Future Works Alliance: Why did you get involved with Future Works Alliance?
Chad Womack, PhD: Future Works Alliance (FWA) is a wonderful opportunity and a unique space for diverse stakeholders to convene and share best practices and ideas for how Philadelphia can move its economy forward. The leadership of FWA has done a great job of organizing and framing the discussion around the future of work. There are very real implications ahead for the emerging workforce and economy so we wanted to be involved in solutions.
Future Works Alliance: The future of work is driven by constant and rapid change. How has your upbringing and other life experience shaped the ways you manage risk?
Chad Womack, PhD: This is a great question. I often discuss this with my colleagues and students in STEM and tech-entrepreneurial programs I manage. I am a 3rd generation Philly native. This helps me to realize what real risk can mean both personally and professionally. As an African American citizen of this country, risk sometimes takes on not-so-subtle meaning and there is a true need to define, understand, manage and leverage risk.
Future Works Alliance: What new tools, tech or other innovations are you now adopting and why?
Chad Womack, PhD: In my work at the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), I engage African American students from university campuses across the country and connect them with internship and job opportunities in tech ecosystems. We have adopted new approaches and new digital platforms and apps to connect students with opportunities in Silicon Valley and cites like Philadelphia, These tech tools and innovative approaches are now helping us achieve greater outcomes.
Google and other Silicon Valley tech companies began working with us on the UNCF HBCU Silicon Valley Tech initiative back in 2012. It has now blossomed into a major $50 million dollar effort with historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to support African American students pursuing computer science and careers in tech. While we recognize this milestone, there is still much more work to be done. Currently, African Americans make up less than 2-3% of the tech roles inside Silicon Valley’s tech companies. Long-term, public-private commitments, along with technology and innovation will help us move this needle for greater equity, diversity and inclusion in tech.
Future Works Alliance: What famous person, past or present, would like to meet and what would you do?
Chad Womack, PhD: I would really like to meet Dr. Ernest E. Just. He was one of the nation’s first African American scientists. Dr. Just blazed a trail and set an example for other African American scientists like myself to pursue a career in the life sciences. Not only was Dr. Just a great scientist but he was a leader in the community who sought to address the social conditions of the African American community in the early 20th century. He was instrumental in building capacity at Howard University, one of our flagship HBCUs.
Future Works Alliance: Share something about your work projects and goals for this year. How does the Future Works Alliance PHL complement these efforts?
Chad Womack, PhD: As a co-founder of CS4Philly – a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting high quality computer science education for Philadelphia’s K-12 youth – I am honored to be able to work with community, university, government and industry stakeholders to help move the needle towards better postsecondary outcomes for underestimated youth. Our immediate goals are to work with partners to expand engagement and impact across the city and connect youth to computer science educational opportunities.
Future Works Alliance: Thriving in the future of work requires proactive career management. Share memorable career management advice you received.
Chad Womack, PhD: Hands-down one of my favorite books is Throwing the Elephant: Zen and the Art of Managing Up by Stanley Bing. Almost all of the career advice I would ever want to give is in that book, and is a fantastic yet somewhat sardonic look at managing the boss and managing your career. This book’s advice has led me to some great mentors too.
Future Works Alliance: Anything else you want to share with us?
Chad Womack, PhD: As a Philadelphian who is concerned about the future of work in Philly, I look forward to working with Future Works PHL colleagues and opening doors of opportunity for all citizens to participate in the workforce of the new economy. We have this grand experiment of democracy and I believe it’s our birthright to shape America. We can thrive by lifting all boats.
Thanks to Chad Womack, PhD, for being this month’s Featured Founder. You can learn more about his work at the United Negro College Fund and CS4Philly, or follow him on LinkedIn. We also encourage you to become a Founder of Future Works Alliance PHL, and to actively help shape our regional future.