right, Alexis. I spoke to [AUDIO OUT] Ron Guerrier about a number of things and, really, HP right now holding a really good record when it comes to looking at the numbers. 54% of board members are minorities. 27% of its US employees are diverse, though only 3.8% are Black. So that's really important to keep in mind.

Ron told me that he, the son of Haitian immigrants, is often the only Black person in the room. And I spoke to him about that and what he's doing to open the door for others.

RON GUERRIER: My concerns are the same concerns I've had over the last 25 years in IT-- is how do we diversify and get more people excited of color-- Latinos, Blacks-- into technology, not just in the technology that we use-- the hardware and the great products that we offer here at HP, but we're getting into the world of technology-- you know, artificial intelligence, machine learning, all that. It's very important for us to expand our aperture and bring in more people of color into this industry.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: I know that you have-- you've talked about it just now, really, just that constant focus. And it's-- 25 years is quite a long time. I think we can all agree that there are still some concerns about the progress being made on this. And so I've seen strategies over the years being implemented, especially for hiring processes, right, things like blinding candidates' names and genders. I'm sure you know this. What strategies have you really used and seen that help to actually move the needle? And how much work do you still think there needs to be done in order to achieve really true diversity?

RON GUERRIER: Great question, Anjalee. And so one of the main reasons that drew me to HP was the just history of diversity since Bill and Dave founded this organization, essentially, that founded Silicon Valley. And so there's many things you could do. You can be very intentional and say, we are going to do X. And you put strategies in place. And those strategies, in my opinion-- they work on a broader scale. But we need more people to get more involved in younger parts of kids' lives, getting into the Black and Brown communities. Explain to them what they could do with their careers. Making the investments in those areas are just going to change the game.

And so at HP, we have the Diversity Equality Task Force, for example. There's many different things we're doing where we're partnering with HBCUs to make sure that we are actually going to where the talent is and really talking about the curriculum they need to build so we can hire that great talent.

So HP is doing a lot of it. But again, my biggest concern, and this is where I love drawing and working here, is that it has to be part of the fabric of the organization-- can't just be a flavor of the month, lack of better term. It's got to be something that we strive through year in and year out and hold ourselves accountable to those numbers and those efforts.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: How do you do that? And can you explain maybe behind the scenes, like, are there metrics that are used? How do you ensure sort of growing in that direction?

RON GUERRIER: Correct. And so one of the things, many things, we do is we want to make sure we have a diverse palette of resources, diverse palette of candidates. And so what we do is we actively go out. And we partner with Black-owned businesses, Latino-owned businesses, women-focused organizations and help try to recruit from those organizations, get out into the network and talk to them about what HP has to offer.

There's a lot of great things happening here at HP. So how do you get them excited about not just the problems that we have to fix, but the problems that we solve for our customers? And that's something our CEO, Enrique Lores, talks about a great deal.

Another thing that we're doing that I think is pretty exciting is that we're actually-- we have a lot of suppliers that help us with our products and a lot of our services. And so what we're doing is we're diversifying our supplier base. We want to ensure that certain metrics-- that we are hiring certain number of Black-owned companies, Hispanic-owned companies, to make sure that we're working with them. And we see that as a multiplier effect. So if we hire those companies, they, in turn, will hire other companies and bring in more diverse talent to our ecosystem. I think that's extremely important.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: I'm glad you brought up supplier diversity. That's something that has been seen as a really effective strategy over the years. But part of the problem still remains with that, you know, the red tape that goes with it. You need to improve scalability. Some of the smaller businesses tend to get left out sometimes. So I wonder, is there a solution for that or, you know-- because it's sort of a catch-22. They need the experience to work with you. But you're the experience they need to work with you.

RON GUERRIER: You're right. It's kind of a catch-22. And the thing that I really enjoy-- I've worked in private sector for most of my career. For two years, I worked in the public sector. And so I was able to see on the other side what it's like to get other companies excited and jazzed and invest into these companies. And so you're absolutely correct. The capital's sometimes not the greatest. But they need that experience to find that next opportunity.

So what we're doing is we're actually bringing in diverse-owned companies-- Black-owned, Hispanic-owned, women-owned companies. And we're actually having interview panels. And our IT leadership team can interview different opportunities. And we bring them in for projects.

And the most important thing, Anjalee, I think is pretty exciting-- that we're not bringing them in as staff augmentation to bring them in just to supplement and complement our team. That's clearly one way you can do it. But what we're doing, I think, is a little bit different. Hopefully, it's going to be kind of more sustainable. We're bringing them in for strategic projects. These are big projects that we're working on.

And they can put this on their resume. They could say they helped this great organization move this forward. And of course, it builds up their kind of plan of record and-- right? And other companies say, hey, they did this exceptional work with HP. They could do it for us.

So we're really bringing them on to be more strategic partners as opposed to staff augmentation providers. And I think that is a huge change. Again-- learned that from the public sector. And now I'm, hopefully, applying that back into the private sector.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Any issues with supplier diversity considering the chip shortage? Do you feel like that helps or hurts the situation? Can you still afford to really do this at such a time?

RON GUERRIER: Absolutely. I believe we absolutely should. And now is the time to do even more. And the reason I kind of flip it is because now's the time that that diversity is needed more than ever because usually when there's a chip shortage or shortage of any kind, you fall back on those big companies, those big opportunities. Now's the time to give those small organizations an opportunity and a leg up, right? And so now is the time to actually do more of that. And we're actually doing that. So we have some really hard objectives that we're working towards so we can make sure that part of our spend goes to a lot of these diverse-owned companies.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Tell me about your experience, Ron, because I feel like that's always-- you know, that always really helps you. It's a skill you have, having been the only Black person in a room, sometimes. And I know we've heard many of these stories of some of the executives, the few that there are, in these positions who have faced some of the same problems as your everyday person. Despite the levels of success you've reached, how have you maneuvered around these? And what advice can you possibly give to someone younger who's looking up to you?

RON GUERRIER: That's a great question. And it's one that I'm learning along the way. 25 years seems a long time-- quarter of a century in IT. What happened?

But with that being said, I've learned a lot. And so before the term "microaggressions" became the term, I would go to conferences. I would actually be the keynote speaker. But people would not know that. And they'll look around the room and several times, full stop, they would assume that I am the valet or I am the coffee attendant. And they would ask me, where's the coffee?

And a few times, Anjalee, I did not even get it. It was over my head. And I realized they're asking me to get them coffee. They're asking me to get them their car. And I'm looking at them. I'm a little confused. And then it dawns on me. They assume that I am the only person of color in the room. Therefore, whatever-- they assume I'm the one to help serve them here.

And so what I've done in those times is-- there's moments where you have a moment. And in the moment, something my mom always told me-- what is the learning from this? How could you improve the people around you?

So I would have a conversation with them-- say, I think you were mistaken. I'm actually the keynote. I work for this organization. I am a peer of yours. Let's talk about this.

Sometimes, it's a great conversation. And some of those individuals are still friends today. Sometimes, it goes in deaf ears and they walk away. And there was that moment. But for me, those are the things I really kind of just take and I process, right?

But what I do when I talk to young talent is I always tell them, bet on yourself. It's very important that if you don't bet on yourself, no one else will bet on you.

Also, when you see a job opportunity, a lot of times, minorities, women-- they say, well, I don't do all 10 things. Therefore, I'm not going to apply for it. Go for it. If there's seven of the 10 things that you're really good at, go for those. Go for the opportunity. You never know what they're really looking for. So you really have to make a bet on yourself.

And the last thing I'll say broadly, and I'll say this to everyone-- it doesn't matter what race, creed, color-- is speak your voice. You have to speak your voice.

I've been in boardrooms. As you may know, I'm on a board also, and several boards. And there's a lot of pre-meetings you have. And in those pre-meetings, everyone has a great idea. But when it comes down to the board meeting, there's wallflowers, right? And usually, it's a minority or it's a female in the room. And I usually try to call out on them, not embarrass them-- say, hey, Jan, John, Jerome, you had a great question during the pre-meeting. What are your thoughts? And you kind of bring them into the room.

So as leaders, I think we have to make sure inclusion is an action, not just a statement. So I think it's very important that we do that. But that's a great question. And again, I started as a repo agent for an automotive company. And, you know, I became a CIO. So if you don't bet on yourself, who else is going to do it?