In this episode, I talk with Dr. Kari L. Jordan, Ph.D., executive director at The Carpentries, about her transition from engineering to leading a nonprofit firm, and how nonprofits are shaping the future of science and technology. We also delve into the importance of equity and inclusion in STEM.
***The video version of this episode can be viewed here.***
Here Are Some of the Questions I Ask Kari:
- Could you share your path from engineering school to becoming the CEO of a nonprofit?
- As we discuss nonprofits, how does your engineering background contribute to the organization and its causes?
- How does your nonprofit tackle equity and inclusion, and what impact do you aim to achieve?
- How did your values influence your choice to lead a nonprofit, considering key experiences in your journey?
- Can you highlight any impactful experiences that have shaped your perspective on the intersection of engineering, nonprofits, and your values?
- How does your organization balance pursuing its mission with practical issues like funding and sustainability in addressing societal challenges?
- Could you provide advice or insights for aspiring engineers or individuals interested in pursuing a career in the nonprofit sector?
- As we talk about that insight and advice, what would be a way to approach deciding to go into the nonprofit sector versus the industry?
- How can people get in touch with you further, and in what ways can they stay connected to learn more?
Here Are Some Key Points Discussed in This Episode About the Impact of Nonprofits in Shaping the Future of Science and Technology:
- Kari’s career journey started in Detroit, with little exposure to engineering. After studying mechanical engineering, Kari planned to work in industry but ended up in graduate school. Frustrated by the lack of diversity, Kari shifted focus to education, completing a Ph.D. at Ohio State. She now works in assessment for The Carpentries, merging with a nonprofit, and remains dedicated to creating opportunities for people of color in data science.
- Engineers equipped with problem-solving skills learned in school can tackle complex issues from societal to environmental. Their collaborative and communicative abilities, developed through tasks like creating presentations, extend seamlessly into leadership roles. As a nonprofit executive, these skills prove essential in articulating ideas, solving problems with the team, and presenting solutions to stakeholders, showcasing the versatility of engineering expertise in various professional scenarios.
- The Carpentry, a nonprofit since 1998, globally educates in data and coding skills with workshops in 64 countries. Emphasizing equity, inclusion, and a growth mindset, they prioritize accessibility through diverse accommodations and multilingual resources. Actively working to enhance diversity in data science, the organization collaboratively builds programs with the community, showcasing a commitment to learning and inclusivity.
- Engineers excel at solving complex problems, whether societal or in areas like manufacturing and environmental issues. Skills learned in engineering school, like collaboration, teamwork, and communication, are applied daily. From creating presentations in undergrad to being now a nonprofit executive, these skills prove invaluable, highlighting the versatility of engineering expertise in various professional settings.
- The Carpentry teaches data and coding globally, making it fair and inclusive. In 64 countries, they adapt to different communities. Now, they’re focused on accessibility for all and boosting diversity in data science. They stick to their values by working closely with communities to shape their programs.
- After graduating in 2006, Kari’s journey got tough. While classmates landed high-paying jobs, she stayed in school for the love of learning and education. Despite delays in financial rewards, the shift to the nonprofit space brought joy. Working on mentoring programs and directly impacting lives aligned with personal values and a meaningful mission, making the unconventional path worthwhile.
- Attending the National Society of Black Engineers convention was a game-changer. Seeing 7,000 Black individuals pursuing engineering made it clear that achieving success in the field was doable. Discovering that there were full-time roles supporting student leaders sparked the idea of turning passion into a job. Now, as a nonprofit executive, the commitment to being mission-driven happened sooner than expected. The goal is to lead or found a nonprofit in the future.
- Right now, The Carpentry is navigating changes in funding. In 2020, there was a focus on equity and inclusion funding, but three years later, diversity roles are fading as attention shifts to artificial intelligence. The Carpentry faces a crucial point, staying true to its mission amid evolving funding trends. They’re simplifying programs and seeking partners who align with their mission to tackle the challenges of the shifting funding landscape.
- Before diving into nonprofits, Kari made a smart move by listing what mattered beyond job titles. They aimed for remote work, writing, travel, and teaching. Drawing from personal experience, Kari advises fellow engineers, especially people of color, to negotiate terms and know their worth. Loyalty is good, but don’t stick with a toxic workplace or values misaligned with the company. Recognize when it’s time for a change. Bottom line: Fight for what you want and be open to career shifts.
- Consider jumping on a nonprofit board — local spots like Boys and Girls Clubs or Girl Scouts are perfect. It’s a hands-on way to see how nonprofits handle money, showing that money is not the main concern. Being on a board broadens your know-how on various nonprofits and their operations. Leading a board, like at the Code for Science and Society, gives you the scoop on advising and learning, especially in areas like artificial intelligence and machine learning. It’s a smart move to understand how nonprofits roll and widen your professional world.
More Details in This Episode…
About the Guest: Dr. Kari L. Jordan
Dr. Kari L. Jordan is an internationally recognized, visionary leader and advocate in data science education and community building. Dr. Jordan has played a pivotal role in shaping the landscape of data literacy and empowering nonprofit communities worldwide.
Dr. Jordan holds a Ph.D. in Engineering Education, specializing in diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM. Through her vision and unwavering commitment to DEI, she has helped organizations build global impact through strategic planning, policy development, and governance.
Dr. Jordan is a sought-after speaker and consultant, sharing expertise and insight at international conferences and workshops. Her collaborative and empathetic approach has inspired countless individuals and organizations to advance equity, transforming how individuals acquire and apply knowledge, and ultimately fostering a more inclusive and empowered society.
About the Host: Tiffani Teachey
Tiffani Teachey is a Sr. Mechanical Engineer, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) advocate, TEDx international speaker, and international best-selling author of the children’s book “What Can I Be? STEM Careers from A to Z,” the STEM Crew Kids Adventures series, and three empowerment books. She is the host of the Read It Right Radio Show on WDRBmedia. Tiffani is the owner of Thrive Edge Publishing and owner/publishing consultant of Inspired Authors Publishing. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering as well as a Master of Science degree in Engineering Management, both from The University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She is currently a Leadership Studies Ph.D. student at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.
As an engineer with more than 19 years of experience, Tiffani has a passion for inspiring the next generation to engage in STEM careers. She was born and raised in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and enjoys traveling and being a youth mentor. For more about Tiffani, visit her website at www.TiffaniTeachey.com. Check out the free STEM gift – 10 STEM Scholarships & Organizations e-book at www.stemistheway.com.
KL Jordan Consulting
Michigan Tech University
Marathon Petroleum Company
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Ohio State University
National Society of Black Engineers
National Urban League
Code for Science and Society
Connect with Dr. Kari L. Jordan on LinkedIn
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To your success,
Host of the Women in Engineering Success Stories from STEM Professionals Podcast