Veni Kunche runs Diversify Tech, a newsletter-based business all about helping people who are underrepresented break into the tech world. After working as a Software Engineer since 2003, her main goal now is to help make the tech industry inclusive.
Veni’s got a really interesting business model: a mix of sponsorships and also a job board, taking advantage of the robust community that surrounds her newsletter.
Nathan and Veni cover everything from how she transitioned from working in tech to starting her business. They dive deep into the mistakes companies make when seeking to hire a diverse team, and and what they can do differently.
Veni also shares real numbers. Listen to the end to hear:
• How much she’s making per month from her newsletter.
• How her revenue has changed over the last year.
• How the pandemic has affected her sign-ups.
Links & Resources
Veni Kunche’s Links
Companies write job descriptions, they’re writing for mainly men in tech. Also they’re writing for younger people. Oh, we have ping pong. We have pool at our office. Those are the benefits. My community don’t even care about that. What they care about is focused on how the company will support them in their career.
And so those are the signals that they’re looking for.
Today’s interview is with Veni Kunche who runs a newsletter-based business called Diversify Tech, which is all about helping people who are underrepresented break into the tech world. She’s got a really interesting business model of a mix of sponsorships, a job board, which I think is a business model on newsletters that we don’t talk about enough when you have that community.
There’s a great opportunity there. Anyway, it’s a great episode. We cover everything from how she got started, transitioning from tech to starting her newsletter. We dive deep into companies who are looking to hire a diverse team and mistakes they make and what they can do differently, how transparency really matters.
So there’s a lot of good stuff in there. Towards the end of the podcast, she gets into sharing the exact numbers behind the business, how much she’s making per month, how that’s changed over the last year. I think you’re going to love it.
Let’s dive in.
Veni, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much for having me happy to be here.
So I thought I’d just start. If you could tell listeners a little bit, what is Diversify Tech and, you know, at a high level, like what’s the business model behind it.
Yeah. So Diversify Tech is a curated newsletter, primary purpose is to connect people who are underrepresented in tech with career opportunities. So I share scholarships that are available, jobs, events that are happening, around the U.S. so the main purpose is to connect, people who are underrepresented, to these opportunities.
The reason I started it is because when you’re underrepresented, when you’re in your workplace or in your college at college, or wherever you feel where you’re alone, and you don’t really have a network, of people like you. So I wanted to bring something where I could be that resource for people.
Yeah, that makes sense. So when you were working as a software developer in tech was this an idea that you were thinking about for a long time and you’re like someone should make this, and then you realized that that someone was you, what was that? What was that leap?
So actually like, had no intention of starting something like this. It was, I actually just wanted to start a business. I didn’t know what that was. so I was a staff engineer for quite some time and I didn’t quite fit into the corporate world. I kept switching jobs a lot, so I was like one day I was like, you know what?
I think I want to try something on my own. So I started exploring how does one start a business? How does one? And I, you know, I learned that, you know, it takes quite some time to figure out who your customers are, customer market fit, you know, all of that. And as I was learning, I was also volunteering for the women who code chapter in DC here.
And, as I was volunteering, I connected with a lot of women in tech and that’s when I realized that there are a lot more, floods than I thought, and blah, and everybody was trying to find each other kind of, to feel connected and to kind of talk through this, you know, our issues. and I started doing just online office hours.
So I was like for 30 minutes, I would just get on Google Hangouts and talk with people. And I got connected with so many people from across the U.S. just by offering that. And then that’s when I realized, okay, everybody’s. It’s facing similar issues and we’re all discussing the same thing over in Oregon.
So I thought, Oh, why don’t I start a newsletter where I can reach more people. So prior to Diversify Tech, I started a newsletter called Code With Veni, and I was like, Oh, I’ll share what I’m learning. And I will also, you know, share what other women in tech are doing. and you know, it was more supposed to be like inspirational and, you know, that’s how it started.
And after a year of running that I started getting requests for sponsorships. People want it to sponsor the newsletter. People wanted to post jobs. Uh that’s when it finally clicked that I was like, Oh, I’m starting trying to start a business. And I think I actually started, okay. So that’s what it is like, Oh, once I started getting, receiving his foundation of, so I was like, Oh, this could be my business.
So that’s when I was like, then I kind of pivoted off of good with many. Cause I didn’t want the branding to be just me. So, and then I also wanted to include not just women, but everybody who’s underrepresented in tech. So that’s when I kind of like Diversify Tech from that.
It’s always fascinating. How, when you build an audience, sometimes like the, the business model will just come, you know, or the business will just come and you’re like, I don’t know what it is. And then over time, someone’s like, Oh, could I do this? And you’re like, I mean, I guess so like, sure. Yeah.
Let’s talk sponsorships. That’s a great idea. Let’s you know, and then I imagine people are like, great, can I sponsor with my job listing, you know, or something like that. I’m trying to get it in front of a more diverse community. And so it was that where like the job board came in,
Yes. As I started growing the newsletter sponsorships kind of, didn’t make it like, but sense because the demand was higher than I, because I send the newsletter every week, you know, I can’t have that many sponsors showing ads. So I was like, Oh, okay. Maybe I’ll start a job board itself. And I will include job ads in the newsletter plus also on the website.
So that’s how the idea came.
What was a moment in that process where you thought like, Oh, this could actually be, be the business that I’ve been trying to start.
Yeah. Yeah. I think that, you know, the first time was, you know, when I got my first sponsor, with coated venue, and it was what they were willing to pay me was much, much higher than I was expecting. I thought I would get like a hundred dollars or something. And I thought, and my first sponsor with all the whole package, they signed me up for like a three month contract.
And I think they pay me like $10,000 for it. I was like, Holy cow, like, this is how much money one can make.
How many subscribers did you have at the time?
At that time I heard about 1500 hoping.
Yeah, so that’s a substantial sponsorship.
Yeah. Yeah. So that’s when it finally clicked that I was like, Oh, I can do this, turn this into a business. and then with diverse tech, when I started again, I started with smaller numbers.
It took a while for the job board to gain traction. and because I think I was very strict in who I wanted as customers. and then after a year about running, I think it worked it spread through word of mouth. Cause I’d run the job board slightly differently compared to other job boards. I asked companies for like their demographics, you know, are you actually diverse right now?
And also like, what are you doing exactly to, you know, diversify your company? What are you doing to include people? And so I have all of those questions, so it took some while to get traction, because I don’t think people wanted to share that information at the beginning. But as time went on, I think people realize the strength, the strength in like growing a diverse team and, and too word of mouth.
The job board itself started growing. that’s man last year at the beginning of last year, I quit my job. I was like, okay, I think, I can do this, run this as a business. And I wanted to focus on growth and that’s when I quit my job last year and started working on the newsletter and the job board.
Nice. I’m curious for that different angle that you took on. I guess asking each of the companies who want to post a job for like, okay, but what are you besides paying money to post a job? What effort are you actually putting in? What progress have you made so far? was that a hard decision, especially in the early days?
Or was it something that you’re like, no, this is the way that, you know, diversified texts are actually create change.
Yeah. so it was, it was a hard decision in the sense that when I got my first few sponsors, what had happened was I was sponsored by a company, you know, on the surface, everything looked great. but then it turned and they did hire somebody from my community. And then a few months later, I found out that, this person, a women of color who was hired by this company was having a terrible experience of this, company.
And that’s when I realized that, okay, I can just expand whoever, I need to do. because this had like a real life impact on somebody just because, you know, I chose to take them as a sponsor. And that’s when I was like, okay, this is like serious. I need to really need to figure out who I’m having as a sponsor.
I think at the beginning, I didn’t realize. What that meant, you know, by taking somebody as a sponsor, by having somebody on the job board, I was giving a message that this is a safe place for people who are underrepresented in tech. so I didn’t quite understand that, but once after that situation happened, then that’s when I realized.
So when I started oversupply tech on the job board, I was like, I have to make sure, you know, the sort of thing doesn’t happen. I mean, I can’t, I don’t have full control over it. Right. But I try my best not to have that situation happen again.
Yeah, that, that’s interesting because you know anything from your newsletter that you link out to, or all of that people take it as some sort of an endorsement, whether, you know, it’s not, you necessarily signing on to endorse and love everything about that brand, but. Right. You have this trust and credibility and, your readers are like at once.
You wouldn’t have linked to it, if it wasn’t good, which kind of puts you in a hard place because you don’t have necessarily enough information to make a full endorsement of a company. And so I liked the way that you’ve done it with, with systems like, for, you know, everyone listening. If you go to Diversify Tech.co and go to the job board, right.
You call out specifically, that it’s remote, you know, the, the countries that, you know, the company’s hiring from the salary, and you know, a salary arrangement. So many people are just like, yeah, well, we’ll share the salary when we get to the final interview stage and you go through this whole thing.
And you’re like, I was expecting a salary of 140,000, and now they’re offering 110 because maybe they, I think they can get away with it or, you know, whatever other things. Or, you know, as, as you’re applying for this company, I imagine people are like going to the about page and looking at a sea of a hundred or 200 faces and going, what team would I be joining?
Am I going to be the only one? And so I love that you call it specifically. There’s three people on the, on the team, in this role. One is a person of color, you know, one is a woman, you know, and, and you’ve standardized that really well. So anyway, I am a huge fan.
Are there things that you tried to standardize in, you know, in that listing that didn’t actually work, you know, information that you tried to provide up front that, you know, maybe you weren’t able to
I think at the beginning I was a bit, yeah. relaxed, in the sense that I made it, all of those fields, optional. so when I made that optional, I realized that people just weren’t sharing it. So that’s one thing I did is like I made the salary, required Field. I made, you know, the team members required Field.
Don’t so things like that. And I also made, you know, ask them, you know, what, what are you doing in terms of making a change within your company? So all of that over time, I actually made them required. and when I did that, I thought I would get less and less customers, but it turns out actually I ended up getting more and more customers.
And then also, people started sharing that information willingly, which built trust in the community, which means they, you know, spread the word out more. so it like worked out in both ways. so standardized in the way that I made, I am a little bit strict and like what I ask.
I like that. It makes for a more unique community and a more unique product that, you know, that you’re putting out there because someone can scroll through that and you’re, you’re effectively saving them much time. Cause they were going to jump over to the about page and try to like piece together some of this information.
And so you did it for them. So I like that. we’ll come back to the, the story of growing it and all of that, but we’ll, while we’re on the topic of. You know, actually, you know, diversity and tech and all that. I’m curious, what are some of those signals that, you know, job secrets from underrepresented minorities pick up on in the job postings and maybe on the other side, what are the things that, you look at when you see a listing?
And you’re like, Oh no, what are you, what are you doing? You know? And then maybe some of the things that you really celebrate and say like, okay, this company is putting out a great effort.
Yeah. Yeah. I think, people who are represent underrepresented, they kind of want to know what they’re getting themselves into kind of, so that’s why I asked the demographics, because some people maybe they’re used to being the only person on the team and they’re fine being the only minority on the team, but they know that information upfront instead of, going through the whole interview process.
And some people are very strictly, like, I will not work for a team that is not diverse, but so they get that information upfront. And, and in terms of, job descriptions, people do want to know kind of, I think traditionally when people and companies write job descriptions, they, I think they have, you know, they’re writing for mainly like, men in tech, specifically like men in tech and are like, they also might think they’re writing for a younger people.
I don’t know. That’s what it seems like. You know, they like, Oh, we have ping pong, or we have a pool at our office, you know, that that’s, those are the benefits that they list. and like my community, like a lot of them just don’t even care about that. They don’t care if they have, you have food at the cafe, you know, at the office, or if you have, you know, if you do happy hours, like they don’t care about that stuff.
What they care about is like, you know, well, how much paid time off, is material? How much maternity leave are you going to give? Are you going to support us in our career? Like, is there a stipend for learning, like a learning for coaching? so they’re more focused on, they’re trying to get a idea of like how the company will support them in their career.
And, and as, as them as a person. So those are the signals that they’re looking for. And in the most generic job description, it’s very hard to tell, because they don’t give that information. So people have to go to the, as you were saying, like, well, page, see who was working there. and so, so I think that’s, I think people need to, companies need to shift their mindset from like, okay, we’re writing something and we’re trying to attract a much, much broader group and, you know, have to think about what they care about.
Right. and, yeah. And, and the things are, sometimes the job description, again, targeted to men. So they might say he will be doing this, you know, they actually use, like the. Say something like that. Yeah. So they think that there are tools out there. There’s one tool called the gender decoder, I think, where you run, put the job description and then it’ll tell you if you’re using, feminine, coded words or like, like it does the job description, seem like it’s being written for like masculine, coded words.
So things like that you can check through. But in general, I think it’s before writing the job description, governments really have to think about like, okay, we’re not writing how we used to. We need to change. And we need to think about who all or all the different kinds of people, that we’re writing for.
Even calling, calling out things like, yeah. Time off opportunities, flexibility as parents, you know, those sorts of things versus talking about hustle and bean bag chairs and ping buying and you know, all of that.
Yeah. I forgot to mention, on top of that, as we were saying, you know, salary is very important to have to on the job I’ve been seeing more and more companies do that, which is awesome, because, depending on the look, the location and what people are shooting for, you know, that doesn’t fit, they can choose not to go through the whole interview process only to learn later that, you know, the salary doesn’t match them.
And other things. I also, actually, I started asking companies like what, their interview processes, like, that’s been a big thing because my community has basically told me that if they do buy important reviews just don’t have them. So I actually made that again later. I was like, if your company does whiteboard, interviews, I’m sorry, we’re not a good fit cause nobody’s going to apply to it.
So that’s been another thing to kind of share what kind of interviewing, that that companies are using because based on that interview process also can like, you know, make it exclusionary to second people. For example, I’ve never, ever done well on a whiteboard interview. I am somebody who cannot think.
Right, like right on the spot. and somebody who has to think Passage that Ella tell over that answer. so that they are take-home makes sense. Who, which can be much long, which can take quite long for some people. And they can see other job board. If it’s it’s something that will take them hours, they’ll probably choose not to do it.
You know, things like that. So for companies also have to think about like the interview process, what are they, who are they making it easy for and who they might be excluding?
Yeah, I like that. I’m realizing the product that you’re providing, you know, both the companies and, you know, but especially to your community is really all about expectations and saying, I’m going to give you as much information as possible about this job opportunity upfront so that it can set your expectations.
And so exactly as you’re saying of like, if you’re one of those people who is okay being, you know, the only one in a category on, on their team, you know, that upfront, you know, you know what the salary is upfront, you know, all of this. And, you know, I love that like hiring is such an opaque process like you and I, from our side, we try to make like, run our hiring processes as best we can, but even we’ll find times that, like we went through a whole bunch of candidates and we waited a week longer to send a letdown email to people that, you know, we weren’t going to move forward with then than we intended to or something like that.
And so, just setting those expectations is huge. I’m curious on the hiring process, you know, or, or things that other companies are doing in that, like what makes for a great hiring process when startups asked you like, How should we, how should we improve? You know, what of the things that you point them to and make sure that they want to change so they can have more success.
Yeah. As, you know, as you were saying, I think transparency is one of the most important things because there’s a lot of stress and anxiety in world, when people are interviewing, and the ma the more of the company can be transparent about everything, like salary of the interviewing the timeline, when they’re going to hire all of that, you know, reduces that anxiety quite a bit for candidates.
I think the other thing is I think a lot of people also want feedback too. If things didn’t work out, why it didn’t work out. I know it’s hard for, to give feedback for everything. but that’s something that our community asks for a lot. and, and one of the things that I, I hope companies move away from is kind of like the culture fit, injuries, sick.
They do a lot of underrepresented people in tech. Think of culture, fit interviews as a way of basically, excluding people who are not like the founders or who are not like. Who are not like the managers. So that means a lot of my New, these will not be cultural fits for a lot of companies. If you think of it that way, or, you know, some companies think culture fit as something that’s values.
Like maybe, the company has certain values. and, but nobody really knows. So every the interviewer, thinks one thing, the founder thinks one thing, the manager. So they all have different views of what, what culture fit actually means. So at all these different processes, they use their own version of culture fit, and there might be excluding people who are actually qualified.
So I really hope like companies move away from that. because right now, a lot of underrepresented people think of culture fit and reuse as basically racist that they’re just excluding. if people who are not, who are not like the founders, I answered the Mo mostly those, and in terms of, diversity, one of the issues that has been coming up is companies try to put, they put a lot of effort in branding and marketing, rather than the actual process.
Whenever somebody says, Hey, we do care about diversity. We want to do this. So they put all their effort in like Marketing. Like they want to seem like they are a good company. Which maybe they are, or maybe now, but they don’t actually go through the work of internally seeing our Day, you know, how, how they treat their employees.
Is it, do the current employees like the company, do they feel okay sharing whatever’s on their mind? so they don’t do the internal review instead when they choose to, they, they go more outward, like, okay, we are, are we, that’s what they keep proclaiming the message. And sometimes when, you know what, some of us will believe it, and then we will go interview, we’ll get hired and then we’ll go.
And then it’s like, Oh gosh, this is not what you said. you know, so I think companies also need to kind of look more internally before they try to recruit more candidates.
Yeah. I mean, the process matters so much. And so I love spelling out the steps in the process and, and. An all of that. I’m curious, let’s see, just thinking about these companies and there’s so many of them that say like, okay, we’re going to, this is the way that I feel like company would talk because it’s the way that we stopped at different times of like, okay, as we hire for these eight roles, in 2021, we’re really going to work to increase the diversity of the team.
What are some of the things that, especially from a company that’s not already diverse, you know, what are some of those things that they can immediately do to start to, move down that path and have like jobs that to be well received. And, and all that one thing that even you touched on a second ago is you can even spell it in your job listing.
We will give feedback to every candidate who we interview. Maybe we’re not gonna, we can’t give feedback to every candidate who applies and maybe. But actually, I guess if you wanted to make your job listing stand out, you could offer to do that. And you might give feedback to 150 200 people or something.
What are the, what are some of those other things that, companies can do when they’re really just starting that journey?
Yeah. I think for setting, making connections with communities, I know like some companies, you know, will have connections with the university of different types of universities. If they’re hiring for college grads or they’ll have connections with meetups or organizations. so similarly I think they should diversify that, you know, that’s a good way of like networking to CA with candidates.
So there are like so many meetups communities, online, like there’s black tech pipeline, there’s tech, Korea. there is out in tech, there are so many organizations now. I think, you know, first step would be do, Connect with those communities and get to know them, and see what they’re are looking for, like what their candidates are looking for.
And in terms of, the hiring process, I think recently I had somebody post a job and they had to immediately take it as two days later because they got so many job posting, so many applications. And one of the things they did was in there for the interview process, they said, Oh, we’re just going to have a casual conversation about what you had previously done, for your work.
And candidates loved that because black people who have experienced, they are very, very tired of going through the same process that everybody is going through of like taking a coding test to go doing this. There’s like so much. And when you’re applying for jobs, it takes, it’s a lot of effort.
Sometimes it becomes like your part-time full-time job just to apply and do all these take on exams. So one of the ways this company stood out was that, Oh, we’re going to review your previous experience to see if we’re a fit. so I think, you know, where to stand out is actually to make it easier for the candidates.
I know it’s harder on the company side when you get, but I think if you know what you truly want, I think you can make your job description a little bit more transparent because if you list like 10 different things, candidates know that you’re not expecting them to know all the time, different things.
So people from all of those. Different requirements will apply. So you’ll get a lot of applicants, but if you’re aware of strict and say, I want these things, and that’s actually what you want. I think it helps the candidate to know, okay, this am I a good fit or not? and also truly list, I guess the big problem with job descriptions is that no one actually knows what the job is based on the job description, because it’s just seems like you’re going to do everything.
Which, which I know is that, is that the actual actually true? I think being strict on both sides, like, describing what actually you want and also interviewing for exactly that,
Yeah. And so one thing that I hear in that is a level of transparency, like we talked about before, but also I’m saying that as a company you’re willing to take on some of that work, right? Because in a lot of interview processes, you know, the company is getting hundreds of applications, I think for a typical engineering role at ConvertKit we get between 200 and 300 applications.
And so it’s very easy to fall into this habit of like, okay, we have really limited time. So how can we screen the candidates and put as much work on the candidates as possible? You know, so that it saves our time as a company. And so if you’re trying to stand out, what you’re talking about is like, no, we’ll actually take on more of that work.
We’ll give resumes at detailed review it, we won’t put you through the same canned process of like, let me ask each person these same exact five questions and all of that. And instead you’ll jump on a call and be like, Hey, it’s great to meet you. You know, like be conversational, personable, and just be like, let me learn about you, you know, in a genuine conversation rather than like this sterile formal interview process.
And it sounds like those are things that people would really like.
Yeah. Yes, I think so. I think everybody in part, part of a lot of, different communities and everybody’s so tired of just the interview process mainly, you know, they applied and also app applications and writing cover letter for each of them and uploading resumes. I mean, if they’re, you know, on the company side, you know, it might be that you’re getting, you know, 200 applicants, but on the candidate side, they might also be applying for that many jobs for, but for each job, they had to put an effort for the application, for the, you know, the resume, the cover letter.
If there’s a take-home exam, if there’s a code test at the beginning, all of that, like really, really adds up
Later on in a hiring process, you know, if you’re doing a code test or a homework assignment or something like that, what are we doing? I ConvertKit is we do have that project. I think it’s capped at five hours and it’s, I’m trying to remember the exact details. I think it’s paid at $75 an hour, which is not like an incredible, you know, rate for anything like that.
But we’re trying to demonstrate like, Hey, this is the time that you’re putting in. This is, Everything else. So I’m, I’m curious, is paying for the, you know, those homework assignments, something that is really well received by candidates.
Yes. Yes, definitely. I just got an email this morning from somebody saying that they went through an interview process and they didn’t know about it, but they did get, paid for the intro, the take home part. And she said that that was really nice of the company. So yes, that definitely helps if you do take home exams, and take home tests.
And, another thing is when there are take-home tests, some companies are making it a little bit. Too much. Like sometimes some of these, they take like a whole week, to work on the project. So if you’re applying to a lot of job working on a take-home project for like that it’ll take four hours.
That’s a lot, that’s a lot. So I’m glad that, you know, for ConvertKit it’s, you said five hours. So I think that’s like a reasonable time. And on top of that, if it’s paid, but there, yeah, I think companies need to be mindful of that too, because the candidates are applying to a lot of jobs and they can’t be spending all their time just doing a take home exams.
Yeah, that makes sense. When they realized that we used to do at ConvertKit, that we don’t really do anymore. And I’m not sure why is we used to do a lot of like, contract to hire. And so, you know, we would find someone that was really good. And, then we’d say like, okay, we think we want to do this, but let’s do for 10 hours a week for the next three weeks or something.
Well, they have their other role or, or something like that. Let’s do this actual project that we’re paying full rates for that is legitimately useful to us. But we’ll have been straight that like, we work well together, you know, as a candidate, you’re a good communicator you can deliver on the code and that kind of thing.
I feel like that used to be a thing maybe three, four years ago in the industry. And now it, I don’t think it is at all anymore.
take on that
Yeah. I think that’s a hard one. and again, it’s the whole time aspect of it because people don’t want to quit their other job while they’re, so they’re still doing their other job and probably have, you know, if you’re a parent, you have, other things that you’re taking care of. So on top of that to do another, you know, contract work, I think that might be the main reason, for my community.
At least that’ll be a hard one for them to do. More work on top of that of things. but in terms of assessment, I agree that is a good way to like, get to know the candidate and see if you fit. But I think it’s the time constraint. That might be the issue.
As, you know, more and more people are being hired into tech. And, people trying to break into tech are in a better and better position. You know, it’s one of those things where, you know, a really talented candidate might have quite a few offers. And so if one of them has like this, yeah, we’d love to have you.
And we’re just doing this contract project to make sure. And this other one is just like, we would love to have you, can you start, you know, then you’re like, ah, I think I’ll go with this one. Yeah. And so then just to be competitive, I mean, it’s sort of, I don’t know if this is a good analogy or not, but like I think about re you know, real estate markets in, like in Boise where I am, the real estate market is absolutely insane right now.
And so it is a hundred percent in the buyers, or sorry, in the sellers favor right now, you know, and that’d be the same thing we’re in, in tech, the, the job market, it feels to me to be very in the candidates favor right now. Wow. Which is amazing. Cause then it’s going to bring in, you know, salaries, keep climbing and everything else.
Yeah. I’ve been seeing a lot of like really high salaries lately, which is good as well. I do want to add that it seems to be, candidates side, if you’re like more on the senior side though. Unfortunately for like entry levels and people who are trying to get into tech, it is highly competitive for them.
There are, especially because companies just don’t seem to be hiring anybody on the entry level side. Which is, which makes it hard. And in, and in the past few years, you know, like bootcamps, all of these, like whole lot of people have generated lots of people who want to get into tech. but because there isn’t that much demand for entry level positions.
Right now there’s ton of people who are still looking for their first job. So on the, you know, on the people who are trying to enter tech, it’s a, unfortunately it’s pretty hard for them. and for, people who aren’t represented, I know some people who’ve been looking for a job for like the past two, three years, and they still haven’t found a job.
And when an entry-level posting does open up, it’s just like, they get so many job applications that they have to like close it off right away. Yeah. It’s hard. So it’s like, it depends on where you’re in your career. Like for the beginners is definitely hard for them right now.
That’s interesting. and I, I’m thinking about the entry level positions that we’ve posted and you’re absolutely right. They have a three, four times the number of candidates that a mid-level or senior physician would have. How do you think companies should balance that? Right. Cause obviously the company is trying to, they have their goals.
They’re trying to ship software on the schedule, but then at the same time, you know, building a diverse team, it’s not just in background and all of that. It’s also in skillset and level of, You know, how experienced is the team? What new perspectives are they bringing in and everything from there? how do you encourage companies to, to think about hiring entry-level to all the way up to senior and the mix that they have on their teams?
Yeah. I think, I think what’s happening right now is that most companies are hiring mostly like mid-level or senior. Like when I first started the job board, all the roles that I was getting were only senior roles. and my community was kept asking me for other roles and I’m like, you know, it was a hard position for me because that’s what companies were hiring for.
And lately I’ve been, asking the companies, you know, please do share, you know, mix of, roles, not just senior roles. that seems to have helped a little bit. I definitely have more mid-level roles now. I think in term for the company itself, well, I’ll give you an example of in my previous company, I used to work for the us geological survey as a software engineer, and it was a pretty mixed group.
Like I think we had at least, I think it was half and half. We had like five folks who were junior and rebel five folks who were senior. And we were pretty well. you know, we didn’t feel like we were, the juniors were taking that much, more of our time or anything like that. I think even there, I think it’s, when you set the expectations, I think, or the seniors that, you know, part of your job is to, you know, help the juniors and bring them along.
It helped them along in their career. I think, and the way we worked, you know, we were able to meet our deadlines. everything worked fine. I think there is. one thing I do want to say is like tech is also like. Always changing. So I feel like people are newbies sometimes to you and the seniors are Sundays newbies in certain technologies.
I know that people say, I want only a senior year, you know, developers or senior designers, but at the same time, they’re also new bees and they’re also continuously learning new things. So if you think about it from that way, you know, hiring a junior and helping them along, it is not that much different.
I think I know companies, they might be looking at the bottom line too, but in terms of like diversifying, I think if you want to, you know, include more on grips and people, I think it has to be from all levels. so if you think of it that way, I think you become these do need to figure out how they can.
Helped you in years. and, and so on. and also like every senior has to start as a junior, right. And I feel like the company that does help people who enter the market, they’ll be more loyal to them. For example, I was very, very loyal to the first company that I were hired me. I worked with them for two years.
I went to grad school and the end a few years later actually went back to them as a senior engineer. And I worked with them because I knew it was a GAP company. And I had, you know, I felt like it sounds weird loyal to them because they were the ones who helped me break into the industry. right now, when everybody wants to hire seniors, while it’s hard, it’s very competitive.
And they’re going to have to spend a lot of money into recruiting if they have to spend a lot of money for their salaries. but if, you know, if they spent all that effort and money on growing a junior, you know, they could, you know, And get somebody up to that level in a few years, you know that, but I feel like eventually the industry does need to hire at three levels, folks, because you’re not going to be able to get seniors all the time.
Yeah. I mean, the industry just needs so many more, more people and you know, that news for the companies, you can’t keep just trading the same senior engineers that you have to actually grow the pool. cause we just, we need more software engineers. I’d love to shift back to, Diversify Tech and, and your business.
Would you mind sharing some numbers as to, you know, where you’re at for subscribers and then, you know, any revenue numbers, anything like that, that you’re up for sharing?
So was FinTech. And so I started it in 2018. I was before I was looking up how many people I started with. So at that time, when I started, there were like 300 people in December when, July, 2018. That’s when I started, it was about 300 people. and since then, right now, we are at about 80, 8,600 subscribers, who, for the newsletter for underrepresented people in tech, and for revenue.
When I started, there was no job board. I started the job board around. December of 2018. I was getting above $500 per month in revenue at that time. And it took some time to grow and in last year, and in 2019 it grew to about $1,500 per month. and at that time I wasn’t doing any marketing, it was all through word of mouth.
So that’s when 2019 kept being consistent around 1500 to $2,000 per month. That’s when I was like, okay, I think I need to focus on it to grow it that I think I can make it bigger. That’s when I quit my job in 2020. and, unfortunately because of the pandemic, Asher did not have a chance to grow the.
I didn’t have time to, but the effort into it. but fortunately word of mouth still continued. and in June of last year it actually had like double, quite like the revenue jumped up quite a bit. I started making about $10,000 per month of June of last year. and right now I’m averaging about $17,000 per month in revenue, this year.
Yeah. That’s that’s fantastic.
Yeah. It’s, I’ve had a few spikes here and there. but that seems to be how it’s going now.
And so is that, or how does that split? Because you have Patrion, you have the job board and you also have sponsorships, is most of that driven by the job board.
Yes, it’s about 80% of it is from the job board. and then sponsorships, I haven’t been taking as much lately, but sponsorships are about 10%. and Patrion, I actually didn’t include Patrion in the number of sessions, but, right now I get about a thousand dollars per month. And through patrons.
Nice. So let’s say a solid baseline for, you know, expenses for running the newsletter and all that. Yeah. That’s good. What do you think about different ways to monetize a newsletter? You know, there there’s so many different people do paid newsletters, people do sponsorships, they sell products, everything else, you know, you’ve settled on your product, your main product being the job board, where there other monetization things that you’ve considered or, and I guess this makes it broad questions, but, just if someone’s coming to you and they’re like, Hey, I’m going to start a newsletter.
You know, what would you say to them about…
Yeah. I think, you know, it totally depends on their audience and you know, what the topic is. I know a lot of, lots of newsletters that are similar to mine. They have, paid version of it or they have a community. So one is paid where version, and which gives them some extra bonus, Content or they have a separate community.
And they charge for being part of the community and for extra perks, for me that didn’t quite. Fit with, my team and my audience, because one of the things I’m trying to do is, connect them with opportunities. And I don’t want to create any barriers for people. So that’s why I didn’t want to go the membership route or so I don’t actually charge my members for anything.
The newsletter itself is free. So I, that was that’s part of the mission to, to help now to help them, you know, connect with them opportunities. So that’s why I didn’t do that. But whereas for me, it’s, mine’s kind of like a tomorrow cited marketplace. So have my users who are underrepresented in tech.
And then, I have the customers who are trying to. You know, reach this audience. So that’s why for me, it made sense to go towards the other side of it. So companies who are trying to, you know, advertise, so initially sponsors ship is where we’re what I wanted to do. but it became a little bit tricky for my audience because sponsorship usually goes more towards branding and marketing.
And I didn’t know if that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted companies who are actually doing the work versus who want to make it seem like do it in the work and it becomes very tricky. so that’s why I’ve been reducing sponsorships a little bit, because I have to do a little bit more digging and I can always find information I need.
So job boards, it’s more like the companies are themselves applying to be on the job board. so I made it a little bit more. Strict. So that’s how the job board, I feel like it goes in theme, but my audience, so for me, the job board has been working out, and also do ads. so other ideas to just do any kind of ad, in the newsletter.
So I do have ads, like, you know, sometimes bootcamps want to share that they’re opening up applications or there is a, event that is looking for more speakers from a diverse group. So they’ll share their call for proposal and they’ll do an ad. so, so yeah, those are the different, the things I’ve been doing is, you know, the job board, some sponsorships, some ads, and for other folks, you know, depending on their audience, like paid memberships, Smith, I’ve been seeing a lot of folks doing paid and newsletters and then, the communities, yeah, It’s pretty cool.
Like when I started, there were barely any newsletters now it’s just like, there’s so much going on and it’s cool to see what other different things that people are doing.
Yeah. Well, one thing that I really like, I love about what you said is the mission driving the business model, because you’re absolutely right. That you can have. There’s a lot of different groups involved, right? There’s the candidates, it’s the members of the community. There’s companies who are hiring there’s the bootcamps and all of this.
And you could try to build a business model where you’re making a bit of money from each group. But when you’re saying like, no, I’m trying to, my whole mission is to get underrepresented people in tech. And so there can’t be any barriers on that side. Over here, you have all of these companies that have initiatives.
some like you called out are purely Marketing and others are real genuine efforts to, build a diverse team. Then it’s like, great. Let’s, let’s find a way that they can fund the business that they can pay for it because. You know, they’re the ones who are going to be paying out large salaries and everything else.
They have the budget for it. So from a mission sides, have them pay for it. And that’s perfect. I love that. I think for a lot of, newsletter creators and just business owners, you know, when you’re looking at all these different opportunities and trying to decide, Oh, should I go this way or that way? And it’s like, what matches the mission?
And let the mission be the thing that, that decides the business model.
That’s good. what’s working for, for growth, you know, you mentioned, you know, you’re approaching 10,000 subscribers on the newsletter. where are those subscribers coming from now? And, and, you know, what are some of those other things that, that are working to bring in new subscribers?
Yeah, I’m all of it has been through word of mouth, which has been amazing. it’s been mainly word of mouth and some of, and some of it through Twitter. So I guess word of mouth on Twitter has been the largest largest way. we have been getting subscribers and I’ve been trying to think of more ways to kind of grow it, to kind of increase the growth rate a little bit.
I haven’t found anything particular yet, but right now I’m trying out a different program because word of mouth is what is working. So I want to do and make it easier for people to share and refer more folks. So that’s what I’ve been working on now. and for, I’ve been also getting requests to kind of make the newsletter for more groups.
So, so I’ve been getting, folks from Europe, like a lot of companies from Europe want to share. things on the job board, but I didn’t, I didn’t grow that part of the community. All of our members are in the U.S. so, we’re actually launching our newsletter for the Europe region, Europe and UK region, in a few weeks.
So that’s another way I’m, growing the newsletter and the job board, yeah, depending on how that goes, you know, maybe cover more regions, around the world. Yeah. That’s, that’s what I’ve been doing now.
Do you have a team or is this all you what’s? What’s the process behind the scenes?
Yeah. when I started, it was all me, I have somebody who, have a contractor who helps me with some of the data and stuff. like all of them. Things I collect, she helps me, you know, put them into our database and that they show up in the newsletter on the website. So I have somebody that, and for the Europe, one had the, I didn’t want to take that up on my own.
So where the Europe one, I’m working with somebody who I, I, I partner with somebody who she’s going to be running, the Europe newsletter. So right now it was just the three of us.
Yeah, it’s I mean, it’s amazing what you can get done with a small team. And then it’s also amazing how much, you know, an additional human coming in to help makes a big difference. I wanted to ask on, on the affiliate program, or the referral program, a lot of people are thinking about doing that right now.
You know, it. I think on one hand it feels like something that like, Oh, you could spin this up and growth could accelerate by, you know, 10, 20% a month or something. And then on the other hand, you get into the logistics of like, okay, what do I offer as rewards? how is this actually going to work? Well, people share.
And I’m curious what that process has been like and just how you chose the rewards that you did.
Yeah. it’s going back to how you were saying, you know, I tried to try tie everything to my mission. So one thing I’ve been doing is so hard to pick her words for their whole program. W what I’ve been doing is picking, products written by people who are underrepresented in tech. So the first few divorce were books, written by women of color.
Or, and next, I think I’m going to do, like maybe stickers that were made by women of color are t-shirts made by other, people who are underrepresented in tech. so those are the rewards that I’ve chosen. I like that because I feel like I’m supporting their business, which, which is what my mission is to support other under-represented people in tech.
So, and then also, hopefully it’ll help, with the growth with the newsletter too. yeah.
Yeah. So let’s talking platforms for a second. what, what are you using to put together the referral program and how’s that been working?
The first, when I started, I actually built my own. but it, it was, it was still beer. I was like, I should, I was like, I should not be spending my time doing this. and then actually I’m using spike loop, which is integrated into kind of red kid bread. So, so that’s what I’ve been using now. yeah, it’s, it’s a, I’m just trying, I just started it like about three months ago.
So I have still have to figure out, you know, what kind of words will work, how, I need to optimize all my subscriber forums and all of that to, to get better results.
Yeah, well, it’s, it’s always fun to the test and experiment and figure that out. I’m at the point where I think I’ll launch a referral program for my newsletter in the next month, two months, you know, kind of one of those when I get around to, but I have those notes where you’re like penciling in ideas.
You’re like, Oh, this could be a reward. And then you’re like, Oh, that would be a terrible reward. It’s not new that, so it’s good. And of course they’ll also be using easing spark loop just because it’s so integrated and, and the team over there is great. What are some of the things that, are next for the newsletter in the community?
Right now I’m well I’m waiting for the pandemic, and vaccine and all of that, because it’s been hard to manage everything since it’s, it’s all of this started. my intention when I quit my job was to grow the community and the New newsletter on the job board. fortunately the job board has been growing, through word of mouth.
The subscriber rate, for the newsletter has reduced a little bit. So I’m trying to increase that. So I’m focusing on that now. yeah. I’m taking it slow, I guess I just I’m happy that things are working, trying to enjoy it for now. and I think one of the next things we’re we, me and Nyamata, she’s been, she’s going to be working on the Europe newsletter and so, for a, that, and he probably in the next two weeks, and it’ll be interesting to see what that market is like.
It’s kind of cool to be in a position to, launch something when you already have an existing the center groin. That’s a completely different problem than when you’re just starting out. So, so yeah, that’ll be fun.
Yeah, you’re spot on with that, that having an audience and a following and, and connections in the industry, then when you go to launch that next thing, it’s still a ton of work to be clear, but it is you get that, that kickstart, to it. And so that makes a big difference. also I love the angle that, you know, you hadn’t, you were just talking about of like enjoying the process and saying like, I always think about this trade-off as, as a founder, you know, as an ambitious person, between gratitude and ambition and how do you live in both of those places at the same time and this feeling of like, I have enough.
And I’m so grateful for the company, the community, the team, like everything that I have, like, this is incredible. I get to, You know, I’m not working for another company. I get to do my own thing. And then also, like, I’m always trying to grow it too, to be bigger. And I think it’s hard to live in both those places.
It sounds like, you’re doing a job with that. I’m curious if you have more thoughts, if that’s something you struggle with as well,
No, I definitely struggled with that, but one of the reasons I did start my own business was to have that, so that I took, I tried to remind myself of like, okay, the reason you quit corporate. And it was because you wanted more time on your hands. So sometimes I have to like live by myself out of bed, otherwise, otherwise, you know, it’ll be the same world where I’ll be just working all the time and not enjoying life.
So one of the reasons to start a business was to have that flexibility. So, or remind myself to take the time. and the other thing is that with COVID and everything, life has been very, very stressful, like so many unknowns, all of that. So I definitely feel a little burnt out on that sense, like from the life side of it, you know, being a parent, now with everything that’s going on is definitely hard right now.
So that’s another thing I’m like, okay, it’s not. I definitely need a break from all of it. So I just, you know, but can’t exactly take a break. so that’s why I’m trying to be a little bit more, like go at a slower pace.
Yeah. Yeah. That’s exactly. That’s great that realizing that you can set your own pace and do that. I’m curious, you know, I’m thinking back to when I was working at my last startup job and, you know, we were doing many of the things that started doing, I don’t know, we’ve pulled all nighters. Like what, what was even the point of that?
You know, I’m just looking back and that was eight years ago now, but there were so many things, when I wanted to leave that job that I was looking to like, Oh, what. I could travel. I could, you know, have freedom in my time, you know, w even things I do now, like going for a walk in the middle of the day is just like, it’s amazing, but I’m curious, what’s something recent that, you’ve kind of celebrated in your life of like, wait, because I don’t work in corporate anymore.
I was able to do this, even if it was small.
You know, there wasn’t a fender. Like I would totally just go take a vacation. but lately I’ve been just, like we’ve been enjoying, enjoying little things. Like my husband works from home too. Like we’ve been taking walks and lunch, or, you know, one day we just kept her, my daughter goes to daycare one day.
We just decided to keep our daughter at home and we did nothing besides hang out. so yeah, things like that.
Well, I think that’s such a good reminder that. Even in all of the growth and hustle and everything else that we do for our own businesses, realizing that like, okay, take a step back. Remember from her why you decided to be your own boss. You know, that’s funny.
I actually think about if you would write your own job listing, you know, for a diversified tech, you know, you’re like now hiring a CEO and all of that or whatever role you’re like, wait, would I be a good boss? Am I do I treat myself? You know, well, or am I like now you have to be hard driving and get all of this done.
So that, it’s just a good reminder that as a founder, as an entrepreneur, like you are the boss and like treat yourself well, treat your employees. Well, even when that key employees, you. well, thanks so much for coming on. I’ve I’ve loved this conversation and learning more about the inside of your business and, and, and especially thank you for sharing everything about, you know, how to build diverse teams and mistakes that people make.
Why don’t you tell people where they should go to follow you online, subscribe to the newsletter support rate, what you’re doing and all of that.
Yeah. I’m on Twitter a lot. I’m at @venikunche. That’s my handle. And for the newsletter, if you go to DiversifyTech.co, you’ll see a Subscribe button and you can sign up for it. So if you’re in groups and in tech, you can sign up for one of those newsletters. I also have one for companies and for allies who want to understand diversity more.
So that one’s called Business & Ally Newsletter. So you can sign up for that one too.
That’s perfect. Well, thanks so much for coming on and we’ll see you around on Twitter.
Sounds great. Thank you so much for having me.