Recently our CEO, Courtney Williams, submitted a Letter to the Editor of the Times-Picayune, an award-winning daily newspaper published in New Orleans, Louisiana. The letter appeared in the paper’s print edition and also online on NOLA.com. Here we are sharing the full text of that letter. We are proud that Courtney continues to be a leader not only in the field of teacher professional development, but also within the tech community in New Orleans, our company’s hometown.
To view the letter online including reader comments, click here to visit NOLA.com.
Letter to the Editor, published June 23, 2017
In 2015 I relocated Torsh, my edtech startup, from New York City to New Orleans. I was not only seduced by the cultural milieu that is this 300-year-old city, but I was also drawn by the promise of a thriving tech entrepreneurial ecosystem and one of the most generous tax incentive programs in the country.
What no one told me, though, was how hard it would be to find highly-skilled and qualified professionals to help my team grow.
As a black entrepreneur with a strong interest in contributing to the revitalization and continued growth of post-Katrina New Orleans, I am deeply committed to hiring locals and people of color. Since people of color make up approximately 65 percent of New Orleans’ population, I assumed that a diverse workforce would be relatively easy to achieve.
Yet, here I sit with multiple open positions at my company and seemingly no one to fill them. Admittedly, we are not a big company — we are a growing team of 12. However, what’s striking is that not a single member of my team was born or raised in New Orleans and only two are from Louisiana. Besides me, only two are black. We’re all essentially outsiders.
We often speak of the “brain drain” that happens in poor countries, where the best and brightest leave to pursue education and careers elsewhere. It feels like we have a similar problem right here in our own backyard.
Or maybe it’s something else entirely. Are we the problem? Has the tech community done a poor job of making students and young adults aware of the many high-paying jobs that are available right here in New Orleans? How do we find these young adults, many of whom are people of color who are graduating from our high schools and universities, and let them know we have jobs for them and want them to stay here?
New Orleans is a rising city. Over the past few years, we’ve become a technology hub on par with, and in some cases, ahead of Charleston, Raleigh and Austin. But a future as a tech hot spot is not guaranteed. Unless skilled New Orleanians pursue careers here, New Orleans’ days as a thriving tech hub may be numbered.
The future of New Orleans rests in the hands of the people who are from here and have a vested interest in securing its future. If you are out there, and you are reading this, your city needs you. I need you. And my fellow tech entrepreneurs need you. Stay here, or come back here, and put your skills to work for New Orleans.
Co-founder and CEO, Torsh