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While February is Black History Month, we should also take the other 11 months to focus on the future—one that is inclusive and promotes equity and equality. Unfortunately, the Black community is still working hard to remedy what happened in past generations when it comes to injustice and bias. I often say there are two sure ways to begin the healing process of Black America—education and economics. With access to both, there is no other option but to thrive.
It’s important to celebrate Black history because it provides us with an opportunity to reflect on those who dedicated their lives to equality and even died so we could live together, united as one human race. It’s also about taking what we’ve learned from past generations to seek a positive path forward. If you want to learn more about the origins of Black History Month, I highly recommend “The Origins of Black History Month” by Texas A&M professor Albert Broussard.
I spoke with KT Moore, vice president, marketing and business development in the Custom IC & PCB Group at Cadence, to find out what this month means to him, how it started, and what Cadence is doing to continue to foster a culture of inclusion. Here’s a recap of our conversation:
What does Black History Month mean to you?
I’ve said before that it’s all about remembering and honoring our heritage as Americans and human beings. It’s a reminder for me to honor Black Americans who lived before me who helped pave the way against seemingly insurmountable obstacles to change the way society treats us as people.
Although it’s generally accepted that slavery started in America in 1619, it is not the beginning of my history as a Black person in America. While I have not been able to trace my ancestry prior to being stolen and transported to America, I want to emphasize that Black people were not always slaves. People should know that in other parts of the world, Black people lived productive lives and co-existed with some level of equality in other societies.
What are you reflecting on during this year’s Black History Month?
Last February was the first time in my life that I was ever asked to write about what Black history means to me. I must admit that it was difficult for me to do. It’s hard to explain except that, if I’m honest with myself, for most of my adult life, I chose to ignore the fact that I’m Black. When I ask myself why, the answer is this: I was tired of being treated differently than my counterparts and colleagues.
My first awareness of this happened when I was a freshman in college. In my very first meeting with my college advisor, I was told that kids like me generally don’t do well in engineering and that maybe I should consider a different major—something in the arts. I was 18 years old. College was difficult for me, partly because I did not emphasize math and science in high school, the course material was new, and the culture was very competitive. But the biggest challenge for me was that I had to regularly deal with deeply embedded perceptions, conscious prejudices, and unconscious biases from the first day I arrived on campus until the day I graduated, which were similar to the sentiments my advisor communicated. Except for a handful of Black students and a minority engineering student organization, there was no support for me on that campus. I would try to join study groups with other students but would usually not be accepted into them.
What challenges have you faced?
I graduated from college in 1985 and have been working hard ever since to overcome biases and stereotypes, not only on the job but also in my community at large. If you want to know what it’s like, please understand it’s different for each person. For me, it feels like I’m running a race. Some runners are in a lane where they have a good tailwind at their back. In my case, I feel like I’ve been running with more headwinds than tailwinds. And those headwinds can be stronger and last longer than the period of tailwinds I’ve experienced. This was true for me as a student, a design engineer, an applications engineer, a salesperson and manager, a sales operations director, a product marketing director, and a vice president.
When I first shared my story on the Cadence blog during Black History Month last year, it was before May 25 and the footage of George Floyd that was captured for the entire world to see. Since then, a lot has changed for me. It’s like I am invisible until something happens. Then when that “thing” happens, I get noticed. Events around May 25, including reactions to George Floyd’s death, brought up so many emotions and feelings that I had chosen to ignore for most of my life.
I realized I needed to do more to have a positive impact on the lives of people around me—all people. The fact that other people of color and I share these ideas in 2021 indicates that the biases that impacted me, my parents, and my ancestors have not been fully eradicated. As I think about what Black History Month means to me, it’s the realization that our story is not over. We are still writing it, and I’m a part of it. The question is, what part do I want to play?
I’m continuing to commit my time, energy, and money to support organizations that are about positive change in the community and workplace. I will continue to work with and mentor young students and professionals from all walks of life to help them achieve their goals and dreams. In my local community, I am a working board member of a non-profit Dallas-based organization, the Oasis Center, that offers services and life-changing development programs to first-time youth offenders and formerly incarcerated persons.
What role is Cadence playing?
I have been in the electronic design automation (EDA) industry for more than 30 years. I’m thankful to work for a company that embraces diversity and inclusion (D&I) as part of its broader corporate culture. At the highest levels of the company, there is a commitment to improving the representation of gender and various ethnic groups throughout different levels of management. While there’s been a strong focus on women in technology in our organization, we are also starting to recognize other groups, including those of Black and LatinX origin. We are actively ramping up various inclusion groups to help promote an awareness of diversity in the company.
I’m excited to be the executive sponsor of our Black Inclusion Group to build a community within Cadence and to be part of the committee that awarded our Black Students in Technology Scholarship. I am also involved with a new mentorship program and an advanced leadership program being offered to our Black and Latinx employees.
These programs are a true testament by the senior executive leaders at Cadence to be at the forefront of change in our industry. I appreciate the fact that our leadership places importance on D&I. In my view, D&I are interdependent. In order to cultivate a truly diverse culture, it must be inclusive. It’s great to see Cadence integrating this into our culture.
Any final thoughts
In closing, as I reflect on Black History Month, I want to encourage everyone to find their voice to speak out against injustice and unconscious bias. Shift your mindset to take an active role in your workplace and community to embrace our differences. Become the change agents our world so desperately needs in order to recognize the potential in all people.
Cadence Awards 31 Diversity Scholarships to Students in Technology