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Anthony D. Mays

It’s no secret that the tech industry has weathered the last few years better than a lot of others, and many people are trying to ditch their current jobs and start their careers in tech for big opportunities (and even bigger salaries). But working for companies like Google and Microsoft take more than just talent — it takes the helpful hands and heart of this week’s guest, Anthony D. Mays. As the founder of tech career coaching firm Morgan Latimer Consulting, Anthony uses his 20 years of experience as a software engineer and developer to help his clients to ace tech interviews and get real results.

We start our conversation with a quick check-in, and he talks about starting his firm and finding a good work life balance. He spoke about growing up in Compton and learning BASIC on a VTech PreComputer 1000, studying computer science at UC Irvine, and shared how looking for growth opportunities, and his faith in God, helped him succeed throughout his career. So if you’re looking to work in tech, then Anthony is just the person to make that happen!

Transcript

Full Transcript

Maurice Cherry:
All right. So tell us who you are and what you do.

Anthony D. Mays:
Sure. I’m Anthony D. Mays. I’m a former software engineer at Google, and I am presently founder and career coach at Morgan Latimer Consulting.

Maurice Cherry:
How has 2022 been going so far?

Anthony D. Mays:
It’s been an adventure for sure. I left Google on February 1st of this year and I have dived head first into full-time entrepreneurship. Whatever I thought it was going to be, it seems like it’s just a bit different than that, but it’s been for the good and for the best.

Maurice Cherry:
Oh, wow. Congratulations on making the leap.

Anthony D. Mays:
Yeah, thanks. It’s been quite a ride. And I thought that my time at Google was an adventure and a ride, and it just seems like entrepreneurship has made that escalate. It has escalated that ride even faster. I feel like I don’t have guardrails either, so I’m really holding on to my seat, my family and I.

Maurice Cherry:
Let’s talk about your firm. Again, it’s called Morgan Latimer Consulting. For folks who might be interested, that comes from Garrett A. Morgan and Lewis Latimer. Right?

Anthony D. Mays:
Yes. Yup. Garrett A. Morgan, Lewis Latimer, two of my favorite inventors from Black history. They were innovators during a time when it was neither expected for them to be innovators. They weren’t encouraged to be innovators. No one was willing to carve out room. There was no DEI program. There was only racism, discrimination, slavery, things of that nature. But they weathered all of that in order to innovate in this space. And because of the innovations and their contributions to society, we live in the world that we live in today and benefit from the privileges and technology that we enjoy.

Anthony D. Mays:
And so, with my firm, my aim is to renew, I think, an understanding or to introduce an understanding that Black people being innovators in the tech space isn’t anything new. We’ve been doing it. And similarly, other underrepresented groups, the same can be said for them as well. And I want to help connect that next generation of talent, wherever they come from, no matter who they are, whether you’re underrepresented or well-represented, connect that generation of talent to the companies and organizations that are interested in leveraging and harnessing that talent.

Anthony D. Mays:
So I work directly with candidates, but I also consult for companies and help them to understand their hiring processes, their practices, through the lens of someone who’s come from a different background and provide just that insight and wisdom.

Maurice Cherry:
What inspired you to start your own firm like that?

Anthony D. Mays:
I’ve always been attuned to this idea that entrepreneurship is important, especially in America. And when I was in middle school, I attended a very special charter school that was funded by none other than the National Football League. And as part of that middle school experience, I was exposed to entrepreneurship and this idea that I could go and start a business and begin an enterprise and take the risk and dive in. And so, I felt like that sowed the seeds for me to be thinking about entrepreneurship and independence and just making my own moves.

Anthony D. Mays:
I only kind of realize this now, but my career journey has always been set up for this. I think one of the reasons why I wanted to work at a variety of places, spend time doing professional consulting, and then ultimately get to Google is just to establish the credentials and build a network that would allow me to strike out on my own one day and try to carve a different path towards the success that I was looking for.

Anthony D. Mays:
Yeah. So hindsight 2020, I can see where everything all fit together, but it wasn’t immediately clear even when I got into business, when I got into the working world, that my path might take me to entrepreneurship 20 years later. But I’m glad to be here.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. It’s having that kind of social proof, I guess, as you might think about it with working for these other places and then striking out on your own. I think it helps with clients certainly to know that, “Oh, well, you know what you’re talking about in terms of the work that you’re doing.” And there’s some level of vetting in place because you’ve managed to have these other experiences first before starting your own thing.

Anthony D. Mays:
Yeah. That’s absolutely right.

Maurice Cherry:
So one thing that you do with your clients, you sort of help them gain the confidence to work in tech, and these are people that either have an interest in tech or maybe might be early career or mid-career, I’m assuming, and you do a lot of prep with them for coding interviews. Tell me about that process, because I’ve heard that Google specifically, their coding interviews can be pretty unusual.

Anthony D. Mays:
Yeah, absolutely. And I think it’s important to really call out that word, confidence, because I think that my job as a coach or my unique contribution is really helping someone to see themselves in the role based upon their experience and their willingness to put in the work.

Maurice Cherry:
Mm-hmm.

Anthony D. Mays:
And a lot of people can study on their own. There’s tons of resources out there. There’s academies and boot camps and free courses and all that stuff. But there’s this recognition that taking all that stuff in alone may not be enough for some people. And not only that, but there’s these additional challenges and burdens that you may have, especially if you’re from an underrepresented background, where you may not have a network of people who can help you to connect your own life and experience and your own journey to the tech space.

Anthony D. Mays:
And so, what I aim to do is to talk about that and to help people understand how to have the right framework and preparation so that you can begin building that confidence and know that you’re the right person for the job. And that takes a little more effort. That takes me really getting to know my clients. It takes exercising them, paying attention to their problem-solving, making them think through their own problem-solving, arming them with the right frameworks of thinking, so that as you’re tackling different kinds of interviews, you know what you need to do and when you need to do it. And I talk to my clients a lot about building something called muscle memory. It’s the same kind of thing that athletes rely on in professional sports.

Maurice Cherry:
Mm-hmm.

Anthony D. Mays:
People see them playing the game, but they don’t see them spending the hours of doing repetitive motions and different kinds of exercises to get prepared. They’re able to have confidence at game-time playing at the highest level in front of millions of people because they have that muscle memory. And so, part of what I seek to teach to my candidates and help them develop is that muscle memory so that they can go into an interview knowing that they have a great chance and not hindered by doubt and fear and uncertainty and those kinds of things that often stop very talented people from being successful.

Maurice Cherry:
So you’re kind of like part consultant, part psychiatrist in a way, because you’re kind of helping them to build that internal confidence so, like you said, they see themselves in the role, and I think that is super important. I mean, I’ve worked at a couple of tech startups and I’ve been in the position to hire, and one thing that has been a big thing over the past few years has been inclusive language for job listings.

Maurice Cherry:
And it’s now even a thing to put in job listings, particularly for tech and design positions, to say like, “Even if you don’t have all of these requirements, you should apply anyway,” or “If you only have 50%, apply anyway,” which I think is a way to kind of help people to see themselves in the role because, oftentimes, you may look at the job listing and look at all those different bullet points, and instead of seeing where you’re strong, you see where you’re weak, like, “Well, I don’t have this. Well, I don’t have this many years experience,” and then you end up not applying when, in actuality, what you need to have is the confidence to say, “Well, I’m strong in these things, so I’m going to apply just to kind of see what happens.”

Anthony D. Mays:
Right. And I also want to help you look at that same job description and maybe realize that it’s not for you, that this isn’t going to help you achieve your goals. There’s a lot of people who come to me because they want to crack those top tech companies, those FAANG companies, the Googles, the Amazons, the Microsoft, et cetera, et cetera.

Anthony D. Mays:
And sometimes, I’ve got to look at them and say, “Based upon the goals that you just shared with me, you don’t really need to crack a FAANG company. What you actually need is to consider this startup or maybe think about something mid-tier. Maybe not even a tech company. Maybe you just need to get your foot in the door, and instead of looking at a tech company, you need to look at a non-tech company that has an IT department but also has the framework and infrastructure to help you grow and develop the skills.”

Anthony D. Mays:
So depending upon where you are, you may not understand how to correctly map your specific goals to the opportunities that are out there. If you come away from a conversation with me realizing, “I wanted to do this thing, but I realized that that’s actually not the best fit. Maybe I need to think about entrepreneurship,” then I’m like, “All right. Great. Fantastic. I’ve saved you some time. I’ve saved you some trouble.”

Anthony D. Mays:
And I think that, especially as an entrepreneur now, I realize that my own path was about making it to a place like Google and operating at that level. That’s not everybody’s path. Some people don’t need to pursue that journey. That was my journey. That may not be your journey. And there has to be that conversation. There has to be somebody asking those questions, because I think right now, especially in the tech interviewing, tech prep career coaching space, everybody wants to get you to a FAANG company. They’re pointing you in that direction. They’re talking about those salaries and all that stuff. But you’re not really serving candidates well because you’re selling them this dream and this bill of goods that isn’t going to be helpful for them.

Anthony D. Mays:
I care about my clients and the people that I work with because I think that there’s tons of transformative opportunity out there and available, but you need somebody to come alongside with you to educate you on how to best put a plan in place, helps you get to where you’re trying to go.

Maurice Cherry:
I’ve started seeing companies, even the big ones like the Microsofts and stuff, they’re doing outreach on TikTok. I probably spend too much time on TikTok. But there’s a lot of people on TikTok that are really like, “I want to find the high-paying, six-figure tech jobs. How do you find those jobs?” Because there will be people that have those jobs that are on TikTok, and they’re saying, “These are the perks that I get. I get free lunch here. This is my ride to the office.” And they sort of paint this very idealistic picture of what it means to be in tech through these kinds of perks.

Maurice Cherry:
And I’ll never forget… I interviewed Kristy Tillman. She’s been on the show twice, but Kristy now works at Netflix, and I’ll never forget how she told me to look at perks at companies as filters that just because something may look good in that way, it could also be something that’s used to filter people out. So I do see a lot of… I guess you could almost call it propaganda where people are really painting this very idealistic picture of what it looks like to work in tech in these fancy offices, and you get a free MacBook Pro and all this, but not really showing them what it means, not just to work in tech from day to day, but even the process, like you said, to interview to be a part of a company like that, because it might not even be that they need to be there. They probably just need to start out somewhere smaller maybe.

Anthony D. Mays:
Yeah. No, absolutely. And here’s the deal: You want success and you want the paycheck and all that stuff. You get that by being good at what you do. You get that by being excellent at your craft. And that has more to do with you and how you move and how you develop than it does on the place that you work. And certainly, when you’re working at a company, there’s an expectation that they’re going to play some part in your development, in your growth, and in your assessment, and provide useful feedback, and all those things.

Anthony D. Mays:
But ultimately, you’ve got to take your career and your craft and your responsibility and put in the time and work to be effective and to really be thoughtful about how to make the right plan to get you to where you’re trying to go. And so, I think that a lot of people are looking for shortcuts and they’re trying to circumvent the process, and it’s important that I remind people that there aren’t shortcuts to this. It’s just the same hard work. It’s the same hard work that my ancestors poured into being who they were and accomplishing the things that they accomplished, not letting excuses or things of that nature get in the way. And because of that, they were able to do what they were able to do. And they faced a lot of unfairness. They faced a ton of unfairness.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Anthony D. Mays:
And just like we face, to certain degrees, unfairness in today’s processes, some of that just comes from natural imperfection. We’re not perfect at what we do as companies or as individuals and applicants. So there’s that, but then there’s also these other biases and even discrimination or racism, to some lesser extent, that we’ve got to combat. And I sometimes struggle with the approaches that I take because I’m very focused on the individual regardless of the surrounding circumstances.

Maurice Cherry:
Mm-hmm.

Anthony D. Mays:
But the circumstances, those could use some changing as well, and it’s important. And that’s why I want to tackle this from both sides of the bridge. I want to help clients and candidates to understand what they need to do, but I also want to talk to companies and say, “There are some things that you need to change because the talent is ready. It’s not a pipeline issue. It’s a you issue. You need to change what you’re doing and the pipeline will come. The people will come. You just haven’t built a room for them.”

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. That’s a really good point, to let the companies know that sometimes, there’s things that they’re doing wrong or things that they may be doing, even just in the language in job listings, the way they’ve talked about perks, et cetera, that might set them up in a bad light. It’s funny, speaking about startups and things like this, startups can be a really good place to cut your teeth on working in tech. But they have their own issues too, particularly depending on the scale of where the company is at, and even with diversity and inclusion.

Maurice Cherry:
At least I’ve started to see, on the startup level, it’s becoming less and less of a factor than it has been at larger companies. I don’t know if that’s just because of time or DEI fatigue or whatever. But I remember in the early 2010s when those reports started coming out about Google and Facebook and such about their single-digit workforce numbers for Black employees and what does that mean, and stuff like that.

Anthony D. Mays:
Right. Right.

Maurice Cherry:
And I feel like those companies have started over the years to improve that, certainly. Startups are under no obligation to do that. I just know from working at a couple of them. They do not care.

Anthony D. Mays:
It really depends because… I agree with you that when it comes to the larger companies, there’s an interest to change, but in many respects, it’s almost too little, too late to make the kind of change that you need to make as quickly as you want to. Right?

Anthony D. Mays:
So for some of these larger companies that have been around for 20 years, 40 years, 50 years, whatever that may be, you’re talking about a deeply ingrained culture. There’s a lot of rot that you have to get rid of first before you can even start talking about doing the right things, very carefully guarding that small little flame, that little spark that turns into a fire that then leads to change. So there’s a lot of momentum that you’ve got to slow down if you’re a big company so that you can begin shifting gears.

Anthony D. Mays:
But when you’re a startup, you are in a better position because you’re new, because you have the opportunity to learn from those mistakes and, from the very beginning, think about the right things to do. My latest client right now, I just signed with Karat as a tech advisor for their Brilliant Black Minds program. And what I love about Karat is that from the beginning, they’ve made this very early commitment to increasing the number of Black engineers in the business and really thinking through how they can play a role in that. You can go visit their website and read the statement and the thinking and the resource that they’ve done.

Anthony D. Mays:
I love that they’re small enough and nimble enough to really tackle this problem at a speed that other companies can’t do. And I think that there are similar startups that have that opportunity. And to your earlier point, there are some startups that really did get this wrong in a big way. Most notably, I remember learning about the mess at Uber, and I know that they went through some strides to turn over a new leaf. And from what I understand, things are better, much better than they were back in those days.

Anthony D. Mays:
But you could see that where… When some of today’s startups started making those mistakes, they got called out on it a whole lot faster. It’s a lot harder for those companies to grow and develop without having that scrutiny, whereas 10 years ago, nobody really cared. 15 years ago, 20 years ago, nobody cared. You could do whatever you wanted.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Anthony D. Mays:
So I think that for those in the audience or for job seekers or candidates who are looking for companies who may have stronger commitments, who may be making better progress, looking at those smaller firms, those startups, those growth phase companies, that might be the better play if that’s something that you care deeply about.

Maurice Cherry:
Okay. I agree. I agree and I disagree. I mean, I’m disagreeing from my own personal experiences, but I do agree that there are some startups out there that are doing it, particularly because you’re starting to see a lot of POC-owned, Black-owned startups. So of course, they have diversity and inclusion in mind because they started it. So that’s something that’s important to them. So I get where you’re coming from. Absolutely. What is a typical day like for you? I know you just said you kind of struck out on your own, but have you started to achieve a work-life balance with the firm?

Anthony D. Mays:
No, I wish. Every day is different, and that’s been great and it’s been challenging at the same time. I woke up today and I was like, “What am I going to do? I know I got to do a podcast, but other than that, what else am I going to do? Should I go put some meetings on the calendar? Should I work on a thing?” And so, I would like to say that I’m a lot more intentional and wise in terms of how I’m planning my time. But each day has been a little bit different, and I find myself in infrastructure-building mode a lot.

Anthony D. Mays:
So I think as I work through some of these beginning things as a new entrepreneur, I’ll get more of the consistency and the regularity out of my routine. But right now, I’m still, I think, figuring it out. I’m trying to be patient with that as well. I don’t want to rush into completely filling up my schedule with things. I want to make sure that everything that I’m committing to is intentional and thought out and is going to serve, in some way, the mission that I’m pursuing.

Anthony D. Mays:
Yeah. From that perspective, it’s been fun. And the other part of this too is that my wife is the co-owner of Morgan Latimer Consulting. So I’m working here at home and my wife is a key partner with me in this effort, largely working behind the scenes. But I’m also getting the kids involved too and having conversations out loud and in the open as they’re doing school.

Anthony D. Mays:
And so, it’s been interesting to expose the whole family to entrepreneurship and to this lifestyle and to be open and honest with my kids about the challenges and opportunities. And so, I think what happens more than that is, I’ll find a learning opportunity in the middle of the day and put everything on pause and talk to my wife or talk to my kids about what I’m thinking and where things can go and even getting their advice and input, and that’s been a lot of fun.

Maurice Cherry:
A true family business. I like that.

Anthony D. Mays:
Yeah. Absolutely. The only other challenge that I’m contending with right now is just needing to travel a little bit more as things thaw out with regards to the pandemic and travel resumes. Now I’m needing to be in more places crossing the country. And so, I try to look for opportunities to bring my family with me so that they can experience that part of it as well.

Maurice Cherry:
Nice. Speaking about family, let’s switch gears here a little bit. You grew up in Compton. I know that because it’s on the hat that you have in all your photos.

Anthony D. Mays:
Well, I could be faking it. I could be-

Maurice Cherry:
No, I don’t think you’re faking it. I don’t know anyone that would fake and… Well, let me not tell that lie. I do know people that would fake and say they’re from the hood. Let me not say that.

Anthony D. Mays:
Right.

Maurice Cherry:
But you’re from L.A. You live in L.A. Tell me, growing up in Compton, was tech a part of your childhood?

Anthony D. Mays:
Yeah, it was, amazingly enough. And that may come across as unexpected for some of your listeners. But growing up in a poor place, in a place like Compton that was renowned for things like gang violence, drugs, poverty, all that stuff, now, well, it turns out that having rich people in the area means that we receive some investment and support from very notable people. And I think it was Magic Johnson who, in the early ’90s, donated a non-trivial sum of money to my elementary school. As a result, we got a basketball court, but also a computer lab.

Maurice Cherry:
Hmm.

Anthony D. Mays:
And it was in that computer lab when I was in the second grade that I had the opportunity to use a computer for the first time. And it profoundly changed my life because that’s when I realized that computers were cool and this might be something that I want to keep doing, whether I get paid for it or not. And so, I remember asking my parents for a computer and they said no, and I didn’t understand at the time that computers were $5,000 or more to get something decent. But my foster parents, as well as my birth mom, they both bought me toy computers, which were super cool. And when I was about eight years old, I used one of those toy computers to teach myself how to code.

Maurice Cherry:
Mmm.

Anthony D. Mays:
And I remember, at the time, I was being bullied for a variety of reasons. And so, I became somewhat of an introvert out of necessity and would pour focus and time and attention into computers and programming. And I just remember feeling this sense of empowerment and agency and control using computers that I didn’t have in other aspects of my life. I failed to mention this, and it’s pretty much common knowledge now, but I grew up as a foster kid after my first grade teacher or kindergarten teacher had found signs of physical abuse.

Anthony D. Mays:
And so, losing your whole family and being moved out of your home is a very transformative and traumatic experience for someone who’s four years old. And I found that interacting with technology allowed me to reclaim control and power and just to have a space to be me and to be a creative thinker and an innovative thinker. I wasn’t building apps and all this stuff, but it was enough to whet my appetite and get me engaged, and I would just continue to pursue computers throughout middle school and throughout high school where I was fortunate in both cases to meet mentors who saw that early love and decided to invest time into developing my knowledge around technology and the internet.

Maurice Cherry:
Hmm. Something you mentioned there, I think, we have in common in terms of growing up in… I don’t want to say small towns. I don’t know how large Compton is, but certainly growing up in towns with dubious reputations.

Anthony D. Mays:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
I’m from Selma, as most people-

Anthony D. Mays:
Hey.

Maurice Cherry:
… know from the show, from Selma, Alabama. Kind of like the first generation out from Bloody Sunday. And so, now Selma is like a pit stop on every politician’s tour throughout the country. They stop in, they go to Brown Chapel AME, they walk across the bridge, yada yada yada. They do all that stuff. But because of that general perennial attention on the city, you do have people that will come in and there’s like an influx of cash to one of the local schools or… You know what I mean? So we had a computer lab in high school, which is how I learned about the internet. That was my first foray with Netscape Navigator 1.0.

Anthony D. Mays:
Oh, wow. Let’s get it. Yes. Yeah. I’m right there with you, brother. We learned that the same time.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. That was in my… I was in, I think, ninth or tenth grade when they installed the computer lab and got to see what the internet was like back then. But even as you mentioned learning and teaching yourself how to code with these toy computers, I’m super curious, what was the computers that you were using?

Anthony D. Mays:
Yeah. So the one that I used specifically to learn coding was called the PreComputer 1000.

Maurice Cherry:
Get out! Oh, I’m sorry. Go ahead.

Anthony D. Mays:
Oh, yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
No, no, no. No, keep going. Sorry. Sorry. I had that same computer. I had that same… The blue one with the handle?

Anthony D. Mays:
That’s the blue one with the handle. Absolutely.

Maurice Cherry:
Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay. Go ahead. Go ahead. Go ahead.

Anthony D. Mays:
So I’ll tell you a funny story real quick. I would talk about that computer when I would go to schools during my time at Google and all this stuff, and I had lost the computer. I didn’t have… I don’t know what happened with it. Things get lost, as they do, over decades. And one day, this Christmas present was sitting on my desk and I opened it up, and it’s a PreComputer 1000. A co-worker had bought me a PreComputer 1000 off of eBay or something because they knew that I had grown up on that computer and they knew-

Maurice Cherry:
Wow.

Anthony D. Mays:
… how passionate I was about sharing technology with the young people. And so, I would take that computer with me on tours and flip the switch where you’d hear the little (singing). And I would take out the big old fat D batteries on the back and say,-

Maurice Cherry:
Oh man.

Anthony D. Mays:
… “This is it.” That’s what I had. And one of the reasons why I’m passionate about supporting underrepresented people in tech specifically is because out of scarcity comes innovation.

Maurice Cherry:
Mm-hmm.

Anthony D. Mays:
Out of scarcity and challenge and struggle comes some of the best ideas and some of the greatest opportunities to do things that haven’t been done before. And for me, growing up under the scarce conditions of the hood and with the family that I often describe as middle-class poor, that led to me doing things like teaching myself how to code and learning about the internet and all these other kinds of things. For an industry that’s looking for talent that knows how to build technology under those kinds of circumstances, what better place to look than the hoods and ghettos of America?

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Anthony D. Mays:
Why spend all of this time going overseas looking for that kind of talent when we have our own neglected neighborhoods in the backyards of America?

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Listen, these kids don’t know how good they got it now. When you have to teach-

Anthony D. Mays:
They really don’t.

Maurice Cherry:
… yourself how to code on a one-line dot-matrix screen…

Anthony D. Mays:
That’s right.

Maurice Cherry:
I mean, come on. So my older brother had… And this is when I was younger. I probably might have been about seven or eight or something. He had a… It was also a VTech, but it was a Laser 50.

Anthony D. Mays:
Mmm.

Maurice Cherry:
And so, the Laser 50 is about the size of a standard, regular keyboard that you would get now, but it had a one-line dot-matrix screen at the very top and you would use that to code. And I remember… The Laser 50 was particularly interesting because it had all these peripherals you could get for it. You could get a tiny dot-matrix printer. You could get a tiny-

Anthony D. Mays:
Oh, wow.

Maurice Cherry:
… storage thing. And storage back then were cassettes, because you didn’t have flash drives. You didn’t have…

Anthony D. Mays:
Yup.

Maurice Cherry:
I mean, you had floppy disks, but you certainly didn’t have… But it was a cassette. And so, I would often be mistakenly putting data, like taping over somebody’s radio mix, because it used this…

Anthony D. Mays:
Oh, no. Not the radio mix.

Maurice Cherry:
Trying to explain to someone that like, “Yeah. We use cassettes for music and for data storage.” They’re like, “What? I don’t get that.” But yeah, I had a PreComputer 1000. I think I was in probably fourth or fifth grade. I remember that spiral-bound flip notebook. I taught myself how to type on that thing.

Anthony D. Mays:
There it is.

Maurice Cherry:
I taught myself music on that thing. I’m sure my mom wanted to launch it into space because I was making all kinds of noise on that thing. Yeah. And it’s funny, you mentioned getting one off of eBay. Someone gifted one to you. I got one off eBay also-

Anthony D. Mays:
Hey, there it is.

Maurice Cherry:
… a few years ago. I got a Laser 50 and I got a PreComputer 1000 just to have them as artifacts of like, “This is how I got into technology.”

Anthony D. Mays:
Yeah. And I wish that I had the opportunity to meet the product managers or project managers who worked on that because it would be so great to just give them a personal thank you for thinking about a product like this. Again, to your earlier point, I’m hard on this generation of technologists that are coming up because, as you said, they don’t realize how good they have it. And I do understand that there’s a challenge. There’s so much information that it can be hard to pick through what’s reliable and useful from that, which isn’t.

Anthony D. Mays:
But I had to go to a library that had books that were five, 10 years old out of date, trying to teach myself coding and programming, just kind of growing in that. That was a tough challenge, and that was… It was enough to make me give up programming until I got out of high school when I would go get my first job as a developer.

Anthony D. Mays:
I remember feeling so frustrated because I would pick up these old books and I would try to apply what I was learning, but I didn’t understand it all the way and I didn’t have someone that I could lean on to explain. I remember this one time in middle school where I typed out this whole program. I must have spent a couple hours just typing out this whole program into Notepad on Windows.

Maurice Cherry:
Whoo! That takes me back.

Anthony D. Mays:
Yeah. And so, I saved… I just saved this text document as an exe thinking, “Well, all I have to do is just save it and then change the extension to exe and I should be able to double-click and run it.” And I spent an hour just trying to get that to work and it wouldn’t work, and I was so frustrated because I didn’t understand that you needed a compiler in between that’ll produce the actual program. And so, I remember those kinds of moments.

Anthony D. Mays:
And then I think about the fact that my son can watch a YouTube video now that tells him exactly what tools to install and how to make it all work and have all the sample code and then he could put that up on GitHub and all this other stuff. And so, I reflect on that and I try to… I have to kind of take a step back and just not yell at people, not get gangsta at them.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Anthony D. Mays:
What do you mean? What are you talking about? You ain’t got no struggle. What are you talking about you can’t do this? What are you talking about you don’t have information?

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Anthony D. Mays:
Get over it.

Maurice Cherry:
Oh man. I remember we… Our public library had one book on BASIC. It was like this green and white book. And I mean, I check that thing out every two weeks till the cover came off, taped the cover back on. And because Selma is like a… It’s a small town. It’s like 20,000 people maybe.

Anthony D. Mays:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
No mall or anything. So the nearest bookstore was 50-plus miles away in Montgomery. So if I was like, “Oh, I want to go get a book,” that’s a whole trip. That’s a field trip, pretty much.

Anthony D. Mays:
Right.

Maurice Cherry:
Oh God, I think I got my first HTML book, I might have been in high school or something, but I remember getting it at the Montgomery Mall because we were at some trip in Montgomery and I got it. But there’s… Also during that time, I spent a lot of time in the computer lab by myself. My mom worked at a college. And so, I had access to Windows computers. And I just spent so much time looking at source code, writing stuff down, trying to figure out how it all worked, because I could only do it at the computer lab. I would do that and then have to go home and write a paper on a typewriter.

Anthony D. Mays:
Yeah. Right. Right. Right.

Maurice Cherry:
Because I could only use the computer either at high school or I could use it at my mom’s work at the college. I didn’t get my own personal computer until I went off to college in ’99. But yeah, kids, they don’t know how good they got it. I’m saying kids in a general pejorative sense, but just like, people that are learning technology now, there’s so much at your fingertips. It’s astonishing.

Anthony D. Mays:
I mean, and that’s the thing is… One of the things I try to impress on this generation is the importance of making things and building things and being public about that.

Maurice Cherry:
Mm-hmm.

Anthony D. Mays:
So as you’re learning and as you’re growing, assemble that gallery, assemble that portfolio, and make it external and use social media to your advantage. These are things I didn’t learn till later on, but it was partly because of those reasons that I was able to even get the attention of a Google in the first place. And I think that… I ponder what my path in tech might have looked like had I had the tools that I had. And another part of this too, because having a son and daughter, my son is 15, my daughter is 12, I look at them and I realize that they just don’t have the same gumption. They don’t have the same motivation that I did, my drive and my wife’s drive.

Anthony D. Mays:
We came from a place where you had to find a pathway to success. You needed the struggle. You needed to overcome a lot and be intentional about figuring out where you wanted to go to avoid all the little traps that come with growing up in the hood. And so, we were sufficiently motivated to take advantage of every possible resource we could find and get our hands on to succeed. My kids benefit from a great deal of privilege. And without much effort at all, they have access to tons of information and tons of resources, but not necessarily having that drive.

Anthony D. Mays:
And I think that there’s time for them to develop that and to grow on that. There’s a sense in which I want them to just enjoy ingesting knowledge and doing it carefully, but just being slow. They don’t need to build an empire now. But I’ve got to push them a little bit to put in the work to really realize what they have so that they are being producers and not just consumers of technology.

Maurice Cherry:
Mmm. I want to go back to… You mentioned, in high school, you had this aptitude for technology after learning about it so much. And then for college, you went to UC Irvine. Tell me about that time. What was it like there?

Anthony D. Mays:
That was an interesting and difficult time for me personally, and I don’t mean difficult just in terms of challenging. Yeah, it was challenging, as education should be, but there was also this aspect where I think I had to deal with difficulty that maybe other people didn’t have to experience. The first thing is that I didn’t see a lot of people who look like me and who came from where I came from in classes with me learning about computer science.

Maurice Cherry:
Mm-hmm.

Anthony D. Mays:
I looked at the population of students that I was surrounded by in the computer science program versus in other places of the university and would sometimes think to myself, “Am I in the wrong major? Is this really a pathway and a world built for me?”

Maurice Cherry:
Mm-hmm.

Anthony D. Mays:
And I had to struggle through that. I didn’t have the best study habits. Well, let me put it another way. I was a lazy bum when it came to school. I think part of it was that I didn’t understand how I learned and how I would best ingest information. And so, that was one thing. But the other part of it was that, in school, I had to conserve energy a lot. I wasn’t one of those kinds of people that could just go to school and focus on my studies. I also had to work. I had to earn income to make sure that… And I had scholarships, but I didn’t have a full ride.

Anthony D. Mays:
And so, there was a lot of context switching between being devoted to school, but then also making sure that I’m taking care of bills and other concerns associated with being an adult on your own. And so, I think in the craziest time of college, I would go to school at UC Irvine. I would drive to downtown L.A., which took about an hour and a half, to go work part-time on my job. And then I would sometimes come back to school, which was another hour, finish off classes, and then drive 30 minutes home. And that was a real grind for, ooh, a couple of years throughout my college education.

Anthony D. Mays:
When I talk about providing the perspective of someone who’s underrepresented, there are a lot of people who want to get into tech who have very challenging life circumstances, where they struggle just to either support themselves or their family or whatever that may be, and they’re trying to get their leg up and study and learn all these things, and it’s a challenge. But by God’s grace, even in college, I had a lot of good support and that I had summer internships through the INROADS program. That was fantastic and really helped to root my education.

Anthony D. Mays:
And then during the year, I had the opportunity to work for City National Bank to work as a developer in real life. And so, in addition to what I was getting in the classroom, I was also, in some respects, playing that out in the working world. And so, it was good to have that reinforcement there. And there were a community of folks that I could lean on and talk to. I think there was a good community of Black folks on campus.

Anthony D. Mays:
I did other strategic things. I took gospel choir three times in college. I don’t even know if I got credit for the last time I took it because I think there was a limit, but I would take gospel choir because I grew up in the church and I grew up as a gospel music musician from the time that I was, I don’t know, nine years old, 10 years old, and I’ve been playing every Sunday at church ever since then. So gospel choir in college was a safe space for me, if I can use that phrase, for me to just be around something familiar and around something that really encouraged and gave me hope. So it was great.

Anthony D. Mays:
And ultimately, I left the University of California, Irvine with a 2.87 GPA on the five-year plan. I had gone to a charter school for high school as well and had great education opportunities. I really should have gotten out of college in three years because I came in with college credits. It took me five. And I reflect on how challenging that was and how that experience impacted how I saw myself as a professional after I graduated, because I didn’t have a lot of confidence when I graduated high school, even though I would go on and get a job and all that stuff. I certainly didn’t see myself as big tech material, as Google material. Just walking across the stage with a diploma was a generational accomplishment, if you know what I mean.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Anthony D. Mays:
And so, when you’re coming from the perspective of survival, any success is big success. And so, it didn’t take very much for me to feel satisfied and accomplished after graduating college. And I had no idea the amount of headroom I had to work with in my career. If I would’ve known then what I know today, I think that would’ve drastically changed my career trajectory and path. I didn’t have those examples. I didn’t have that network of people that I could look to and say, “Hey, I want to be like this person.” I see that they kind of have a path like mine’s and they’ve had some struggles and they’re able to do what they’re doing. I might be able to do the same thing. Let me apply myself. Let me work even harder. Let me take advantage of these opportunities that I was too scared to take advantage of.

Anthony D. Mays:
And I think that’s why I’m so public about my own journey, my own trials, and really kind of getting in the face of other folks who might be like me or might have come from where I’ve come from to let them know that I am that living example of what they can accomplish if they’re willing to take the risks and to step out on faith, as it were, and really own their journey, their path, their growth, and their development.

Maurice Cherry:
Well, once you graduated from UC Irvine, what was your early career like?

Anthony D. Mays:
Yeah. So I transitioned from being an intern to a full-time employee at City National Bank. The experience was a little jarring in that when you grow up in a computer science education, you kind of expect that you’re going to see theoretical things playing out in the real world. And for the first several years of my career, I really didn’t see that happen, and it’s because I didn’t understand that a computer science education is really designed to position you well for working at a tech company or working at a tech-focused organization. And at the time, I was working for a bank. Banks aren’t tech companies.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Anthony D. Mays:
They see IT as a cost center. They see IT as a… You want to spend the least amount of money possible to get the bare minimum so that you minimize the cost. And so, they just didn’t care a lot about making things fast or quick or really applying, at that time, good UX principles and stuff like that. And so, it was confusing. I’d say, “Hey, we need to do this and have these kinds of practices,” and it was always seen as a burden and as something that kind of slowed down the process.

Anthony D. Mays:
And so, I was confused by this and eventually began to fit into the more corporate IT way of thinking about software development and all those things. That’s useful. It was useful for where I was moving at the time. I learned how to engage with my craft in that kind of environment and find success, but I became detached from what I was learning in school.

Maurice Cherry:
Mm-hmm.

Anthony D. Mays:
And I didn’t really connect with that again until the Google interview, where I had to dust off the Data Structures and Algorithms book and reacquaint myself with the big O and with some of these other formal concepts that I learned in my computer science education. But the upside of working in the corporate environment that I worked in during those times is that because of what I perceived as chaos and disorganization, I got to learn a crap ton of stuff. It’s kind of like working at a startup that just hasn’t figured it out yet.

Anthony D. Mays:
You do 10,000 things, because there’s nobody else to figure it out. And so, you’re just kind of throwing mud at the wall to see if it sticks. That was kind of my experience early in my career. And so, that made things fun. And I would often say yes to things, even if I didn’t know what it was or how it worked. My boss says, “Okay. Who wants to tackle this thing?” “Yeah, I’ll tackle it. I don’t know what this is, but if you give me time, I’ll figure it out.” And I’ve just began to develop and grow that muscle of figuring things out, going from knowing nothing to knowing something to then being effective. Repeating that process over and over again really helped me to develop good, solid problem-solving skills that I would take later into my career.

Maurice Cherry:
And you were at City National Bank for a long time, like almost nine years.

Anthony D. Mays:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
And even after that, you worked at a couple of other places for a pretty long time. You worked at Slalom Consulting. You worked at Junction eCommerce On Demand. When you look back at these experiences collectively, what do you remember?

Anthony D. Mays:
I definitely remember leaving City National Bank and making that decision. What caused me to leave… For me, money isn’t everything. And what’s more important to me, or at least what was more important to me at the time, was growth opportunity and learning. I felt like I needed to learn and grow or at least get paid really good money to stay in my seat. And at the time, I felt like I wasn’t really growing in the way that I wanted to grow and stepping into opportunities that I wanted to step into.

Anthony D. Mays:
And part of that was because I was working for a bank in 2008 in the middle of something called a financial crisis and a Great Recession. So I was not in the best industry for that kind of stuff anyway. And so, I decided to leave at the time to pursue growth in my development. And so, I remember going from this non-technical company to a tech company in JunctionEOD and all of a sudden connecting with some of these things that I talked about learning in my computer science education.

Anthony D. Mays:
I was like, “Oh, okay. That’s where this really applies.” And so, I got to learn a lot of cool stuff and to do some things that would set me up again for success later on. Got to work with a… I’d worked in a large company with thousands of employees, and then ended up working in this department where there were just five of us. And so, it felt very much like a startup or a startup in growth phase. It was interesting to work with… to have a technical manager and someone who was a manager, who was also an engineer. My previous manager wasn’t an engineer. I have experience coding before, but really didn’t dabble in the technical.

Anthony D. Mays:
So to go from that to someone who is technical and having those discussions, I just found that to be cool. And I really learned a lot from my boss at the time, Mike, who was just a great engineer, double-majored in physics and math, I think it was, or actually had a master’s degree in physics and math. So just really a smart guy. I just remember growing and develop… Honestly, Mike, if you’re listening, sorry, wasn’t necessarily the best manager at the time. And so, I perceived that I needed to get myself into a position where I could find even more growth and learning.

Anthony D. Mays:
But again, a lot of what motivated me to move from one place to the other was the learning and the growth, not necessarily the money. Now, as I move from one company to the next, I found myself getting $15,000 raises each time, so that was nice. But it wasn’t something I was looking for.

Maurice Cherry:
Mm-hmm.

Anthony D. Mays:
I felt like it was just necessary for me to keep growing and keep getting better. And if I didn’t feel like that was happening, then I wanted to move. And so, by the time I got to Slalom Consulting, I had the opportunity to work with consultants in past jobs and past roles, and I really loved looking at consultants and watching them work and seeing the kinds of opportunities they got to dive into. And so, when I had the chance to become a consultant, I really enjoyed that, and working on a variety of customer projects in a variety of different contexts and seeing how the same skills I’ve been using for over a decade at that point could be used in a variety of different contexts. And that was very helpful. Very, very helpful.

Anthony D. Mays:
And again, I love this idea of being hired to be an expert in something that I didn’t know or understand yet, being entrusted to just kind of dive in and start solving problems using brand new tools and processes, and I really enjoyed that. And I enjoy Slalom as a company. I think Slalom continues to be a great company and I hear nothing but good things, still, from folks who have worked there in the past and have gone on to other things. I might still actually be at Slalom today if it hadn’t been for Google knocking on the door.

Maurice Cherry:
Well, let’s talk about Google. I mean, I’m sure that folks that are listening have heard about how tough it is to break into Google, their interview process, et cetera. Tell me about what your Google experience was like.

Anthony D. Mays:
Yeah. So I connected with Google as a young man in college, my first and second year of college actually. So Google Search showed up on the scene, and you probably remember Infoseek and AltaVista and Ask Jeeves and those earlier search engines.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Anthony D. Mays:
And I remember Google Search coming on the scene and just changing the game. All of a sudden, I felt like I had this world of information at my fingertips where I could find exactly what I was looking for with just a few keystrokes. Then I remember Gmail, this free mail service. And people take advantage of, then neglect to appreciate free email. You had Gmail, which is free email service. I could put attachments in and schoolwork there and use it, and it was amazing.

Anthony D. Mays:
And I thought Google as a company name was a weird name. The first thing I said was, “Look at this Yahoo clone. Google. Who do they think they are?”

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Anthony D. Mays:
But they were interesting and innovative, and they were dabbling in a bunch of these different spaces even in the early days. And then they went public and made millions of dollars for folks who had joined the company early and been part of that process. I was attracted to Google as a company and to Google technology. And even today, post-Google career, I still love Google products and services. And I forgot to turn off the device, and so there might be something that… The Assistant might chirp in and interrupt me at any time now. I’ve always loved the technologies and things they built and their ambition as well.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Anthony D. Mays:
And so, even though I love the company, I never saw myself being worthy of being employed there, being considered amongst the ranks of software engineers there. And so, when I encountered a recruiter in college, I think it was my third year of college, they gave me an application, asked me to fill it out for an internship. I walked away some steps and threw the application in the trash, because I knew-

Maurice Cherry:
Whoa.

Anthony D. Mays:
… that they weren’t going to hire a Black dude from the hood. I just knew that. They weren’t going to hire a Black man from the hood who’s a former physical, sexual abuse victim. I’m like, “No.” So that was my early interaction with Google. And then some years later, 11 years into my career, a recruiter reached out to me over LinkedIn and said, “Hey, I think that there’s a place and a role for you at the company. You should consider applying.” And it felt different because the recruiter used my full name. They singled me out on LinkedIn.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Anthony D. Mays:
And I had 11 years of career experience under my belt at that point. And so, I felt emboldened to go through the interview process. Yeah. I didn’t have a friend, cousin, uncle, brother, whatever, that had worked anywhere near a big tech company. And so, I had to do what any self-respecting engineer would do in my position. I googled it. “How do you succeed at this interview process?” And I came across some good information but I also came across some bad information. I didn’t know how to disambiguate the two. And so, I ended up studying brain teasers for two weeks and went into this interview process and not a single brain teaser was asked.

Maurice Cherry:
Mm-hmm.

Anthony D. Mays:
And I fought as hard as I could with the information that I had and worked very hard. It wasn’t an issue of work ethic. It was an issue of information and not being connected to the right network. And ultimately, I was saddened to hear from the recruiter that they weren’t going to move forward. And I remember reflecting on that “no” and thinking that I had let down myself, my family, my community, my church, all Black people everywhere, because when-

Maurice Cherry:
Oh, wow.

Anthony D. Mays:
Yeah. I mean, when I’m coming into the space as an underrepresented person, I know that the people that I’m talking to, I might be one of the very few Black folks that they ever talked to, one of the very few people from Compton. Maybe the only person from Compton that they’ll ever meet, and that they’re forming ideas about who I am and about what I represent. And so, I was aware of that burden and I was deeply impacted by that.

Anthony D. Mays:
So when recruiters would reach out the next year and the year after that, I think three times total, after I had failed the interview, I was very confused. I was like, “Y’all know I’m a Black man, right?” Right? Everybody says they’re going to call you back if a position is available. No one ever does. And these recruiters called me back, I think, three times. And my last recruiter understood that I was very hesitant to reengage with the process.

Maurice Cherry:
Mm-hmm.

Anthony D. Mays:
It kind of babied me, kind of coddled me in the conversation. And I kind of walked away from that thinking, “She thinks I’m a punk.” She’s calling me a… That’s really what’s going on here. She’s calling me a punk. I can’t go out like that.

Maurice Cherry:
Mm-hmm.

Anthony D. Mays:
And so, after talking to my wife and getting her support, I realized that I wanted to try again. And so, I picked up Cracking the Coding Interview by Gayle Laakmann McDowell, bought a whiteboard and some markers, really committed myself to studying the right information this time. And as a result of a month and a half of studying for, I don’t know, three or four hours a day, except for Sundays because I’m closed on Sundays, I was able to go through the interview process and get the job.

Anthony D. Mays:
And you would think that after that, everything is happily ever after, like, “Yay, you did it. You accomplished this amazing feat. Now you can rest and ride off into the sunset.” Well, as soon as I got to Google, I felt uncomfortable. And it wasn’t because of anything specific that people were doing. It’s that I just… I couldn’t sit in my seat. I was unnerved and restless. I would sit in this cafe surrounded by free food, free snacks, free beverages, by games and pool tables and really smart people, and my attention would be directed to the basketball court on the first floor as I’m watching these dudes duke it out on the basketball court.

Anthony D. Mays:
And I’m like, I understand that part. I understand basketball. I understand that struggle. I understand that life. I don’t understand this. I don’t understand tech, this new privilege. And there’s this culture shock. I’m forced to dress different than I had ever dressed before. I start off my career in a bank, suit and tie, and everybody’s now wearing jeans and a T-shirt. The whole thing is jarring. My bosses… My co-workers are telling me that I’m doing a good job, and I don’t believe them because I know I’m the diversity hire. Right?

Anthony D. Mays:
You ain’t got to lie to kick it. I’m the diversity hire. You hired me because you don’t have that many Black folks and you just want to make sure that your numbers look good. So I knew all those things, even though it wasn’t necessarily true. And it wasn’t until 2014 when Google released their diversity numbers that I realized what I was dealing with. It wasn’t just impostor syndrome. It was this awareness that I’m this underrepresented person put in this culture that wasn’t built for me.

Anthony D. Mays:
And I felt like, at the time when Google released their numbers, if they were making a commitment to bring visibility and light to this problem, I needed to take a role in helping to solve that problem and using every means at my disposal to bring positive change to the industry using my own experience and journey. And so, I started to write about my journey and experience and share interview tips and talk about things that I did well and things I didn’t do well. I tried to be very public about the failure that I had during the first interview and the successes during the second one, and just be open and honest about the struggles and all that. And as I did that, people would reward me with recognition and with support and encouragement.

Anthony D. Mays:
And I thank God that, at Google, I had the opportunity to start off as an engineer, just heads down writing code, but then eventually become this DEI advocate, this speaker, this consultant within the company, and even outside the company, talking about this experience in recruiting and what it means to be an underrepresented person in tech. And so, I really enjoyed the fact that not only did my boss support me in that work, but my boss’s boss and my boss’s boss’s boss, they all said, “Listen, you do your thing. Keep speaking, keep writing, keep supporting, keep providing value to the tech community, and we’ll make sure that your performance reviews reflect those contributions positively.”

Anthony D. Mays:
I felt like it was a unique time, a unique team, and a great time for me to be involved in the work and growing. And I credit the influence and the things that make me who I am today in part to Google and the people that I had the opportunity to work with. So I think because of that, I know that a lot of people are doing the work. I don’t know that many companies are doing it better than Google is at least in some respects.

Maurice Cherry:
I mean, it sounds like you really found yourself there, not only as a professional but, in a way, almost as a person. You had these early times of impostor syndrome and self-doubt, and you were able to overcome that through your time there.

Anthony D. Mays:
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there was so much self-discovery for me, partly because of all the bags that I brought through in my life and the time that I was a kid. I mean, I really had to confront my whole life in that whole journey when I got to Google. And I don’t know why it was that it took me getting to Google to do that, but I really went through a crisis when I got to Google.

Anthony D. Mays:
There’s this thing called survivor’s guilt where, when you feel like you’ve survived trauma, you feel guilty and ask questions like, “Why is it that I wasn’t shot and killed when I was 19 like some of my early friends had been? Why is it that I wasn’t being funeralized? Why is it that even though I saw other people who were working harder than me and who I thought were smarter than me, why did I make it to this level and they didn’t?” And I really had to grapple with that. And it took me to some very dark places personally.

Anthony D. Mays:
My wife, my family can tell you that I really found it difficult to bear with that stress. And I told my boss, I said, “Listen, have you ever managed someone who’s a physical and sexual abuse survivor to the best of your knowledge?” Said, “No.” I said, “Well, have you ever managed someone who’s a foster kid from the hood?” “No.” I said, “Okay. So we’re both new at this. We’re both going to figure this out. But my commitment to you is that I’m going to work as hard as I possibly can to contribute to this team, to do excellent work, and to pay attention to my craft. That’s my commitment to you, and we’ll figure the rest out.” And I believe that my manager was very great and understanding in coming alongside with me for that journey and just being open and honest. So I appreciate that to this day.

Maurice Cherry:
Where do you see diversity in tech now, from your perspective?

Anthony D. Mays:
Yeah. It’s still… I feel like it’s still burgeoning. We’re still in the early stages in many respects. I can remember when… Even just a few years ago, we were still struggling to figure out terminology, and that’s one of the frustrating things about working in DEI, is it seems like the glossary’s changing every single year. New words to use, new things to add to the language.

Maurice Cherry:
BIPOC.

Anthony D. Mays:
Yeah, exactly. I think, a month ago, I was like, “What’s that?” And I had to ask somebody, “What’s a URM stand for?” because I forgot what it was. Even when I joined Google, I was just like, “Do I call myself Black or African American?”

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Anthony D. Mays:
I was asking myself that. And so, there’s still a lot of newness in this space. And part of… I think there’s also a conflict between the academic understanding of DEI and things like critical race theory and all that stuff, thought leaders who are on that level. But then you have people who are just trying… who are experiencing what it’s like being in the workplace rubbing up against people that you may not understand, who have experiences that you may not be familiar with and just trying to figure it out on an emotional level.

Anthony D. Mays:
I think those two perspectives sometimes come into conflict and companies are trying to figure out what to do in the middle of all of that. A decade ago, maybe even five years ago, you wouldn’t hear about love being talked about in the workplace, unless you’re talking about workplace romances. But there’s this notion that tech companies are trying to figure out how to love their employees, which is really weird even when I say that now. But I’ve had to expose more of my life in big tech in the past several years than I ever had to before, and that’s because tech, I think pre-2013, 2014, was very much color-blind. We don’t see race, we don’t see gender, all those other kinds of things.

Anthony D. Mays:
There was this big emphasis on an extreme side of the spectrum where you just pretended to ignore these differentiations between people of different backgrounds and whatnot, then tried to typecast everybody as this one thing. And that was harmful, I think. I don’t think that was helpful. To a certain extent, you want to make sure that you have a culture where everybody feels like they’re working on the same mission and going in the same direction. I don’t want to negate that, but there’s also disservice when you are pretending to be color-blind.

Anthony D. Mays:
Last time I checked, color blindness is considered a disorder or a disability or whatever the right word is for that. It’s not something helpful. And so, I think we’re starting to open our eyes and see color for the first time and see some of these other things for the first time and are still figuring it out. And like I said, there’s a lot of things that are happening both at the big tech company and at the small tech company level to correct and chart a new path forward. But it’s messy work.

Anthony D. Mays:
And even that, it’s refreshing to be able to admit that nowadays because back in the days, DEI was a bunch of people who look different, holding hands, singing Kumbaya, sitting in the middle of a park, high-fiving each other. That was kind of the ideal some years ago, and I think we’re realizing that that’s not what the work looks like. The work is grimy, it’s messy, it’s hard, it’s difficult. There’s a lot of disagreement. There’s agreeing to disagree.

Anthony D. Mays:
But at the end of the day, the hope is that all of these different perspectives will inform a culture that fosters innovation and creativity and new ways of thinking about old problems. And so, there’s clearly business opportunity here. I think the research bears that out, and I think companies are understanding that there’s a lot of money to be made by having these discussions and thinking through these things. And that’s not bad.

Maurice Cherry:
What’s something that perhaps not many people understand about you? I mean, I feel like you’ve put so much of your life story out there, not just with the work that you do, but also at the places where you’ve worked.

Anthony D. Mays:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
What’s something you think people still don’t get about you?

Anthony D. Mays:
My faith, absolutely.

Maurice Cherry:
Mmm.

Anthony D. Mays:
Hands down. It’s the fact that I think about all the things that I think about from the lens of someone who’s a Christian and is saturated in the Christian Bible and in the scriptures. I’ve told people countless times, “If you ever want to figure me out, go read that Bible, then you’ll have me dead to rights.” That’s it. I mean, I do what I do because my hero, my Savior, Christ Jesus, was someone who gave himself up for the world. That style of servant leadership, that sacrificing for other people is very core to what I do.

Anthony D. Mays:
Also, just in terms of my work ethic and how I engage, I want to make sure that I’m a good reflection of Christ. I want to make sure that I’m moving in wisdom. Proverbs, I grew up on the Book of Proverbs when I was growing up and learning about everything from how to manage money wisely, to how to have conversations with people that are going to be positive and good, to how to win friends, and how to avoid the traps of street life.

Anthony D. Mays:
A lot of that I learned from the Bible, from Proverbs, and from looking at these exemplary figures, these historical figures, who have to overcome a variety of different circumstances and challenges and trials with their faith rested on God. And that’s how I move today. So much of what I do is also gospel-focused too. I think one of the things that helps me to be a DEI practitioner, talking about diversity, equity, and inclusion, is my faith. Seeing people as made in the image of God.

Anthony D. Mays:
For me, it’s not about just helping Black people or just helping brown people or just helping women, whatever that is. It’s about helping anybody in the space that wants to be successful. And then there’s this other aspect of like, “I know how evil I am in my own heart because the Bible teaches me that.” And so, I can have a conversation with someone who maybe is an overt racist and talk about their viewpoints and talk about why I might disagree with them and call them to have hope in Christ and to see that their thinking is evil.

Anthony D. Mays:
But I also know that I’m a bad dude. I have done things over my own career and over my own life that I’m certainly not proud of because they were wrong, and that means that I can have compassion towards other people who I disagree with and have those calm conversations. One of the things that I tell people all the time is, “You can ask me about anything with regards to race, gender, my life, whatever. I don’t care. My promise is that I’m not going to get angry with you. You’re going to get nothing from me but love and compassion as we talk through very difficult things,” because that’s the way my Savior moves. That drives so much of what I do and how I think about the things that I think about.

Anthony D. Mays:
I’m glad that I’m able to reflect the goodness of God, reflect the grace of Christ in what I do. And hopefully, people see that. Hopefully, people perceive that. And hopefully, people are curious about what drives me to do the things that I do with the level of excellence that I try to pour into those things.

Maurice Cherry:
What are you excited about at the moment?

Anthony D. Mays:
So I’m very excited about the work that I’m doing with my client, Karat, as the newly signed technical advisor, senior advisor, with the Brilliant Black Minds program. I love the Brilliant Black Minds program because what they’re attempting to do is provide free interview practice to HBCU students. If you know anything about interview prep in these days and times, it can be very expensive. There are some companies and organizations out there that are just charging obscene amounts of money to provide candidates… to kind of prey on the hopes and dreams of candidates who are looking to crack FAANG companies.

Anthony D. Mays:
But Karat wants to provide free interviews to Black HBCU students and to help them level up in their careers. And I love that because I remember how difficult it was for me to connect to good and reliable resources, and I think this is such a wonderful opportunity for our students to finally get feedback and support that they may have been lacking before. And so, I’m really excited about that program. I’m really excited to see it grow and expand.

Anthony D. Mays:
I think that this is one of those things that if we get this right, it will really take off and be a substantive force in the industry. So that’s what I’m excited about, and I’m really excited to continue to partner with them to grow and expand the impact of that program so that, though we may be focused on supporting Black engineers today, that this is something that will be opened up for everybody in the near future. Yeah. That’s what I’m looking forward to.

Maurice Cherry:
When you look back at your career and you even look now to where you’re at with your firm and with your family and everything, what does success look like for you now?

Anthony D. Mays:
For me, the measure of success has remained constant. It’s how well do I reflect Christ in my life, is really what it comes down to. And I think that being able to continue to support for my family and take care of their needs while also providing transformative impact on the industry in which I’ve grown up and become accustomed and have grown in, that’s key for me. And so, I want to continue to amplify and multiply the impact that I’ve had in tech to help more people get in and succeed.

Anthony D. Mays:
My hope is that, by doing that, I can leave a good example and legacy for the generation that’s following after me, because I’m not just an observer of Black history. I’m a participant in it. And I’m continuing that legacy so that future generations will benefit.

Maurice Cherry:
Where do you see yourself in the next five years? What do you want the next chapter in the Anthony D. Mays story to look like?

Anthony D. Mays:
Yeah. That’s a really tough question. That’s been on my to-do list to answer that one. I haven’t quite gotten around to it in the two months that I’ve been a full-time entrepreneur. But I think just real quickly, I hope that in five years, I’ll be reading a news article about how my efforts has transformationally changed the tech interviewing landscape, that I want to be able to, in five years, read that article, that I want it to be said that, through the work that I did, I was able to help this industry almost leapfrog in terms of how we deal with and grow and develop underrepresented talent in the business. So that hopefully will be my contribution, but we’ll see.

Maurice Cherry:
Well, just to wrap things up here, where can our audience find out more information about you, about your work, about your firm? Where can they find that online?

Anthony D. Mays:
Yeah, absolutely. So I’ll make it easy for all of your listeners. Anthony D. Mays, D as in diversity. Anthony D. Mays, M-A-Y-S, on all the things, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn. Feel free to connect with me. I’m also at anthonydmays.com and that’s a great place to find articles that I’ve written about tech interviewing, working in tech, being underrepresented.

Anthony D. Mays:
If you want to book me for speaking, I’m also there. Yeah. You can also connect with Morgan Latimer Consulting right through that page. So it’s all there. Just visit anthonydmays.com and connect with me. I’d love to chat with you and figure out how I might be able to help you in your journey and your career.

Maurice Cherry:
Sounds good. Well, Anthony D. Mays, I want to thank you so much for coming on the show. I mean, I had a sense, from doing my research, how the interview would go in terms of your story and what you’ve put out there. But I guess I didn’t realize how similar in a way we were in terms of how we got into technology, growing up in, like I said, these dubious towns and things.

Maurice Cherry:
I hope that people will listen to this interview and not only, I think, seek out your services, but see just where and how far passion can take you. It was very clear to me from listening to your story that you have this passion for technology that would not quit, and to the point where it not only got you to working at one of the top tech companies in the world, but that it also, in a way, started a journey of self-introspection to get you to where you are today to be just a stronger and better person. So thank you so much for coming on the show, man. I really appreciate it.

Anthony D. Mays:
Well, thank you so much, Maurice. This has been quite a pleasure.

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