By Leigh-Ann Jackson
Over the past 20 years, Ron Guerrier has served as Chief Information Officer for multiple Fortune 500 firms, as well as the State of Illinois. No matter the post, he’s been driven by a desire to promote equality in the tech field and beyond. In September, the Chicago-based innovator stepped into the CIO role at HP, with the goal of building out its IT organization and overseeing company-wide digitization. But he’s also eager to further the company’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
The HP Racial Equality and Social Justice Task Force, formed last summer and formalized this year, was what initially piqued Guerrier’s curiosity about HP. His interest grew stronger when he came across CEO Enrique Lores’ public statement about “leading with values” in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.
“I was blown away,” Guerrier said, “because it resonated as something that was extremely authentic.”
During last summer’s nationwide civil unrest, he recalled, “A lot of CEOs and boards were posting statements and then they just went quiet.” By contrast, he found that HP had a plan to make good on the company’s committments about social justice and racial equality. Its nascent task force and its expanding partnerships with HBCUs convinced Guerrier that the company intended to “use the power and influence of this phenomenal brand to change things.”
“I follow the basic rule [which is to] create awareness and advocacy,” Guerrier says. “But, I think a lot of companies end it there. They forget the third ‘A,’ which is action.”
For Guerrier, taking action is key. His dedication to uplifting underserved communities has led him to volunteer with the gang rehabilitation program Homeboy Industries and serves as a founding Advisory Board Member of STEM Advantage, a nonprofit organization promoting STEM opportunities for minorities enrolled in the California State University system. He also sits on the board of the disaster relief organization SBP, which he describes as “Habitat for Humanity plus”— the nonprofit helps underserved communities maneuver their way through the FEMA process after a disaster hits, and rebuilds homes, making them net zero and carbon neutral whenever possible.
HP’s efforts to tackle climate change were yet another draw for Guerrier, who has been eco-minded since his college days at the University of Illinois. “My family originates from Haiti and I have cousins who work at HP recycling centers. How small of a world is this? Right now, I’m looking at an HP Elite Dragonfly made using recycled materials including ocean-bound plastic potentially from Haiti!”
Looking ahead, Guerrier plans to use his platform to continue addressing the digital divide in education, to create pathways for advancement, and to encourage businesses to “see the art of the possible in Black and Brown communities.”
What’s your impression of the DEI work HP is doing?
As a founding member of OneTen, a coalition that aims to create one million family-sustaining jobs for Black Americans, we’re partnering with our global procurement group to make sure that we hire more Black-owned IT companies. We recently signed up for the Information Technology Senior Management Forum, an organization that helps Black employees understand the importance of networking and connects them with strong sponsors within the company. So when we do have an opportunity at the manager or director level, we can have a diverse palette of candidates. That is putting the action behind awareness and advocacy.
How have your personal experiences in the tech world shaped your perspective?
About 12% of the US population is African American, but we represent 3%, at most, in IT. So there is a huge gap. I want to make sure that we create better opportunities. There were times in my career where I’ve been at CIO events and I’m the keynote speaker, but I’m mistaken for security or the coffee guy. Several times, they would ask for my credentials just to validate that I’m in the right place. That’s embarrassing, but I use it as a learning opportunity to stress that you have to view everyone with an equal lens.
You’ve been vocal about increasing STEM education in Black and Latinx communities. Will you continue to advocate for those efforts in your new role?
What I want to do next, as I get more into the HP ecosystem, is see where there are opportunities to accelerate these passions. Where could we create equality and bring on more Black and Brown candidates who are more than qualified, but they just don’t know the network? At the end of the day, the network matters. The important thing is to connect the dots.
This version was previously published in the 3BL Media newsroom.
Image credit of Palo Alto, CA (home to HP’s headquarters): Paulius Dragunas/Unsplash