Today, we have some news we would like to share with our Code2040 community, family, and friends.
Our friend and leader Karla Monterroso is starting a new journey in her career, and our board of directors has named me as CEO. Today, memories and stories from my time working side-by-side with Karla are flooding back.
Whether she was whitewater rafting, hiking mountaintops, or swimming with sharks, whenever Karla Monterroso went on a trip I’d send her off with a silly warning: ”Come back alive, Karla, because I’m not running this place without you.”
After six years of service and a year of battling COVID, our beloved Karla has decided that she won’t return to Code2040 as CEO. I’ve worked with Karla for six years, and she has become a dear friend. While it’s hard to imagine not working with her on a daily basis, I am honored and excited (and a little nervous!) to serve Code2040 as the next CEO.
When I first joined Code2040 in 2015, Erika Baker was organizing internally at Google to address pay inequity, tech companies truly didn’t believe Black and Latinx engineers existed, and phrases like “white supremacy” and “systemic racism” were not used when talking about the lack of diversity in tech. Those of us working in and around big tech knew that the tech industry had a major racism and sexism problem. I had served in a variety of roles at organizations of all different shapes and sizes, and I knew that for my next role I wanted two things: to spend my time working on Black liberation, and to choose my position based on the team with whom I would work. And then I met Karla, who I intuitively knew could help me become the leader I was meant to be. Her straightforward approach to feedback, her willingness to have hard conversations, and her coaching grounded in love were gifts that would help me grow into my most authentic self and most impactful contributor.
I was right. Under her leadership our team has never backed away from a challenge or difficult conversation. We’ve created programs to give Black and Latinx technologists a seat at the table and a voice in the room. We’ve shifted Code2040’s work from a focus on getting Black and Latinx people into tech to dismantling the systemic barriers that keep us out of tech leadership. I’m humbled and proud of the work we’ve done to prove beyond any doubt the brilliance and necessity of Black and Latinx people in the industry.
When Karla got sick in March of 2020, I assumed that she would be out for a few weeks, and it was my job to make sure nothing broke while she was out. Little did we know that COVID had other plans. Our board approached me to take on the position of Acting CEO in April, and I shared my same old words to Karla: ”You better not die, because I won’t do this without you.” Nothing could have prepared me for the year that was to come. Karla nearly died, Black and Latinx elders were getting sick and dying alone, we watched police murder George Floyd in a most heinous way. Our communities rose up and sustained massive demonstrations for months on end, and we watched white folks understand, seemingly for the first time, how deadly racism is for us. It was a year of loss, grief, and loneliness.
Despite the unique challenges we faced collectively in 2020, serving as Acting CEO over the past year has been an incredibly rewarding experience. Our work to build power sharing, candor and transparency into our team meant that we came prepared — ready and resilient — to a global catastrophe that posed unique challenges for nonprofit leaders. As we closed out 2020, we were in a strong financial position, had expanded our programmatic reach, and weathered a year none of us will ever forget. In the last 12 months, we expanded our programs from the Bay Area to 13 states and partnered with 55 companies to help identify and address systemic racism within their hiring and management practices. Our work and our perspectives have been featured in more than a dozen publications. Most importantly, we’re clear on how we will continue to scale this work, share resources, and train racial equity workplace advocates for the long haul.
Code2040 is ready for the next leg of our journey, and we appreciate all of you who have supported us along the way — our community, our partners, our board. Over nine years Code2040 has built something really special. We will continue our relentless work to elevate the voices of Black and Latinx people in tech and to identify and reduce barriers to our success and leadership. This sector is uniquely positioned to reinvigorate the American workforce at a critical juncture. Tech can be the disruptive force it purports to be, but for something that truly matters, the inequity and racism that have haunted this country. Together we can courageously look at the places we’ve been afraid to look, to be honest and fearless about seeing where systemic racism is thriving in our teams, companies, and products. This won’t be easy or quick work. After all, this country has invested in racist systems for 500 years. Changing them won’t happen overnight. But we won’t back down from this challenge. This is our time.