Profiles in Leadership: Diverse Voices

Ventera Database Administrator/Developer Peter Ezekwenna

How do you work with people to create or foster diversity in the workplace?

During my tenure as a college professor (1999-2010), my colleagues and I leveraged grants from NASA and MHEC (Maryland Higher Education Commission) for outreach programs to recruit middle schoolers and high schoolers from underrepresented communities to increase their representation in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) career fields. We implemented summer and Saturday academies that focused on mathematics, computer science, and engineering including fun activities-based learning, SAT English prep, college prep activities, and field trips.

I helped foster diversity in the workplace by creating, leading, and working in programs that reached out to underrepresented groups and creating a pipeline for people who could eventually go into the workplace. By starting with students and young people, we were able to give them the opportunities they need to be successful in their careers.

Has diversity played a role in your leadership style? How have your past experiences influenced how you approach your work, your colleagues, and the world as a whole?

Diversity has played a monumental role in my leadership style having lived, studied, and worked in 3 different continents (Africa, Europe, and North America). Being exposed to several different cultures has made me feel more comfortable leading and working with diverse groups of people.

My past experiences from when I came to the United States and started teaching at the University of Missouri-Rolla and later at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore have influenced how I approach my efforts. I saw the realities of underrepresented students in education and how they were ill-equipped to succeed and I compared that to my other teaching opportunities in Nigeria and France. This perspective showed me the true impact on black people and other underrepresented groups. It opened my eyes and made me want to help those students be more prepared and be successful in their career paths so they could eventually succeed in the workplace.

What does it mean to you to have a commitment to diversity and inclusion? How do you think we can continue to support the need for social change?

Having a commitment to diversity and inclusion is a necessity. Having diverse voices within your teams enriches each team member’s experience and helps bring clarity to any blind spots they might have by exposing them to new perspectives.

I think Ventera can continue to support the need for social change by prioritizing diverse and inclusive recruitment, reaching out to people from underserved communities, and giving them opportunities. Another way we can do this is by creating internship programs specifically for students in underrepresented groups, giving them the opportunity to grow and be successful in the workplace.

What does it mean to you to be African American?

I see African Americans as two groups of people; the enslaved people who came to the US and the people that came to the US from African countries to have a better life. I identify with the latter group, I am fully African and continually becoming American as well, so I recognize the socio-cultural differences within the African-American race and will continue to do my part to create a more nurturing environment for the underrepresented.