Both the NBA Foundation and Google utilize a similar ethos, particularly with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), to ensure the success and education of young Black people.
The NBA Foundation and Google seek to lead through building equity and diversity. The NBA Foundation is the League’s first-ever charitable foundation dedicated to Black communities. Google has a commitment to community advancement and investing in programs that develop youth through skill-building and career readiness. This led to a natural affinity with the NBA HBCU Fellowship Program, which aims to provide career development opportunities in the business of basketball.
Recently, representatives from both Google and the NBA HBCU Fellowship Program were able to get together for a fireside chat that focused on the impact of HBCUs and Google’s commitment to serving the youth through technology.
Participants in the discourse were Melonie Parker, Chief Diversity Officer at Google, and NBA HBCU Fellowship Program alums Antonae Glenn and Jevone Barrett. Parker leads the HBCU Presidents Council at Google which supports 100+ HBCUs. Glenn is a junior at Howard University majoring in Computer Information Systems and interned with the Charlotte Hornets. Barrett graduated from Central State University in December 2022 and accepted a full-time position with the Cavaliers in February 2023 working in their IT department.
Editor’s Note: The following conversation has been condensed and edited.
What has been the most valuable thing that you have learned from attending an HBCU and how has that applied to navigating your career journey?
Melonie Parker: I’m a first-generation college student, and I had the pleasure of doing this at Hampton University. The community support that I received has been invaluable, and I didn’t have to think about race. So in that formative part of my personal, professional and academic development, race was not on the table.
I had the beauty of strong relationships with my professors who encouraged and motivated me, and who really gave me the confidence that I could do things that I hadn’t even thought about or had exposure to. Community is not monolithic, so [I was exposed] to different types of people and groups within Black communities as well. That whole experience has been something that has propelled me and carried me and I have an incredible network that I still maintain from Hampton and across other HBCUs.
Jevone Barrett: One of the most valuable things I learned was how to be your authentic self. My HBCU reminded me that, hey, if you’re in a room with executives, then you’re supposed to be there. Regardless of whether or not you’re not on the same ‘level’, if you just happen to be in the room, you’re supposed to be there.
I would also say how to do more with less, and at a small HBCU (Central State University in Ohio), one thing I can say is that the professors really instill in you that you are the best and you can make impacts wherever you go. Whether you go to Google, another large company or your own personal brand.
Antonae Glenn: As a Howard student, I will say the most important thing I learned is how to network. Your network is your net worth. Last summer, I was able to exercise this over the course of the NBA HBCU Fellowship. My entire team went to NBA Summer League in Las Vegas and I was the only person in the office. So I decided to ask my manager if he could set up some meetings for me with different people around the organization. I was able to speak with the Vice President of Digital Media and got to write an article about my experience of getting a fellowship. That wouldn’t have happened had I not reached out and created a network.
Why is it important for companies like the NBA and Google to create these types of opportunities for HBCU students, and what do you see them gaining from it?
Parker: It’s so important that we are drawing and recognizing talent from our HBCUs, and that we’re providing pathways and pipelines for people to have access to roles. Not just at Google and not just at the NBA, but to facilitate the acquisition of skills that you could take anywhere in the industry that you want, including an entrepreneurship route if that’s what you select for yourself. We’re better because of the talent that we bring in from our HBCUs. It informs our relevancy and gaps that we may have in culture and lived experiences, and it makes our workforce stronger. It’s a win-win on all sides.
Melonie, can you expand upon some of the programs that are meaningful to you and how that work helps students build career readiness?
Parker: One is our Google in Residence program. We provide our own software engineering professionals that go to HBCU campuses and teach freshman computer science courses for the entire semester. So they’re not only giving uplift to the students, they’re also giving uplift to the professors by introducing real-world, real-life tech experiences to the classroom. In many curricula, to have that early orientation taught by someone in tech from Google is critically important and that person is also able to help students with internships and extracurricular activities.
We also have a program called Tech Exchange, a hybrid experience where students get credit through their universities for participating in our Googler and Faculty co-led courses online. Students and their instructors also get to visit two different Google sites during the semester, experiencing our offices and culture in real-time.
As part of Google’s commitment to supporting Black jobseekers, Grow with Google partners with HBCU career services centers across the United States to help Black college students develop the digital skills they need to find and secure internships and jobs that will help them build successful careers.
We also have summer internship opportunities, where the goal is to give students a chance to learn throughout the summer in hopes of creating pathways to bring them back in full-time roles.
Can you share how your interest in the NBA intersects with your interest in STEM, tech, and engineering?
Glenn: I was a basketball operations and analytics intern [at the Hornets], so I was able to combine my college studies with my interest in basketball. I was on the operations side during my internship, so that was more so ‘How can we prepare better for this team?’
The big thing that was going on during the summer was the draft, so I did a lot of work on that in terms of running models to see what players we thought would be available at our draft picks of 13 and 15. So it was actually very interesting to take things that I did in the classroom like database management and apply it in real life.
What advice would you give HBCU students looking to start a corporate career?
Parker: My best advice would be to get an internship, and you need to network. Network with your friends and fully leverage the career planning and placement office on your campus to work for you. Get as much experience as you can if you want paid internships, but if for some reason it’s not available, get experience by volunteering as well, and do job shadowing and claim all of that on your résumé.
Barrett: Also apply to multiple companies, not just one. I know freshmen tend to ask me a lot. ‘I want to work at the NBA, can you share someone for me to connect with?’ I mention that it’s extremely competitive but if you don’t get picked, don’t let that disappoint you. Apply to multiple jobs and just be prepared to hear some no’s. But it’s not a rejection. Stay persistent. That’s my best advice.
Glenn: Over-prepare. If you over-prepare, you’re always going to be ready when the opportunity comes.
In November, Google Pixel announced a $1 million contribution to the NBA Foundation, the largest for the Foundation to date from an NBA partner. The donation will directly support the NBA HBCU Fellowship Program and other NBA Foundation programming, initiatives and partners. Together, the NBA Foundation and Google will continue to collaborate on programming and efforts to create opportunities for Black youth in STEM, sports and media industries.
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To learn more about Google’s contribution to the NBA Foundation, visit the links below: