July 22, 2021

#23: Why this 23 year old turned down an offer at Google to start his own nonprofit ft. Jehron Petty


My guest for this episode is Jehron Petty. Jehron graduated from Cornell University last year and instead of taking a product management job at Google he decided to follow his entrepreneurial passion. At just 23 years old, Jehron is the founder and CEO of Colorstack: a non-profit that provides Black and Latinx computer science students with the support, community, and career development they need to reach their full potential in the tech space.

Show Notes

Introduction [0:00]

What Got Him Interested in The World of Computer Science [01:24] 

The Business He Started in High School [03:06]

His Computer Science Experience at Cornell University [03:52]

How He was Able to Secure Internships at Good Companies? [08:41]

What Inspired ColorStack and How Does it Compare to Different Programs [10:45]

How They Identify Students Who Want to Give Up Their Majors? [14:38]

How Can Someone Stand Out in their ColorStack Application? [18:55]

Who Specifically Can Join ColorStack and How Can They Join? [21:44]

The Challenges That He Experienced in Starting ColorStack [23:10]

What His experience Has Been Like as a Young Founder? [24:48]

What Inspired Him to Go All in on ColorStack, and Turn Down a Full Time Opportunity at Google? [26:00]

How Did He Manage His Finances to Work Full Time at ColorStack? [27:22]

Does He Ever See Himself Working in Tech Full Time? [31:49]

His Advice for People Trying to Figure Out Their Purpose [32:24]

Key Takeaways

(Show notes from our interview have been edited for clarity and brevity.)

  • I came across computer science, in my junior year of high school, through a program that gave an introduction to all the engineering fields....
  • “I think I was interested more in being an entrepreneur at the time [senior year], because I had started my first business in high school…”
  • I decided to do computer science because I found that a lot of the tech companies at the time, all had CEOs that were computer scientists. Secondly, being a computer science major actually forces you to think about things in the same way entrepreneur think about things…
  • “No amount of anything that someone teaches you can really matter if you don't apply it to building something…” -- Kimmiko James
  • “I have a lot of confidence in myself, and I don't really need representation personally, to feel like I belong, like I kind of go in any room and just know I belong there, and know I deserve to be there, know I can, that I have a voice. I'm not afraid to ask questions and be wrong and things like that…”
  • “That ecosystem, that environment didn't have an effect on my performance. What it did have effect on was my kind of happiness…”
  • “I was like, there is something wrong here. Like, I shouldn't be the only one that be the only black student that becomes a TA, you're the only black student that is interning at this company…”
  • My sophomore junior year focused heavily on paying it forward as much as I can, more focused on my own efforts. Junior year is when I scaled that through an organization, a student run club, that could help me reach more people in a more systematic way…
  • “I just have this level of comfort, being uncomfortable, and like, knowing that I have a lot to learn, but not letting that stop me from asking questions or, you know, saying something with confidence…”
  • I spent a lot of time networking and going to a lot of the corporate events that were on my campus during my first semester…
  • “I just put in the time that it took to like get prepped on interviews, technical interviews, very early on…”
  • “I just never was afraid to like cold outreach people. And I think at Cornell specifically, there were a lot of upperclassmen that were super willing to help…”
  • “I think one thing to highlight is that we're all we're all important and needed in the ecosystem, because we all kind of play different roles…”
  • I think for us, we're focused on like that earlier stage of the pipeline, but also in general, we're focused on social capital. So, like, we're focused on community, a sense of belonging, and delivering that at scale…
  • It's not just coursework, it's not just the system, it's not just leadership skills, and it's not just community, it's all of these things together that we install.
  • We identify problems that have to do with attraction into the major, retention once you're in the major, upskilling and success once you graduate. We run programs to mainly bring people who are dealing with the same type of problem together, coupled with the content that they need to get through that hump…
  • Our goal is to identify these problems in the journey of the Black and Brown computer science students over four years, identify what the key problems are, and build out programs directly to solve those issues…
  • I think in terms of how we find that people [is that we] word our opportunities in a way that it'll resonate…
  • We are very clear that this is a need-based program where you can't really earn your way into the program by having a better resume or having more experience…
  • “The idea is to be need based like to serve the people that are most in need…”
  • “I think that there are a bunch of resources out there that are useful and helpful and available that we don't need to replicate…”
  • “In general, if we can just give them the confidence they need to participate in the rest of the ecosystem, then that's less work for us on the on that latter part…”
  • “The reason that we reject people is if you don't communicate to us and your application that you are going to contribute to the community, then you don't have a place here…”
  • So, we have the ColorStack family, which is a community that's based on Slack, and we do events once a month, and that's like our main thing...
  • We have one question on the application that asks, what will you contribute to the community? So, if you don't answer that you're not getting in…
  • “I think to really stand out, like, be very honest, we're not looking for that college essay type submission…”
  • “We lean on the side of accepting contributors, because that helps more people get support…”
  • [We accept] Black and Latino college computer science students, basically, if you have to code for your major, your major is probably what we would accept…
  • “I think the best way to get connected is just joining the family, which you can do at https://www.colorstack.org/apply
  • For us, you can be a part of ColorStack without doing any one of our programs for four years, and still get value…
  • [When] you are a CEO, what you do is the most boring set of things that just need to get done that nobody else is going to do, that's your job…
  • So, it's [starting a company] just this learning curve that you really just can't avoid, whether you're a young founder or not…
  • One thing that has been difficult as a young founder is just this idea of kind of age and respect, getting lost in that dynamic [of working with older people] and taking what they say as prescription.
  • “I had mentally made a decision that I was going to start my own company around this problem very early…”
  • I wanted to solve the problems that I cared about, and I wanted a little more sense of urgency…
  • “For me, it was just about finding creative ways to get the funding through the door to make that work…”
  • “I fundamentally didn't did not care about any product that you could show me from any of the top tech companies that were recruiting me like I did not care about working on any of them…”
  • “It feels like I'm not actually working, but it's because I found a really big problem that I'm best positioned to solve…”
  • Once you find it [your purpose] and you realize you're okay doing the boring stuff without hating it, then I think that's kind of a sign you felt like you want to do… -- Kimmiko James
  • “I think there's no way I'm going back to being an employee and kind of doing something for somebody else…”
  • “The advice to me is I keep it super simple, and like don't get too much advice. It's like, because my thesis is that you already know what it is…”
  • “I think people spend too much time trying to figure out exactly what their purpose is. And that you just never end up doing anything…”

Where to Find Jehron Petty

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jehron/

Twitter: @jehronp Jehron (@jehronp) / Twitter

ColorStack: https://www.colorstack.org/

Important Links

https://www.colorstack.org/apply  

https://mlt.org/

http://www.code2040.org/

Transcript

Jehron Petty  0:09  
For me, I was like, there is something wrong here. Like I shouldn't be the only one that be the only Braxton that becomes a TA, you're the only black person that is interning at this company. Right? That shouldn't be the case. And so I took that as a sign that I needed to like if nobody else is going to fix that problem that I wasn't doing myself.

Kimmiko James  0:32  
drom Petit graduated from Cornell University last year, instead of taking a full time project management job at Google, he decided to follow his entrepreneurial passion. I just 23 years old, john is the founder and CEO of color stack, a nonprofit that provides black and Latinx computer science students with the support, community, and career development they need to reach their full potential in the tech space drawn inspired me during our conversation, and I'm sure he'll inspire you, too. Let's get into it. Hello, and welcome back to the black enterprise network podcast that shares the stories of black professionals in tech and entrepreneurship. In this episode, drone, I talk about the founding of the color stack program and how college students can get involved, what it truly means to be CEO of a company, and also what it means to find your purpose. Even at a young age,

Jehron Petty  1:24  
I came across computer science, in my junior year of high school, I went to this program that kind of give you an introduction to all the engineering fields. So mechanical, civil, biomedical, computer, engineering and computer science. And so that's when I was like, interesting, like, this is computer science, it's, it's less math than all the other ones. It's like a shorter time to realization of like what you actually build. Because you can kind of create a HelloWorld application in two seconds, and you can see the product of what you build very quickly. And so that's that's what piqued my interest. And then I took intro to programming that junior year advanced programming, and then did compute AP Computer Science my senior year, I think I was interested more in being an entrepreneur at the time, because I had started my first business in high school. And so the reason I said okay, let me just do computer science was one because I found that a lot of the, you know, tech companies and the bigger companies that were growing at the time all had CEOs that were computer scientists. And the second thing that I thought of was that like being a computer science major actually forces you to think about things in the same way entrepreneur, think about things like it's just super open ended problems, and you can create your own solution. And if we made different decisions, so there was there was a lot of parallels between being an entrepreneur and being and then kind of writing code. So I thought like, Okay, if I'm not going to major in entrepreneurship, because that's dumb. And so there's no disrespect to any entrepreneurship majors out there. But I figured this would be the best the second best thing where it's like, okay, hey, you're not going to major in entrepreneurship, or even a major in something that will still kind of flex and strengthen the skills you need to be an entrepreneur.

Kimmiko James  3:06  
If you want to major in entrepreneurship, go start a business. It's as simple as that. Like, no about of anything that someone teaches, you can really matter if you don't apply it to building something. I wanted to know what was that you started in high school?

Jehron Petty  3:21  
Yes. So I started a company called fixed by Jay Oh, that was Jao was my nickname growing up. And so I learned how to fix iPhones and laptops, mainly, like display. So if your phone cracked or your laptop, LCD LCD wasn't working anymore, I learned how to replace them. And so I started do some customization as well. But the business was all around kind of mainly fixing our phones. So started fixed by Jao in my son before my senior year, and basically did that for a year ish until I went to college.

Kimmiko James  3:52  
So for Geron, his computer science experience at Cornell was a difficult and lonely one, because there weren't too many people that look like him. And he goes into more detail here.

Jehron Petty  4:02  
It's weird, because I think especially for a lot of the students that we're serving now, and I think any most, you know, Black and Brown students that were faced it, that would have been the barrier to kind of moving forward, but I was acknowledging what was which was that there weren't that many people that look like me in my classes or at the internships that I was that etc. that didn't stop me though. Like that. Like for me, I, I don't know where it comes from. But I have a lot of confidence in myself. And I don't really need representation personally, to feel like I belong, like I kind of go in any any room and just know I belong there. And no, I deserve to be there. No, I can that I have a voice. I'm not afraid to ask questions and be wrong and things like that. So I don't know where that confidence comes from. But for me, it didn't actually have an effect on my performance. Like that ecosystem. That environment didn't have an effect on my performance. What it did have effect on was my kind of happiness, I guess. Like I just didn't feel happy. I Didn't feel okay with the fact that I was the only one in a lot of these spaces. Like I think in many cases, you'll see people who kind of make it out or make it through the ranks and kind of say, Well, I did it, why don't you but for me, I was like, there is something wrong here. Like, I shouldn't be the only one that be the only black student that becomes a TA, you're the only black student that is interning at this company, right? Like that shouldn't be the case. And so I took that as a sign that I needed to like if nobody else is going to fix that problem that I wasn't doing myself. So I took this extra time that I had while I was an undergrad to really give back, right and pay it forward immediately not waiting five years, 10 years from now, like I was paying it forward as I was progressing, right. So that was kind of my early first two years, like I started out doing well for myself, I noticed that there was a lack of representation problem. And then sophomore junior year focused heavily on paying your forward as much as I can, in sophomore year more focused on my own efforts. So spending my own time working one on one with students. But then junior year is when I kind of scaled that through an organization, a student run club, that could help me reach more people in a more systematic way. So that was kind of where the origins of like cosec work started in at Cornell. But I think just focusing on like me as a student and learning like I was just taking advantage of every opportunity I can get. So I came in, really excited about being at Cornell and potentially getting internships from day one. And so I worked hard to do all my computer science classes, get ready for interviews, network, put myself out there. And so I worked out like I interned at two sigma, my freshman year, Google my sophomore year, Google again, my junior year. And while I was on campus, I joined clubs, I put out data science, quantum app development, and you know, move through the ranks and was even head of product at app development, quantum app development. So you know, a lot of hard work, you know, kind of to put in for my own progression as well. The confidence

Kimmiko James  7:02  
probably played a big role in all of that, especially having the the jumpstart in high school already, that in itself builds the confidence because you're not intimidated by difficult technical concepts that are thrown at you in college. Because for, for me, and probably a lot of other black students that do engineering for the first time in college, it's it's so much at one time, it's the classes, it's the feeling kind of out of place, when there aren't that many people that look like you. And lucky for me and other people minus b group on campus was filled with lots of people in csnc. So I didn't feel as lonely as you might have. But even then it was it was still hard. Yeah, I wasn't very confident. And then I found out that internships were thing like my second or third year and already fell behind. Yeah, so yeah, confidence, it seems like that really pushed you forward, which is great. So you were able to, you know, accomplish more without even thinking about, I'm the only black kid in this room, I'm the only black kid and office hours or whatever happens today, we're

Jehron Petty  8:06  
like, you know, I'm a young first time CEO, and things like that. And I feel like even to this day, whether it's computer science, or just anything that I that I do, like I just have this level of comfort, being uncomfortable, and like, knowing that I have a lot to learn, but not letting that stop me from asking questions or, you know, saying something with confidence, right, even though I know I may be wrong, or whatever the case may be. So that definitely, you know, keeps me going. I try to tap into that and figure out like where that energy comes from, so they can kind of double down on it and keep feeding it.

Kimmiko James  8:41  
So drawn secured internships, that's some pretty good companies, I decided to ask him how he was able to secure these opportunities, despite the lack of support he had,

Jehron Petty  8:51  
I think what it came down to was just the work that was put in, so I didn't do really well my first semester, like at a sub three GPA, my first semester, but what I did do is spend a lot of time on was networking and going to a lot of the corporate events that were on my campus. So I was talking to a lot of employers and talking to a lot of alumni outside upperclassmen to get feedback on my resume and understand what I needed to know. And what I needed to do for my success as a engineer in the industry compared to their computers, computer science student at college. Right. And so I just put in the time that it took to like get prepped on interviews, technical interviews, very early on. I think, obviously, having the AP Computer Science experience helped because I already kind of knew how to code right. So that was, that was the first step that I kind of checked that box for already. And then during my first semester, it was all about learning how to specifically do code in this context of interview prep. I just never was afraid to like cold outreach people. And I think at Cornell specifically, there were a lot of upperclassmen that were super willing to help. Like, I remember this one girl, I never met her in person. And she, like went on like Internet, Google, Apple, Amazon, all these companies. I think she works at Apple right now. Never met in person, but she probably sent me essays after essays, just Facebook Messenger, like I reached out to her randomly sent them a resume. She gave me so much feedback, right, gave me advice on interviews, advice, interview prep, like, over the course of this, like two, three month period, and we never met in person that she was just super helpful. And then we just kind of went our separate ways. So I think what really helped me out a lot was talking to people by talking to ta south and upperclassmen, just asking questions, and just getting that help.

Kimmiko James  10:45  
So there's a few programs out there. There's code 2040, management leadership for tomorrow, and code path, I decided to ask her on what inspired color stack and how does it compare to all these different programs. He has a pretty detailed breakdown of how each program works and how they're solving different problems.

Jehron Petty  11:05  
So one thing I also want to highlight before I get into cost, like in particular, is the ecosystem. So you mentioned MLT code, path code 2040. I know all the leadership and I guess two of three, I know the seals, a two of three and one MLT, I just know, kind of the people that run the undergrad programs. So we're all you know, we all over each other and kind of are familiar with each other's work. So that's, I guess, that's been an exciting, just set of relationships to have. But I think one thing to highlight is that we're all we're all important and needed in the ecosystem, because we all kind of play different roles. In general, obviously, we all run programs for students, right. And so there's always that opportunity for students to apply and do something to our programming. But I think we all have our, you know, separate skill sets, right, or the the Northstar kind of of our work that we're bringing to the ecosystem where code 2040, they want to kind of remove racism from hiring practices and internal employee experiences. Right. So fixing the system, right? copass is fixing the education system. So more about actually giving you the coursework that you need, that schools aren't giving you. mlt is all about leadership, right? So how do you kind of prepare students to be leaders once they graduate, and think about getting an MBA or being an executive at things like that? I think for us, like we're focused on like that earlier stage of the pipeline, but also in general, we're focused on social capital. So like, we're, we're focused on community, and a sense of belonging, and kind of delivering that at scale, right, because I think all these pieces are important, right? Because we could do everything. But without culturally 40. If the system is still racist, we're still gonna have problems, right? We can do all these things, but of code that doesn't exist. And, you know, we don't have the coursework that's gonna actually teach us what we need. So just want to kind of share that, because I think a lot of people don't really understand the nuances between the different worlds and how we play a role in the ecosystem help each other out. Like, it's not just coursework, it's not just the system, it's not just leadership skills. And it's not just community, it's all of these things together, that we install, and maybe more, maybe there's another orange that needs to exist that we haven't thought of yet. So, you know, we run community building academic support and career development programs for black men next year students across the country. So basically, we we kind of identify problems that have to do with attraction into the major retention once you're in the major upskilling. And success, kind of once you graduate. And we run programs to, you know, really, mainly bring people who are dealing with the same type of problem together, coupled with the content that they need to get through that hump. So if you're currently a student who is thinking of dropping the major, we have the probe, we have a program for you, where you can come in with a bunch of other students that are also considering jobs on the major. And not only do you have what we would the community of students to kind of keep in your, in your corner as you continue in progress as a major, but we're giving you curriculum and content that's actually going to help you in that season, that's going to help you get you know, equip you with what you need to stay in the major. If you're currently trying to find your first internship, you don't feel like you have you don't have a resume, you don't feel like you're ready for test technical interviews. You know, we're building our programs that a bunch of people who are in that same boat and kind of come together and go over that hump. So as you know, our goal is to identify these problems in the kind of journey of the black and brown computer science student over four years identify what the key problems are, and build out programs directly to solve those, those issues.

Kimmiko James  14:38  
You're doing more than just providing a community and these resources for people to learn, right? You're doing it specifically for people that want to give up because I'm one of those people and I can admit that now because I'm comfortable saying it but it is so difficult with such a small community, whether you're black or Latinx, or both. I mean, I didn't see that many plan next Students ever in my computer science classes either. It's just difficult. So I like that color stack is solving the problem for people that want to give up, like, how are you identifying those people specifically,

Jehron Petty  15:12  
I think in terms of how we find that people word, our opportunities in a way that it'll resonate. Right. So I think we have room to grow, both the language that we use to describe our programs, and the transparency that we have with like, who we're looking for, makes it super obvious to the person who needs it. And this is for that, right. So when we talk about, like cosec, sprout, for example, when it comes to retention, we are very clear that like, this is a need based program where like, you can't really earn your way into the program, by having a better resume or having more experience or having this or having that, it's literally you want to serve the people who need it most. Right. And so that is kind of a follow up with the phrases. But it's, it's, it's refreshing to hear from a student who needs that where it's like, oh, I have to earn my way into this program, I have to show you how much you know, I'm struggling right now, to get in. Because if you are true, or you know, truly struggling, you know, this is the problem for you. And we should be able to find that out from the application and accepted into the program. And that's how we try to run all of our programs. And the ones I mean, we only have one main one right now, but we're adding some more this year, the idea is to be need based like to serve the people that are most in need. And then for their broader community. When we do events monthly, or things like that, like that'll serve a whole different type of population of once you've gotten that first first internship, but once you know, you're going to be NCS. So that's the way that we're trying to build out this portfolio of programs to start with students who are most in need. And then as, as we do run those programs, you know, for multiple years, then we're going to have this kind of alumni base from those programs of students who are now kind of in and ready for the next challenge, which is probably either going to be delivered by us or just partnership with the ecosystem, because I think that there are a bunch of resources out there that are useful and helpful and available that we don't need to replicate. But maybe the challenge, or the barriers overcome, is to get students to feel confident enough to take a part in those things. So we may not have to, you know, do our own hackathon, or do our own desks or do our own that which wouldn't be cool. But in general, if we can just give them the confidence they need to participate in the rest of the ecosystem, then that's less work for us on the on that latter part, I think, with our broader community as well. I mean, we have applications to really join the color stack family at large. And even there, it's not even like, you know, we reject people. But the reason that we reject people is if you don't communicate to us and your application that you are going to contribute to the community, then you don't have a place here, it's never really like an elitist or merit based system at all, actually. So with the programs, it's like, oh, you're more likely to get in if you need this more, right. And you know, with the family, it's like you're more likely to get in if you're actually committed to being supportive. So it's it's literally just like the the most basic set of principles that kind of drive those decisions. Hey, guys,

Kimmiko James  18:13  
Pardon the Interruption, but I just wanted to take a minute to talk about the new black enterprise network podcast website. If you've ever been curious about what a guest looks like, or what their social media links are, then we have detailed guest profiles for each episode. And there's also detailed show notes with time markers in case you wanted to find a specific point or piece of advice without listening to the entire episode. There's also readable episodes, transcriptions, and also the website allows you to easily sync questions and feedback, if you want to get in contact, just know that the website will be updated on a weekly basis. So if you don't see something done already, then it will be done soon. Check it out at Black enterprise network.fm. In the future, I know color stock will be here for a few years. Yeah, you know, there are going to be students listening to this. And they might not know how they can stand out in the application process or what it means to contribute. So for you reading all these applications, how can someone stand out? And what does it mean to contribute to the community.

Jehron Petty  19:13  
So we have the Caltech family, which is our, which is a community that's based on slack. And we do events once a month. And that's like our main thing, as you know, the largest pool of people, it's kind of like you can apply whenever throughout the year, you're not really committed to doing a program for any timeline. So that's our like our, you know, mass appeal offering that can be helpful whenever and so applying to that. Like I think we have one question on the application that asks like, what will you contribute to the community? So if you don't answer that you're not getting like, that's just I think, I think that's like the basic policy that we have internally. Like if they don't answer they're just getting rejected. And but let me explain why though. If you're just trying to join another slack workspace to put on your thing to like, just find opportunities and go. That's not what this is. Like. We have a bunch of people that are at schools across the county. that need help and are looking for community looking for support. So if you're not, if you're not going to ask questions in the site, if you're not going to respond to messages in the site, if you're not here, to be supportive, and to really immerse yourself in this community, that's not helpful to us nor the other members. So we won't accept, you know, given the actual application. So you do answer it, you know, most answers are sufficient, but I think to really stand out, like, be very honest, we're not looking for that college essay type submission, where it's telling us your childhood story, and why you are this and that. And now, we just need to know specifically, what I want to get a sense of your mindset coming in this into this community, are you just coming to look for job opportunities? That's great, but job will exist and these other job boards exists? So you can go make accounts there and get your jobs? Right. Are you here to help students that are struggling with homework or review code? In our stack overflow channel? You don't say like, Are you here to contribute? Go to events, right? Meet new people? What is it, we just want to get a sense that the your mindset for coming into the community is a very giving mindset, because if we have, if we only accept people who are prepared to give by that is the ideal community, right on that one extreme. But if we on the other extreme, if we only accept people who are ready to take, then there's nothing actually to take because nobody's giving? Right? So we lean on the side of accepting contributors, because that helps more people get support,

Kimmiko James  21:44  
who specifically can join? And how can they join?

Jehron Petty  21:47  
Yeah, so we're super focused on college students right now. So black and Latino, college students, college computer science students, so there's adjacent majors that are relevant, right? So Information Science, Computer Engineering, basically, if you have to code for your major, your major is probably what we would accept. And then yeah, so for that community, you know, that's the kind of student that we're looking to have join us. And then for our programs, in particular, like, we'll open up applications, when, when when the time is right for those, but I think the best way to get connected is just joining the family, which you can do@caltech.org slash apply. And that just gets you in our community such that everything else you'll hear about as just being a part of the community. Right. So that's the thing that's different between us and other programs, which is like other programs kind of run you're in them, you're out of them and alumni newsletter, and that's it, you're done. Yeah, for us, you can kind of be a part of cosec without doing any one of our programs for four years, and still get value. Right? Because we have this notion of the Caltech family, that's an all year round community run on Slack, that's event driven, where you can get value literally immediately. And you might even just be able to take so much advantage of that community that you never actually need a program to help out. So say that's, that's what I would recommend cost like that org slash apply. And we're launching a few new programs in the coming months that I think will be exciting as well. So starting what is essentially a nonprofit business is not easy by any means, especially as a first time founder, as you've described, what are some of the challenges you've experienced? And how did you get past those, I'm dealing with stuff every week, like right now biggest thing is state registration, building a remote team taxes, all that stuff. I was actually talking to this the other founder of a for profit startup. And he was saying like, as much as people want to call themselves like, I guess in the for profit space, it's like product CEOs are this type of CEO. It's like, none of that ever ends up being what you do, like you are a CEO. And what you do is the most boring set of things that just need to get done that nobody else is going to do. Like that's your job, right? And so you're responsible to making sure people are paid. It's also for hiring new people, keeping, you know, motivation for your team, setting strategy, right, and really just moving things out of the way for your team to get things done. And so everything is a challenge. Like it's all it's there's so much to learn. And I think the one thing that I've been saying a lot recently is that if you think you can work for a couple years, or if your strategy is, oh, I'm gonna work in industry for a year or two, or three or four and then start a company. Because you want to get experience and learn some stuff. I will tell you right now that it will probably take you 20 years plus to learn what I've learned in the past nine months in industry. So it's just this learning curve that you really just can't avoid, whether you're a young founder or not.

Kimmiko James  24:48  
So what's your experience been like as a young founder?

Jehron Petty  24:52  
I'll say one thing that has been difficult as a young founder is just this idea of kind of age and risk Specht in, you know, kind of getting lost in that dynamic of like, Oh, you know, here's my lawyer, or here's my accountant, or here's my this, and just taking what they say as prescription. In many cases, I think as the as a young person, you kind of grew up having teachers and these older people, your parents, etc, where you're like, you know, whatever they say goes in most cases, right? But now, as a CEO, it's like, No, these people are working for me, like I'm paying them to perform a service. And so I'm making the decision. And I get lost in that a lot. Like, I keep forgetting that. Sometimes, like, oh, if this person is not doing what our contract says, they're gonna do, like, I have the freedom to cancel that contract and say, You are no longer going to perform the services for me, and I am getting better with that. But that was one of the biggest things for me. I was I struggle with, I was kind of just taking things as they were given to me, because I just thought that, you know, these people are older than me, and they're performing the services, or whatever they say goes.

Kimmiko James  26:00  
So the biggest question I had for jiron, was basically what inspired him to just go all in on color stack, and turn down a full time opportunity at Google,

Jehron Petty  26:11  
I had mentally made a decision that I was going to start my own company around this problem very early. It's weird, being an APM. Internet guru was great, because I think being a product manager is the closest thing in a company that you'll get to being a CEO. And so you know, I think, for me, it was like, Oh, yeah, like I can solve these problems. And I'm kind of like, open ended. But to me, there weren't as there were two things that were missing one, I want to solve the problems that I cared about. And two, I wanted a little more sense of urgency, like, I want them to be more at stake. And that's just me, like, I think I'm crazy. But like, I think, you know, I want there to be more like steak, I like having my back against the wall. And like having things potentially really go left cutting I perform well, when the stakes are higher. So you know, for me, it was super obvious, super clear, to kind of to make decision, like theoretically at a conceptual level. But then what I had to work hard to do was make it financially feasible, right. So if if it wasn't going to be financially feasible, to be honest, I wouldn't have started full time, I would have done it part time until it was. But it took a lot of work a lot of meetings to actually make it financially feasible, which made the decision much easier.

Kimmiko James  27:22  
It's very common for people to have a full time job, right, whether it's in tech or whatever. And on the side, they do, you know, whether it's a nonprofit or for profit, they have a side hustle that takes so many hours, and they use the funding from their current job to fund that project. So for you, how did you figure out how you could financially be okay, because I think that's the concern for a lot of people, when it comes to starting something after you graduate without a job,

Jehron Petty  27:49  
I knew what I needed, at minimum to make it make sense, especially given the opportunity costs, you know, I wasn't looking to make the same amount of money necessarily at Google with all the options and stock and bonuses that I would have made and benefits, like, the goal was not to make a ton of money, kind of do something else and still make the same amount of money to go, let's just make it make sense. You know, given what what my other options were right. And so, you know, for me, it was just about finding creative ways to get the funding through the door to make that work. And so I was talking to a bunch of people, we've actually inked a incubation deal with triplebyte, to really make it make sense, where I'm employed by them, but solely working on college stack, but I didn't want to make it work. But if it if the if the money wasn't gonna be there, I would have done it part time. But I think I would have worked so hard to make it a full time, like, I just can't do the nine to five, you know, what is it the eight to one, you know, type life, like, I just, I used to do that in school, and I got burnt out over the years. I'm just always working. And I think a lot more now. I'm super balanced compared to that. So I just want to work on what I care about at any given time today. I think that that's what that's what would have drained me. I think I could do 18 hour days working on college like if I need to, but I would hate to do an 18 hour day if eight of those hours or nine of those hours on something I didn't care about. Right. And I fundamentally didn't did not care about any product that you could show me from any of the top tech companies that were recruiting me like I did not care about working on any of them.

Kimmiko James  29:26  
Sounds like you found your your purpose to commit to

Jehron Petty  29:29  
Yeah, it was much easier to make decision because I can't I don't want you to feel like it's weird. Like sometimes I feel like I'm not working because I get it just especially early on. I was like wait, all I'm kind of doing is running the slack community. You know, everybody's got my phone, like I don't even need a laptop like it feels like I'm not actually working. But it's because I found a really big problem that I'm best positioned to solve. And so it just feels so natural right doesn't feel like work in many cases. I mean, meetings feel like work all the time, but Outside of meetings, like it just feels super simple. It's in some cases, I have to like pinch myself sometimes.

Kimmiko James  30:07  
Just going back to what you said about, you know, being a CEO, it sounds exciting to a lot of people, right? You know, you just know this position of power. But you get to talk to well not control people, you get to lead over people. And you just feel, I don't know, it just feels good. But I think realizing that not all of it will be fun, is probably what turns a lot of people off to kind of trying it or trying something else. Because let's use this podcast as a quick example, I don't enjoy editing. I mean, I don't as much anymore, since I've outsourced half of it. But I don't enjoy hearing my voice. I don't I don't enjoy listening to the same conversation over and over again. That's probably the worst part about it. But I do enjoy the outcome of it. I like hitting publish. And then I like seeing how people react to it on social media. I like people telling me that they feel inspired by this person story that I just talked about. So when it comes to finding your purpose, it's it's really hard. I didn't think I would find mine last summer like you found yours. But I feel like yours is already in the works. But once you do find it and you realize you're okay, doing the boring stuff without hating it, then I think that's kind of a sign you felt like you want to do

Jehron Petty  31:28  
yeah, 100 100% agree. I think a lot of people discount how much they know about what about themselves? So without getting that's a whole topic, speak on for hours. But yeah, but I think I think a lot of people already know what their purpose is. But they just are afraid to say, I didn't know it. They've talked they probably thought about it. But they're afraid to actually call it out.

Kimmiko James  31:49  
People change with time and paths and opinions. Do you think you'd ever see yourself working in tech full time? And if not, do you think you'd want to start another company? Whether for profit or nonprofit?

Jehron Petty  32:03  
Yeah, for sure. I mean, I'm not entirely sure yet how it's going to play out. But I think if I do something different, like next, it'll be like CEO of another company, or an investor. I think I'll really like startups and working with early stage founders. I think there's no way I'm going back to being an employee and kind of doing something for somebody else.

Kimmiko James  32:24  
Would you have any advice for, you know, people trying to figure out their purpose, because as we've talked about, there's like a really set path for us. And you know, you're like 2123 years old, getting out of college, you just jump straight into industry. But deep down, if you want to do something else, you don't want to do that.

Jehron Petty  32:41  
The advice to me is I keep it super simple, and like don't get too much advice. It's like, because my thesis is that you already know what it is. So talk to the people that are closest to you that know you really well, that you can trust and kind of get feedback on what they think you're passionate about what you're skilled at, right? So if you don't already know that you can kind of get that reinforcement, when just make decisions and just go, I think people spend too much time trying to figure out exactly what their purpose is. And that you just never end up doing anything. So I think, come up with the hypothesis. You say you think it's this, go down that route. if things change, things change, but you just have to keep making decisions and actually do things so that you can make progress. You can

Kimmiko James  33:25  
follow up with Tron on Twitter and see what he's up to with colors, tech, and everything we talked about today will be listed on the website. I've also recently created a Facebook group for the podcast and would love more people in it. Essentially, this will be another black tech community for us to just network. get advice from each other in terms of career business, anything? I'm happy to answer any questions as well. I'd love to have you in there. So the link will be in the episode show notes. Thank you for listening to this episode of The Black enterprise network podcast. Join me in the next episode, which I have a conversation with Sam Bartels, an extremely experienced software engineer from Ghana. Of course, we talk about how we got software engineering, but even more specifically, we talk about why it's important to always challenge ourselves to start side projects and pursue our passions. I'll see you then.