NBC NEWS | Marissa Evans
AUSTIN, TX—Stephanie Lampkin has a photo of Ursula Burns, the CEO of Xerox, up in her office.
Oprah, Maya Angelou and Melanie Hobson have a special place in her office too, but Lampkin says she draws a lot of inspiration from Burns’ corporate career path.
“It takes a lot of patience and grace and delayed gratification for a black woman to go up in the ranks of a company like that,” Lampkin says. “We need to see more examples of that.” Delayed gratification and grace have been key for Lampkin, 31, as she prepares to launch her app, Blendoor, into public beta testing during SXSW interactive festival Sunday. The app comes two years after being told during an interview with a well-known tech company that she didn’t have enough technical skills.
This was news to Lampkin, a D.C.-native who had been coding since she 13, was a Stanford engineering and MIT graduate and an alumna of companies like Microsoft, Deloitte and TripAdvisor.
“It was almost funny to me because I felt like if I were a white or Asian person with those exact same credentials there would be no question about how technical I was,” Lampkin says.
That’s where the idea behind Blendoor was born.
The app is designed to take unconscious bias out of hiring in the tech space. Companies can swipe for candidates using only their listed qualifications, not pictures. According to Lampkin, the goal is to move the conversation about diversity in tech beyond the alleged pipeline argument to justifiable, quantifiable data that companies can use. Nineteen companies including Google, Twitter, AirBnb and LinkedIn are piloting the app.
Lampkin learned to code through the Black Data Processing Associates (BDPA) High School Computer Competition (HSCC) program in Washington, D.C. and became a full-time web developer by the time she was 15. But the idea of becoming an engineer was planted by her aunt, a computer scientist who Lampkin admired, and who possessed the latest gadgets of the 1980s — like her cell phone in the car for non-emergencies and even a CD player. Most importantly: her aunt had freedom and could travel the world on a whim.