Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion with ALPFA UIUC president, Brian Oviedo

Taylor Moreno
March 21, 2022

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI): it’s so much more than a title or a line in your company’s mission statement.

It’s building an inclusive community that encourages continued growth for everyone, regardless of their background.

But how do you build such a community? We sat down with Brian Oviedo, former ALPFA president, and Paragon One’s Diversity & Engagement Intern (during the fall of 2021) to answer some questions.

What is ALPFA, and what is your role?

Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA) empowers Latinos by providing opportunities, resources, and space for networking. I’m the former president of the University of Illinois’s student chapter. I used to work at a restaurant taking orders. I was miserable. Now I’m getting relocated across the country while getting paid for doing work I’m passionate about. ALPFA helped change my mindset and taught me how to maneuver the networking and corporate world.

What do you think the best approach is for diversity inclusion?

Building a diverse pipeline is the first thing companies must work on, but this can be hard because some students don’t know about opportunities. The hardest part isn’t getting students in the talent pool but making sure inclusion is driven throughout the company. It’s important to build culture, make sure everyone knows the mission, and raise awareness of implicit bias.

First, a company should start with mission goals and transparency with diversity reporting. Also, opportunities that have employee resource groups are significant. When I was searching for companies to work at, I asked about the DEI initiatives and ERGs. I noticed some companies didn’t prioritize creating inclusive spaces, and therefore I chose not to join. I needed to see representation because it’s motivating to see other people like me succeeding and seeking mentorship.

Do you feel that organizations need to change how they currently think of diversity?

You hear pipelines everywhere with diversity, but companies need to emphasize the experience during the recruiting process. It can feel like you're just treated like a number or like valuable cargo. Companies will pay a pretty buck to get diverse talents, but if it doesn't work, they'll immediately pivot to the next diverse student organizations. It's essential to be more mindful when recruiting and not abrasive when giving job offers.

You can see this in the recruitment process of business fraternities. They need to meet diversity quotas to reach out to multi-cultural organizations. In the interview process, you begin to see implicit bias when interviewing. The social fit questions in the process make the interviewers think: Do you speak like me? Act like me? Are you the same as me? This social fit criterion is a significant problem when the organizations are predominantly white as it continues to leave diverse students out.

The same thing happens in corporate America. Recruiters need training to recognize implicit biases during the interview process. Some people don't have interview experience or parents who have interviewed. Companies should provide inclusion resources before the interviewing process. Google gives a document that details how to interview with Google and recruiting office hours if you have questions. Before the interview, companies should set up diversity programs that help expose students to resources to get them in the company and feel included.

What, according to you, are the pain points that you've noticed keep students from underrepresented backgrounds grabbing the best opportunities?

Students don't apply, especially first-gen students, because they don't know what's there and don't feel qualified. You see more white male candidates who are very confident in their qualifications because they have people in their circle who have gone through the process. When you don't have someone in your circle who pushes you or helps with interview prep, resume-writing, etc., you don't even get to the applying part. Exposure is a huge part of not feeling imposter syndrome, thus applying.

How have you worked to promote Paragon One’s Partnership with ALPFA?

I joined Paragon One as a Diversity Engagement Intern. I wanted to continue to empower members of ALPFA with externship opportunities. I drove 98 applications from students across the nation by networking with five ALPFA chapters. To do this, I thought, "What platforms do I have access to, and how can I be a resource without shoving marketing materials?" I accessed the ALPFA president's GroupMe chat and asked if anyone wanted to hop on a Zoom call to learn how to do corporate sponsorship packages. I would then walk them through how our chapter got up to 13 sponsors this year and show them how to get their first one with Paragon One. As a result, 28 applicants through ALPFA completed the PwC externship program and said they found it very valuable. When running for leadership within ALPFA, they even mentioned the PwC externship and its application to philanthropy.

These are just a few of the ways Brian Oviedo shows to improve DEI in your company. To follow his journey, find him on LinkedIn & TikTok.

Paragon One runs remote externship programs (powered by our software) for PwC, Facebook/Meta, Pfizer, National Geographic, Snapchat, Cargill, HP, etc., to provide an opportunity to underserved students through professional experiences. We scale these externships to many students while minimizing the impact on manager/HR time at companies.

To stay up to date with externships and daily career tips follow us here: Let's be friends!

Interested in running your remote externship program that targets diverse talent? Reach out at matt@paragonone.com.

Taylor Moreno

As a content strategist, Taylor focuses on telling Paragon One’s story through social media content, blog posts, and more! When she’s not creating, you can find her wandering around a foreign city or writing at her local coffee shop.

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