Zach sits down with André Blackman, the founder & CEO of Onboard Health, to talk about his journey, his company, and the future of health equity. Onboard Health is a specialized executive search and talent advisory firm dedicated to building an equitable future of health. Check the links in the show notes to find out more!
Check out the Onboard Health website.
Click here to check out the Jopwell article Tristan mentioned.
Click here to learn more about Kanarys.
Interested in supporting Living Corporate? Check out our Support page.
Zach (00:02): Living Corporate is brought to you by Kanarys. Let me tell you about Kanarys. Kanarys is a tech company formed in 2018 by black founders who experienced inequities in the corporate world like most of us in the workplace. They saw typical diversity initiatives, but knew that to create systemic change, diversity, equity and inclusion needed to be done differently. They’re still ahead of the curve, focusing on the E and the I using a data driven approach. Think canary in the coal mine. The name is a nod to the canaries coal miners used to bring into the mines to determine if the work environment was safe or undesirable. That’s what they do for companies. They help you find the folks you need to listen to. The Kanarys, who will help you diagnose, measure and attack your DEI challenges. Kanarys has your back, check them out at www.kanarys.com/employer. That’s www.kanarys.com/employer.
(01:10): Living Corporate is brought to you by BLK Men In Tech. BLK Men In Tech’s mission is to elevate the voice of black men in the technology space, by offering year-round engagement opportunities and philanthropic contributions for people in the black community, the neighborhood. In the tech industry, black men rightly struggled to access networking and career advancement opportunities. At BLK Men In Tech 2021, they are partnering with their allies to create a safer space where black men can share their experiences authentically. Through this effort, BLK Men In Tech hopes to share knowledge that can be used by black attendees to overcome race-based obstacles. While also offering non-black allies, the chance to learn how they can be more supportive of their melanated colleagues. To learn more about the BLK Men In Tech Conference, that will be happening on June 19th at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Check them out at blkmenintech.com.
(02:19): [musical interlude]
Zach (02:20): What’s up y’all, it’s Zach from Living Corporate and we are here. It’s interesting, folks have been asking, and I realize we don’t do a good enough job about marketing our merch. But it’s popping. So shout out to the people who have gotten the merch. If you haven’t already, link in the show notes, livingcorporate.shop. We’ve got mugs, hoodies. We’ve got stuff for your baby, stuff for the kids. We’ve got tank tops for the summertime. We also have, like I said, we’ve got the hoodies, because hoodies are low key around. I love a good hoodie, even in the summertime in the house. Because I keep my house cold and I like feeling snuggled. You know what I’m saying? I’m a snugly dude. I’m gonna be honest. I’m a nice guy. I really am. For real. Don’t let these radical leftist pods have you think I’m not a nice guy. I am.
(03:14): Look, today’s podcast is going to be really dope. I’m really excited because we’re able to connect with André Blackman. André is a friend of the show he’s been following, Living Corporate and really supporting Living Corporate from afar, since we’ve started a couple of years ago. A great conversation that we had. He’s an incredible brother, doing some incredible things at Onboard Health. Really dope insights around health equity, inclusion, executive leadership. And again, applying that in the healthcare industry and the space. Just brilliant, frankly. So I’m not even gonna waste a bunch of time. I want us to get right to this, but before we do that though, we’re gonna tap in with Tristan. See you in a second.
Tristan (04:05): What’s going on Living Corporate? It’s Tristan. And I want to thank you for tapping back in with me, as I provide some tips and advice for professionals. Today, I want to discuss, considering a job in the cannabis industry. Within the last 12 months, the cannabis industry has created over 33,000 jobs nationwide. Making the legal marijuana business, the fastest growing industry in America. With such impressive growth, many black people and other marginalized job seekers may want to consider a role in the emerging industry. While working in the cannabis industry isn’t as taboo as it used to be. It still comes with some stigma. So it’s important to understand the potential risks and rewards of joining a somewhat non-traditional industry.
(04:47): First, consider the risks. There are varying attitudes about marijuana and marijuana usage that can have a detrimental effect on your personal and professional relationships, if you choose a career in cannabis. Consider the gravity of these risks and understand what initiatives potential employers may have to help address the historical racial inequities and stigma surrounding marijuana.
(05:07): Second, learn more about the plant. With more states legalizing recreational use of marijuana, there has been increased research, education and advocacy funding aimed towards responsible use and regulation. Gain an understanding of the plant and its proper applications across food, fuel, and medicine.
(05:26): Third, know the laws. According to the Federal Government, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug, making it illegal. However, 18 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation for adult use. Understand your state’s laws, state to state regulation and employment eligibility.
(05:47): Fourth, consider the variety of careers. There are different positions within the cannabis industry besides cultivating and selling in a dispensary. As the industry grows more traditional roles in finance, marketing, operations, sales, and more are beginning to pop up. So take some time to figure out what positions are open in your area, and align with your background and transferable skills.
(06:11): Fifth, evaluate the economic opportunity. Cannabis is expected to surge into a $50 billion market by 2026. And the economic benefits, job growth, investment, licensing and ancillary industries continue to support this trajectory. The rapid growth of the cannabis industry is a testament to how much people are willing to adapt and push the boundaries of what a traditional career looks like. Just make sure you’re considering all aspects before diving in.
(06:40): This tip was adapted from an article titled, How the Cannabis Industry Is Establishing Itself as a Top Employer, written by Margot Elise, for The Well, which can be read at the link in the show notes.
(06:50): This tip was brought to you by Tristan of Layfield Résumé Consulting. Check us out on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook at Layfield Résumé. Or connect with me, Tristan Layfield on LinkedIn.
Voice-over (07:04): At Living Corporate we often talk about how we as black folks, show up at work and now these corporate power structures impact how we show up. But, we know, when work ends, we come home, log off and have to show up at home for our families, and communities. And as a black man, I often and turn to Let’s Talk Bruh, for the real, honest and healing conversations on black masculinity, mental health and patriarchy.
(07:27): Let’s Talk Bruh or LTB, is a platform that creates content around black masculinity and the impact of patriarchy in black communities. In other words, Let’s Talk Bruh is having real conversations that black men need to hear, and be a part of. Let’s Talk Bruh creates interactive, healing, and learning experiences with black men and male socialized folks of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
(07:48): Through their content and community-based programs Let’s Talk Bruh seeks to reduce patriarchal violence in our community and provide support to those most impacted by patriarchal violence. Specifically black women, girls, femmes, trans, non-binary, and gender nonconforming people. Tap in at let’stalkbruh.com. So brothers, what are you waiting for? Let’s talk, bruh.
Zach (08:20): André, what’s going on, man? Welcome to the show.
André Blackman (08:22): Good morning, Zach. Happy to be here, but I’m really, really excited to do this today.
Zach (08:27): You know, what’s wild is, we talked off mic, you were talking about it’s been a year in the making. I remember when we first got connected, and I was, man, he shows me a lot of love on here. And I was just running back and forth, back and forth, but of course, I keep my eye on things. And shoot man, you’ve got Forbes 40 Under 40 in healthcare.
André (08:49): Yes sir. Yes, last year or Fortune, I know the two mixed up.
Zach (08:54): Fortune excuse.
André (08:55): No, it’s all good. Yes, Fortune. Last year was crazy for all of us. And so, Fortune decided to actually expand a little bit more about the lens on Fortune’s 40 Under 40, and actually did a little bit more people than you usually do. And so, this is one of the things that, healthcare has always been a vertical in there. And so, I was just really excited to, to be a part of that, that kind of cohort, that kind of class. And it worked out really well. So yes, I’ve been, I’ve been moving things around man. And, and it’s been really, really exciting in a lot of different ways.
Zach (09:35): It’s been interesting, one, when we talk about this past year and all of just everything that’s been happening from a black entrepreneurial perspective, and folks really venturing away from their jobs. To the reality and how this pandemic has exacerbated centuries long historical inequities, to concerns around the vaccine, to like this political landscape. It’s just been, frankly, too much going on. Like you said before we got on, we started recording. It’s been like 20 years in a year.
André (10:11): Yes. In so many different ways, there’s so many layers to this. But the last year I think that a lot of different things if you’re looking at it from the public health lens. Being able to see why public health is so important to invest into, and to make sure that we have something that we’re doing is so incredibly important. Especially, with the pandemic and the virus, but the other thing was that they had this personal revelations at the same time. Especially for me, around how I’m showing up right now, because one of the things that public health oftentimes shows are the cracks in our society and in our kind of communities.
(10:57): And so, my whole background is in public health. Looking at prevention, looking at community health, engagement, education, that sort of thing too. And so, one of the things that we’ve always been taught to prepare for are these kinds of disaster preparedness situations. And, with the pandemic year, we saw really quick, the cracks in our society when it comes to prevention and equipping all communities to stay healthy. So as soon as the pandemic started rolling out, and as soon as it got down to the Southern states which traditionally have the most health inequities. This is when we started to see mortality rates start to skyrocket. When it got down to Louisiana and those Southern states as well.
(11:41): That’s when we start seeing mortality rates really skyrocket. And so, when we saw the pandemic really starting to move down in the south. It really started catching attention. And so, this is one of the things that from my public health lens, at least, was something that I knew was going to be something that was going to be big. Especially now that we’re seeing health equity skyrocket. And so, all sorts of different things from that lens, and obviously from the racial injustice piece with George Floyd. Just all those things and mixing together, was this perfect storm to say, okay, we need to take a pause right now and to really take a look. Oftentimes, the country sweeps things underneath the rug, as I’m sure the listeners, and you have seen this over the past several years.
(12:32): But this was something that was right in front of our faces, right now. And so, that’s been really impressed upon me right now, is that these are the things that have always been there. Especially in healthcare, we can definitely dive on into that. And especially why I’m doing what I’m doing right now, but a lot of these narratives and historical aspects in healthcare and medicine are on front display right now. And so, that’s why I’m really looking forward to this conversation, but also the change that I’m hoping to see.
Zach (13:01): Yes. We talk about, to your point around public health, there has been more and more focus on it, and then, of course, there’s been a systemic level of white lash against it. But, focus on public health and really examining how these systems for centuries have been inequitable, if not frankly, just outright oppressive for black and brown communities. You’re often brought into, and your perspective is sought after, by several different organizations and institutions really looking to make sure they’re doing this right. Or at the very least, check a box, if they got a black person to say something. Talk to me about, the types of conversations you’re having and the sorts of things that you’re seeing institutions really be curious about. Or, even, they may just really be broadly missing the mark on.
André (13:51): Yes, Zach, that’s a great question. Last year, and like I mentioned, just opened up the box on things that we can no longer toss a couple talking points at press clips, whatever. That wasn’t going to cut it anymore. And, as we were seeing the unrest happening across the country, you already know, it’s going to move over into the workplace. People are at home, people are watching injustice on the television screen, and, for all intents and purposes, the whole fact that, work is now in our homes. Is going to make sure that, how we’re feeling about what’s happening in life. What we’re seeing on these screens are also going to translate into our work.
(14:34): And so, this is when you start seeing a lot of corporate leaders trying to figure out, okay, we’re seeing this happening, (a) at the beginning of it. Our employees are plugged into the screen right now, maybe not working and are looking at the news and trying to figure out what’s going on with pandemic. But also, after George Floyd, it was just so much activity going on. But when it went into the workplace, a couple of things started happening. How much of this do we need to really pay attention to? That’s usually the first part. Is this a problem? And then now, what do we do about it? And so, people came to me, obviously, what we’re doing at Onboard Health has a lot to do with with hiring, and building teams, and things of that nature too.
(15:19): So, a lot of the first wave that came to me was, Hey, André, we get it now. We’re looking at our team page. Yes, we know this is important. Can you help us find a person of color to join our board or, how do we do this? How can we hire somebody right now? And so. I had to really kind of slow the conversation down, Zach. Because, first and foremost, my main question was, why do you think this is important right now? And the first 30 seconds of those responses usually are telling enough about where leaders are on this spectrum. For all intents and purposes, we know how this looks, and we don’t want to seem like we’re insensitive.
(16:05): That’s usually the default response. And so, for me, what I learned all through those first couple of months was that, okay André, where do you stand on this? Where is Onboard Health going to be on this? First and foremost, I’ve spent my entire career building an amazing network and ecosystem of people, who are building the future of health. And especially for the community that we’re building at Onboard Health right now. I’m definitely not throwing people into a hot mess, or a chaotic situation at a workplace. And moreover, especially in a place that is going to be hostile to people of color. I’m not going to be throwing people into just to be opportunistic, to check a box. Usually for people who just want to give you the thumbs up and kind of let out a sigh of relief, that we’re not looking racist.
(17:05): So a big part of me showing up last year was saying, Hey, first and foremost, appreciate you reaching out. Secondly, have you done the homework that you need to, to figure out what the long game is? And do you even know what you’re talking about when it comes to this? Oftentimes, a lot of healthcare leaders understand, yes, we need to reach diverse populations and for a long time. And I’ve been in the public health space, a lot of CDC campaigns. It’s a demographic play. How do we create culturally competent material for these people that are suffering from, and then this virtual scroll comes out. For some reason, black people are suffering from diabetes, hypertension, HIV, all those kinds of different things.
(17:56): And so, my focus was to say like, Hey, you know, hold up. You think you might know, but you actually don’t. So look at history, how has history actually been perpetuating exclusion by design? There’s things that are happening here in our country right now, that have actually been put intentionally into place. And we’re seeing that fallout right now. So first and foremost, before you start trying to say, Hey, we need a black leader or a Latina in our board, so that we feel good about ourselves. Actually look at what you’re trying to build here.
(18:32): So, this is a big part of my learning last year. Where I had to really understand the why, for a lot of the people that came out to ask for help. And so, a lot of that was me helping people, to just say, Hey, here’s some resources. I remember Mia Birdsong put out a book and I’ll send you the link. So maybe we can put it in the show notes.
Zach (18:53): Let’s do it.
André (18:53): Yes. But Mia Birdsong, I met her at the Aspen Ideas Festival in 2019. Really talking about community and looking around each other on how we support and challenge each other. And so, I remember she put together this kind of Google, or was sharing at least, this resource that had a lot of different books, and readings, and learnings. And, from my perspective, I was sharing that with leaders. Just saying, Hey, you probably need to understand a little bit more about the history in this country, as it relates to the industry that you’re in, around medicine. A lot of people go to the Tuskegee experiment, looking at syphilis, and that sort of thing too. But there’s so many other narratives and stories, Henrietta Lacks, if we’re looking at life sciences and biotech, looking at genetics. Without Henrietta Lacks, a lot of life sciences, and clinical trials, and their progress, wouldn’t be here today. Once again, due to a black woman. Those kinds of stories.
(19:57): And now, obviously, people are learning about, oh, something happened in Tulsa. What was that about? So all that to say is, that was a big part of my own awakening around being very intentional about who you work with, but also seeing the voices and leaders start to stand up and stand out. CNN was flooded by amazing people like Dr. Uché Blackstock, who actually left academic medicine and has become just a rocket ship around equitable access to vaccines. Her twin sister, Dr. Oni Blackstock, also, just legendary in New York City around HIV aids. She was the Bureau Chief over there as well. And just starting to see some really credible of voices start to come up, talking about the vaccine shots and making sure that there’s equity lenses being put around these kinds of things. And so, that’s a big part of what we’ve been seeing in the health care and medicine space from a patient advocacy and engagement play.
(21:00): But also, our role at Onboard Health is really to build a more diverse and inclusive workforce ecosystem through power and equitable future of health. And so, where we come in is, really looking at yes, there’s the hospitals, and the clinics, and the traditional health care and medical facilities. But where I’ve been at for the past 15 or so years, has been more on the innovation side, looking at how digital health is really changing our landscape. And so, obviously, this naturally went into this new era of tech startups, that are tackling things like mental health. So, Kevin Dedner in D.C., is the CEO of Hurdle, which is helping to build a tech-enabled platform to connect black men, through mental health resources in a more seamless way. And so, mental health and behavioral health overall has, definitely skyrocketed in importance after this pandemic.
Zach (22:00): You said a few things there. First off, shout out to the Blackstocks, they’ve both been guests on Living Corporate. This was shoot earlier this year, or last year. And then, as it pertains to, what you said earlier about not setting up folks, setting up folks to be put in situations where it was going to be toxic, or just not conducive to their success. I hear that, because it annoys me. There are times when I’ve been asked to be a part of things, or we really want your point of view here. When you say something and they act like you’re annoying, or they don’t really want to receive what you’re saying. So, okay, so then why did you bring me in this space? If you’re not going to take my presence, my point of view, my perspective, with any sort of gravitize, so then oh, okay, this is just a dog and pony show. So that’s dope.
André (22:50): Exactly.
Zach (22:50): That’s dope. That’s dope that you’re doing that. And then to your larger point around even mental health, that definitely resonates with me. As I think about, even now, I’ve talked to some different leaders across different platforms that have applications, and websites, or apps really focused on mental health. And there’s still a dearth of content. There’s still a lack of content when it comes to black and brown mental health providers. Giving that context to black and brown people, making content that is accessible and relevant to those on the margins. That is still hard to find. So there’s still plenty of work to be done there.
(23:33): You’re speaking to the work, but we really didn’t talk about, we didn’t get to frankly, discuss Onboard Health. Talk to me about Onboard Health, how it got started? Your mission, the team, what you’re excited about. I’d love to hear more about it. The website is beautiful. The mission is great, but I want to make sure that we give you space to talk more about it.
André (23:56): Oh man. Thank you so much, man. I appreciate that. The story started after me going after my Public and Community Health degree in Maryland. Shouts to my mom for really pushing me into a lot of STEM things. And, initially I grew up in D.C. in the D.C. Maryland area. Was a huge STEM science and tech nerd, worked at NASA my senior year in high school thinking I was going to work on the international space station.
(24:28): So, I was literally trying to become a rocket scientist. And then, took this course at Maryland around public health and tying it to what we’re talking about here. This elective course, around community health. I was learning that at that point, this was around 2001. Where I was learning that tuberculosis was coming back with a vengeance, particularly, affecting the African-American community. And so, in my mind, I’m, wait a second tuberculosis? Didn’t we get rid of that 2,000 years ago? Why is that still around? But also, why is it only affecting this particular community? And so that’s what really activated my brain around public health and prevention, and really learning this is not what you learn about, if you go to medical school per se.
(25:13): I grew up around a lot of doctors, my parents were from the West Indies, Trinidad, and Jamaica. And so, I was oh yes, I know Western medicine. I know doctors, but this whole thing about prevention and public health is really curious to me. And so, it made sense for me to prevent large groups of people from getting sick in the first place. Than treating them one by one after the fact. And so that made sense to me at that point. So, over the past 15, 16 years, Zach, I’ve been in this space where public health pulled me in, worked on a couple of different campaigns in those early parts of my career. Like I mentioned NIH, CDC, but then, as I start to work with communities, particularly, more black and brown communities.
(25:58): I remember working on a project with the CDC called, The I Know Program. I’m not sure if you remember that, about maybe 2007-ish.
Zach (26:08): No. Tell me about it.
André (26:09): So, The I Know Campaign was aimed at black Americans 18 to 24 to get them talking to partners about their status around HIV and that sort of thing too. So it was, I know my status, we’re in a healthy relationship. And I can take precautions, depending on what my status is. But basically, just opening up the conversation about your status. And, once again, this is trying to remove stigma and increasing more transparency in the public health landscape. So, CDC rolled out this campaign in multiple different ways. They contracted a number of different people, but where I was coming from was actually looking at it from the media lens on one hand, and doing focus groups.
(26:54): So, this is where they tapped Jamie Fox and Alicia Keys as celebrity engagement individuals. And I will never forget Zach, I was doing this focus group. And one of the young men that I was talking to was, well Mr. Blackman, I completely understand why this is happening, why this is so important. But Jamie Fox? Nah, that’s not relevant to me, or anybody that I know, for this campaign. This is hollow. And I will never forget that moment where, multimillion dollar campaign and it’s missing the mark. Who knew about these kinds of different things? And this is after the fact that materials were created. So this is not a co-creation kind of situation. So there’s definitely that. And then, on another side of this campaign, I actually got to tour a lot of HBCUs to talk about their students, and how to get this message and this campaign going.
(27:47): And I was down at Clark Atlanta University. And I was so blown away in a very positive way, with just the accuracy of students, knowing their peers, and knowing the behaviors, and knowing the things that they needed to do to actually engage their friends around these different things. And one of the things that this taught me was that, there’s no substitute for being on the ground, and actually talking to people,. There’s no technology, no social media, no app that can really replace that. And so, anyways, that’s one of the things that really bolstered my career at that point. And then, shortly after that, started writing about the intersection of digital and public health, and health care on a blog called, Pulse + Signal. I started that in 2007, and that’s what really gave me a platform around innovation, public health, health in general.
(28:35): And so, this afforded me an opportunity to work alongside the White House and HHS, the Department of Health and Human Services, around a lot of social media campaigns. And so, I became the social media and health guy on a number of these things, being an advisor and all those kinds of different things. And so for the next couple of years, I wrote, I spoke, I traveled to conferences, all that kind of good stuff as well. Learning about this health 2.0 landscape that was opening up, using technology to equip hospitals and health care systems to do things more efficiently, and better and things of that nature too. And then fast forward, did a couple of different things like the Fast-Forward Health Film Festival in 2011 where we brought film and documentaries that tackled things like food and health, technology, the built environment, which is like cities, how we live, and work, and play.
(29:26): And I just love all this kind of stuff that relates to how we live and move as humans, and how that relates to our health impact. So, fast forward to 2016, was the big year. Got an invite to give the commencement address back at my alma mater, the School of Public Health, at the University of Maryland, College Park, go Terps. And that was a transformative moment for me, Zach, where I’m standing on stage with the teachers that poured into my life. And now, speaking to the lives of the outgoing class in 2016. And basically, my challenge was to go out there and travel, see how people live. What are the problems that they’re having right now? Learn about behavioral psychology, because all that is going to track back into the solutions that you build. And that’s when I started really thinking about Onboard Health.
(30:09): And so, basically, at this point, I’m thinking I’ve seen enough around, venture-backed startups, and technology, building things. And I was, you know what, the workforce that’s going to be building the future of health is going to need to (a) look different, and it’s going to need to be equipped better. And so this is when I started thinking about Onboard Health, particularly from the diversity, equity, inclusion lens. Especially as we’ve been seeing so much tracking around mental health, and food and, how we drive and walk to work and things of that nature too. It only makes sense that the leadership and the companies that are being built, actually are representative of the communities that we’re serving. And so, that’s how Onboard Health really got started. It started out as a newsletter, some social media, just to get people connected. And I love curating content. And that’s what really started building the community.
(31:01): And where we’re at right now, on one hand, we’re still continuing to grow the Onboard Health community of individuals that represent, all different groups around our country. That have backgrounds in engineering and AI and UX, UI, design thinking, business development, all those different modern skillsets that are now building the future of health. And then, on the other hand, we are a specialized executive search and advisory firm for companies who are building the future of health. So we’re working with venture-backed startups like, Mahmee, out of Los Angeles. Shouts Melissa Hannah, who’s the CEO. Serena Williams and Mark Cuban invested in Mahmee in 2019. So they’re tackling maternal health tech, and care coordination. And I think most of us heard about Serena Williams story with her birth and just how that was just fraught with stigma, and all sorts of just straight up racism in the institution of medicine. And so, that was a big deal.
(32:03): And so, we also work with larger capital organizations, and venture capital funds that have portfolio companies as well. And at the end of the day, this is really about saying, we’ve heard the narrative, we don’t know where to go to find talent that is representative of our country. And my whole mission is to say, nah, there are amazing leaders out here and that’s what we’re kputting together right now is a platform and an opportunity to make that happen.
Zach (32:32): Man, first of all, André, you’ve got a knack for this man. You be packing it in there. All right.
André (32:38): I know. There’s a lot, there’s a lot.
Zach (32:41): So, a couple things I will say is, it’s interesting black and brown people, and particularly, we’re talking about black folks here in this moment. But we’ve been ignored or undervalued so long that people really underestimate how much power there is in just creating thoughtful content for them. So your earlier point around getting Jamie Foxx, like, oh, Hey, we’ll just slap this. Oh, black people like Jamie Fox, so we’ll just… We’re in this like, no, you don’t. If you just took 20 more minutes and thought, or hired somebody to actually be thoughtful on how to really engage this audience, you would get value back. And so, when I hear what you’re talking about, when it comes to Onboard Health, it’s really an exercise in expertise and care. I’m actually thinking through, Hey, look, I’m not just going to get some big name. So it’s interesting that there’s a game inside the game, where there’s the black and brown folks doing the actual work.
(33:51): And then there’s like black and brown folks who white folks think are doing the work, who get looks for stuff. And I know that might be an uncomfortable thing for some people to swallow, but it’s true. There’s a difference in who gets the shine as if they’re working, and who’s actually working. And there’s a tension there that really, I’m excited about just this next season with technology, and folks such as yourself, and the Blackstocks, and people who are actually, they’re starting to really get the momentum to really be heard and seen. As you think about this season, we’re coming up on, a lot of folks, they are not taking the vaccine, of course. We have this new Delta varying in. But we’re not in the same place we were last year. As you look at this next, six to 12 months. And as you think about even this new administration, what are the things that you’re most anxious about, most curious about, and most I’m gonna say most hopeful about?
André (35:01): Hmm, let me, start with the hopeful. I feel that with the hopeful piece especially with this new administration, I want to say that there’s less distraction. Last year there was just so much craziness going on, that distracted people from literally the basics. I think this is what happened last year. People really start to get back to the basics, start to check in with themselves, their families, their communities, things of that nature too. But I think with this administration, we’re not necessarily having to look at TMZ, or something like that, or to hear about the latest craziness that’s going on. And really start saying, it’s not going to be perfect, but Hey, can we get back to building what needs to be done, over here?
(35:46): So I think that’s what I’m hopeful for, just as far as off the top. Just a better sense of purpose and actually getting things done the right way. Just the response around COVID and just having some sort of credibility. I know some of the folks that join Biden’s COVID task force, and things of that nature too, and was really excited to see a lot of those appointees get back in the mix. A lot of former Obama administration folks that I knew who were powerhouses in HHS and were credible sources. Now they have an opportunity to get back to work. So that was a big part of my optimism there. And then, you mentioned, the Blackstock sisters, other voices that are coming up and being given that credible platform.
(36:38): This is one of the things that I was really excited to see. A lot more of these kind of groundswell and organic campaigns that really just opened up conversations. I’ll never forget, I think, did he put together some sort of online event last year, that just had a number of people to just break things down. And this talk about the narrative on what’s going on around the virus, and the vaccine, and things of that nature too. And so, those are a little bit of the things that added to my hopefulness.
(37:07): And then, from an industry perspective, one of my friends, recently, he’s a CEO, his name is Ramin Bastani, out in Los Angeles, he’s a CEO of Healthvana. And basically, they just launched a partnership with Google around COVID-19 vaccinations and tracking the data. And creating a better framework and solution for outbound delivery and things of that nature, and testing. And seeing that kind of innovation, this is why I’m in this space, because there’s so many incredible people who are doing the work. And my job is to make sure that the teams have the right kind of people in place that can actually create a more equitable lens around the products, and services that they’re delivering. So that’s what I’m really hopeful about.
(37:59): What I’m still a little rattled around is the whole aspect of communication. Now that we’re living in an age where, people can put anything together and then, it’s considered gospel, oftentimes. We’ve seen over the past few years, the horrendous effects of miscommunication that are oftentimes very intentional and purposeful. And I feel like that’s been a big issue for awhile. And as we see, things are on the variants and things of that nature too. What has me a little bit nervous is that I feel while there’s vaccinated people, I think just understanding how viruses work. This is the piece I almost went deep into, virus kind of work, in the public health landscape. Because there’s an insidious aspect to how this all works. Viruses in biology, really don’t care about the kind of brunch that you want to get back to, if you’re still creating activated hosts for them. The literal reason why viruses exist is to multiply and to continue to stay alive.
(39:10): So no matter what, they don’t care. And so, that’s my concern now that we’re starting to see variance, but also, there’s this herd mentality around it. Let’s jump back into normalcy. Let’s get back into these conferences, let’s get back into these concerts. not to say that we shouldn’t feel like there’s opportunities to do that. But I think from what I’ve just seen, there tends to be sometimes an over leaning into not caring. And that’s a little bit of what I’m just concerned about, is making sure that we still stay vigilant. Because, the Spanish Flu, that was two years, but millions of people, millions still died. And so, throughout history, it just have not been great.
(40:00): No matter what. No matter what lives that we want to get back to, we’ve got to get things done. So that’s what’s at the forefront of my head right now, but overall Zach, to be completely honest, I am hopeful just overall. The people are stepping up. We have some voices in place that have not been in place before, and they’re getting the credibility and platform that they need. And there’re innovations, there’re companies being built. And I guess maybe what I’m looking forward to, I’m a big proponent of the right people getting into entrepreneurship and building companies. We can have a separate conversation about the importance of ownership, for sure. But obviously, from my lens right here, a CEO of Onboard Health, I love supporting founders that are, “traditional”.
(40:50): And so, this is one of the big reasons why I became a mentor at Backstage Capital. This is Arlan Hamilton’s venture fund where her vision around underrepresented or underestimated as she calls it founders. I love, love, love being in the space right now and seeing more black and brown and LGBTQ+ community leaders jumping into entrepreneurship and building relevant companies. Particularly in the health space. So, Deerick Reyes, they are the founder of Queerly Health in New York City. And Derrick has really been leading the charge around LGBTQ health, and access, and things of that nature. And Derrick has just been an amazing leader in this space. And we actually did a panel last fall at the Rock Health Summit. And just being able to see leaders stepping up and saying, this is a problem and I don’t see anybody else doing anything, I’m going to do it. It’s you.
(41:49): And so, that’s another thing that I’m really curious about, curious/excited about is the fact that more people, and especially over the past 15 months, stepping into these roles of leadership. And saying, you know what, I don’t see it happening, that means it’s me. And so, being able to support founders, shouts to Eric Coley over at Ayana Therpy. And I know we were talking about mental health. Kevin Deadener, Ashlee Wisdom, in the Bronx, in New York City, Leading Health in Her HUE, where she’s building a community of culturally competent physicians to take care of better needs for women of color, and all those kinds of things. And so, that’s what really just gets me excited about the future. Even beyond hopeful, is that I’m excited about what’s being built.
Zach (42:42): Man, I’m thankful that we’re able to have you. I wanna have you back and we can talk about black founders. I think it’s so wild, man, the stuff I see out here, André, that gets money. The businesses, or even just the ideas I’m, how did that funded? How did that? I’m gonna pick on, so I’m not gonna name a brand, but I’m gonna just pick on a space, which is the water space. I’m like, yo, how did that bottled water, who supported this? Why would y’all…? It blows me? Where’s the funding coming from for some of these ideas? And then they get the funding, and then so many times, you just don’t hear about them again, because they went under.
André (43:32): Man, that is a whole podcast brother, that I would love to get into. Especially, in the healthcare or the snake oil health. I’ll say that. Whew, some stories in there on how people made money off of fear and apprehension. And so, that’s a whole other story. But yes, this is what I love to get into, is how do we actually build stuff that gets funded? And now we’re starting to see, whole new venture funds being built and stood up. And I love that Arlin really set the pace, I think, in a lot of different ways for how this gets done. Collab Capital just raises a $50 million venture fund. And this is, Jewel Burkes Solomon, who actually sold her company to Google. And she’s now leading Google for entrepreneurs, that whole program. And I think there’s a whole renaissance that’s going to be happening, really soon, that I’m excited about.
Zach (44:31): Yeas. Shout out to Arlin Hamilton. She’s also been on the show. Appreciate her. She’s welcome back anytime. Right? Right? She is phenomenal. I’m a huge fan.
André (44:42): Right. And then, I would love to get her book into maybe five readers or listeners hands. I don’t know how we can make that happen, but.
Zach (44:50): Don’t play. Don’t play.
André (44:52): I’m serious. Let’s make it happen.
Zach (44:55): Let’s make it happen.
André (44:56): Yes. A book giveaway. I’m happy to just sponsor, getting five. Let’s just start with that, and getting those books into listener’s hands. Because, her story, it’s incredible. And now, more and more people are standing up with additional stories and whatnot, but let’s make that happen for sure. I believe that much, in the mission of Arlin’s Backstage Capital, and all these other new funds. So let’s talk about that.
Zach (45:23): That’s dope, man. Look now, you talked about the fact that you are from the islands. You’ve dropped a lot of gems, on the pod. Now I just want to, I’ve got to give you the air horns one time. [air horn sound]. André before we let you go, man, any last words, any shout outs, any passing thoughts?
André (45:47): I’m thinking about, I’m off to visit my dad, who’s a Jamaican. And get some good curry goat in a couple of weeks.
Zach (45:56): Yes. Yes.
André (45:56): And let’s see, man. Do the internal work. And this goes out to all the listeners out here in this community here. I’ve gone on such a journey these past few years, but nothing compounds and has the ROI, than investing in yourself. And doing the work that you need to do, whether that’s therapy, whether that’s just taking a course. But these are the things that are going to compound and nobody can take it away. And that just was just on my heart, for this next half of the year is, as you get better, and as you invest in yourself you’ll see the returns on everything that you touch. And so, that’s a personal anecdote from where I’ve grown and come from. Especially with this work here too. But yes, happy to connect, Mind of Andre on Twitter. Onboard Health, we’re on Twitter and LinkedIn and, feel free to reach out and connect, if anybody’s interested in building the future of health with their skillsets. That’s exactly why we’re here.
Zach (47:11): Yes. So first of all, we’re going to make sure we have all those links in the show notes.
André (47:15): Perfect.
Zach (47:16): I am thankful. And also, just shout out to you as a black man. Man, let me tell you. Let me just, let me, [sound of record scratching] I get so exhausted by the lack of support and follow through, from black men in Living Corporate. I’m gonna just tell you, man. I’m sick of it, man. I’m sick of it. I’m airing it out now. It’s like I got you, you’ve been helpful. Antwan Andrews, who happens to be my boss, at Momentum now. Danny Guillory at Dropbox. Danny’s the man. Bonnie over at The Zillows, but I can probably fit all of y’all into a room and it’s been three years. Black women are out here, outpacing y’all buy great deals. If you’re a black man and you’re in some executive position, I need you to step up. This is nuts. Goodness. So shout out to you, shout out to all to all my real ones. And my man, Andre, [inaudible 48:11]
André (48:17): I’m telling you, man, execution that’s it. Execution. Having a personal code and because we can’t be out here talking about folks need to pay attention, and crickets are chirping when it’s time to swing the bat.
Zach (48:32): [inaudible].
André (48:32): You know what I’m saying? And so, that’s why that internal work, accountability and emotional intelligence I’m telling you, there’s a lot there.
Zach (48:46): Listening. It’s facts, man. So look, we count you a friend of the show. We’ll catch up with you man. Let’s have you back on. No, let’s not wait too long.
André (48:55): Absolutely brother. Thank you so much for this opportunity, Zach. And I’ll be in touch.
Zach (49:00): All right man, peace.
André (49:01): All right. Peace.
Voice-over (49:04): Living Corporate is brought to you by The Leadership Range., a podcast within the Living Corporate network. Hosted by globally certified and Fortune 500 executive coach, and leadership development expert, Neil Edwards. The Leadership Range is focused on having real, raw, soulful, and accountable conversations about inclusive leadership, allyship, professional development. Every week is a new episode, with new learning, and new actions to take on, to grow inclusively. Make sure you check out The Leadership Range everywhere you listen to podcasts.
Zach (49:38): And we’re back. Yo, shout out to André Blackman. Shout out to all the work that Onboard Health is doing. And I thank you for listening to Living Corporate. Make sure you share this episode with a friend. I shout out the Blackstocks. Shout out to everybody because we shouted out a lot of people in that conversation. I really appreciate y’all. Thank you so much for rocking with us. Like I said, share this with a friend, share this with a colleague, shared this with a relative. And give us five stars on Apple podcast. All right, catch you next time. Peace.