BFUTR 2020 Summit: Build Back Better

Log in from your office, or your living room, for two days of learning and networking

A global pandemic won’t stop the Black Professionals in Tech Network’s (BPTN) annual BFUTR summit—in fact, the pandemic has made the now-virtual summit truly global with an innovative online experience October 22-23. Attendees won’t be faced with yet another Zoom meeting—just an innovative platform with dozens of unique activities and offerings. More than 100 presenters from companies around the world are poised to meet, teach, and even hire the thousands of guests in attendance. Disruption talked to BPTN’s founder and CEO Lekan Olawoye to learn more about the 2020 virtual summit we’re most excited about (did we mention no Zoom meetings?!)

Disruption: What is the Black Professionals in Tech Network (BPTN)?

Lekan Olawoye: It is the largest network of Black tech professionals in Canada. It was founded in 2017 and now has more than 12,500 members across Canada. BPTN is Canadian-born, we’re a Canadian company, but we continue to expand. In January we opened up in Atlanta and New York City in addition to Toronto.

Our goal is simple: as a company we are a double-sided marketplace, meaning that we support supply and demand. We support Black tech talent unapologetically to be hired and promoted in the tech ecosystem. And we support companies who are looking to attract, hire, and promote Black tech talent. I started BPTN because when I was an executive in the tech industry I noticed that companies wanted to hire faster, they wanted to hire at scale, and they wanted to hire diverse—but they didn’t know how. I kept hearing about a “pipeline problem,” but within my community and networks I didn’t see that problem. There was such skill for executive positions within the Black tech community, but these companies were not accessing or engaging them. I saw a need to build a community for the Black tech ecosystem to easily connect, and support companies with leveraging that platform and being able to connect to great tech talent.

We know that companies want to hire the best talent, full stop. That’s how you win globally, by hiring the best. But looking at the data, companies just aren’t hiring the best talent. The data is more diverse than who is being hired. Our response was: let us hire the best talent, not the talent you know the best. We are making it easier for companies to hire Black professionals and taking away the “pipeline” excuse.

We support Black tech talent through access to skill building, access to executive networking and sponsorship, and access to peer networks. We provide companies with networking and recruitment supports, assistance with branding and becoming an employer of choice for diverse talent, and help building internal strategies to return top talent.

What is the BFUTR Summit?

It’s part tech summit, part career fair, and part networking. For the 2020 (virtual) summit we are expecting more than 10,000 folks, and we’re expecting people from around the world. We have more than 100 fantastic speakers from several industries from amazing companies who are looking to bring on more diverse talent. I was always looking at growing within Canada in the United States, and the pandemic gave us a new opportunity to look at engaging professionals in new countries and bringing the summit platform to places that it hasn’t been before. We’re a growing company and we’re excited to continue to find new ways to grow and evolve.

This summit, and everything that we do at BPTN, is focused on actually making the tech ecosystem more competitive long-term by hiring the best possible talent and tapping into networks that they have historically not engaged with.

Leaders from LinkedIn, Shopify, TD, Sun Life, Google, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, Hootsuite, and many, many more brands will be in attendance.

What can attendees of the 2020 BFUTR Summit expect?

All are welcome to attend. You can be a Black tech professional or an ally, someone who just wants to learn, build a diverse network, and hear from amazing speakers. You can log in from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection—general admission tickets are only $25 USD. Be ready to network, ready to engage—and just be yourself. Come and lean in, don’t be passive. It’s a great opportunity to connect with companies that are hiring for great roles, you’ll get to be part of amazing sessions where you dig deeper and learn about the future of tech, and of course build your network. The quality of speakers is through the roof. There are rapid-fire talks, Q&As, information sessions, and even an exhibitor hall.

How are you facilitating networking opportunities online?

The summit is presented synchronously on an online platform that is going to be world-class in the way that it comes to the community and replicates the in-person. I’m really excited about it. Guests will come into a “lobby” and in that area you’ll see who’s there and have the opportunity to set up one-on-one video meetings. You can view profiles, kind of like a name badge, and get to know the people who are there and see who you might want to connect with. This summit provides a unique opportunity to network with tech professionals from around the world and engage with speakers, leaders, and peers.

What motivated you to decide to offer complimentary general summit passes to Black professionals?

We realized very quickly that, in this moment, people are feeling really isolated because of the pandemic. On top of that, there is an additional layer of vulnerability for the Black community. Everyone needs community more than ever right now, though Black folks are disproportionately affected. Black professionals in tech shouldn’t have to pay to access a community right now, to gather, to feel engaged.

BFUTR Summit 2020 is online from October 22-23. For more information visit bptn.ca.

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