Most people know me as ‘The Career Guy.’ A confident, fun, and charismatic CEO who carries a lifetime of knowledge and loves sharing that wisdom with others.
That guy is a recent discovery.
While my career has been all about shaping careers, in college I had no idea who I was. I was gay, and very much in the closet. I didn’t love – or even know – myself, which made it difficult for others to know and love me, too.
The one thing I did know was that more than anything in the world, I wanted to have kids. A family. That was my ultimate goal.
Today, I consider more than 4,000 college-aged students (and that number keeps growing!) ‘my kids.’
Interestingly enough, my career after college has allowed me to become the person that I wish I could have been during college.
I remember bringing my husband to campus for the first time, a few years after I started working in career services. I had us dropped off far from where my office was located – just so we had to walk throughout the college grounds. I wanted him to see how many kids knew me by name, and how they loved me, just like I loved them.
For a while, I was embarrassed to share that story. But now, I’m more than proud of it. That is me as my authentic self, proud of who I am – as a husband to Matthew and a father to little Byron. I thrive off of affirmation, and understand that my love for (and from) “my kids” stems from me not having the opportunity to be that person, or my person, during my college years.
This is a fundamental part of why I founded HIVE DIVERSITY. To empower next-generation talent with a platform to realize and share their authentic selves with others during the recruitment process.
That sounds simple to some, but for me, it became clear only after meeting Will Copeland – who is now HIVE’s Head of Finance and Strategic Operations.
Back in 2016, during his sophomore summer, Will reached out to me, asking to meet, after I had advised him while he was pursuing a career in finance. Will knew I was a member of the LGBTQ+ community, and he was struggling with how to – or even if he should – share his identity as a trans man during the recruitment process with potential employers.
The two of us met at a Starbucks in Soho. At the beginning of that conversation, I remember being frustrated and confused that he didn’t see the immense value being his authentic self would offer to a future employer. But that feeling morphed into a realization that when I was in his seat, I had not seen the value of doing the exact same thing.
Will walked away from our meeting inspired to openly share his identity in the context of how it made him a valuable candidate, while I walked away with the feeling that I needed to do something bigger, something to help as many students as possible understand the awesomeness of being their authentic selves.
It wasn’t long after that conversation with Will that I cast my nerves aside and decided to start building HIVE DIVERSITY. I set out to empower the next generation of talent with the ability to self-identify and share an ever-evolving range of diverse backgrounds and experiences with employers. Four years later, in October of 2020, thanks to the hard work of an incredible team of designers, innovators, and people passionate about creating systemic change, HIVE launched to the world.
Since then, HIVE has partnered with companies like Accenture, Wells Fargo, Chobani, Steve Madden, Saks Fifth Avenue, Atlantic Records, Michael Kors, and the International Rescue Committee. HIVE has also joined forces with amazing organizations like The Opportunity Network, Out for Undergrad and SEO Career, who are all working to empower diverse next-gen talent.
But I can’t talk about HIVE’s success without talking about Chinenye Onyeike.
A senior at NYU, Chinenye is celebrating her upcoming internship at SiriusXM. She recently told me that as the child of two Nigerian immigrants who are in the medical field, before joining HIVE she felt that a career in media and entertainment seemed too far out of reach. However, HIVE taught her that “being authentically you will make you the perfect candidate for what you want.”
This knowledge inspired her to share a piece of her personal life, her podcast The Court, with future employers, and this helped her land a dream opportunity in an industry that, a year ago, she thought was impossible.
At HIVE, we celebrate student success stories like Chinenye’s everyday. But for me, the point of this story isn’t just that HIVE empowers students like Chinenye, and many others, to bring their authentic selves to the workforce.
It has also done the same for me.