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Enabling Diversity in Biotech: Interview with Tia Lyles-Williams

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Darshan: Hey, everyone. Welcome to another episode of DarshanTalks. I had actually promised not to show my face when I was talking to Tia a few seconds ago, but I seem to have forgotten all about that.

I have a very special guest. I have Tia. You guys met her, I want to say a couple of weeks ago. We had her on the podcast and it was a hit, and we're welcoming her back. Tia is entrepreneur extraordinaire.

Narrator: This is the DarshanTalks Podcast. Regulatory guy, irregular podcast, with host Darshan Kulkarni. You can find the show on Twitter @darshantalks or the show's website at

Darshan: She's going to tell you all about herself, but what I do like to point out is, she's breaking boundaries. She is leading the way for black and brown entrepreneurs in Philadelphia, and in the East Coast, really, for advancement in the life sciences. So, Tia, tell us more about yourself before we jump into the conversation today.

Tia: First, thank you for having me, Darshan. Founder and CEO of LucasPye BIO, as well as HelaPlex. LucasPye BIO is a medicine manufacturing company. HelaPlex is the first life science co-working space with a built-in accelerator.

So, I have 20 years in the biotech industry, myself. Working my way up literally from, I guess you say the benchtop, and rolling patients into clinical trials as a intern, to, senior manager was my last title as far as being an employee in big pharma.

Then, now I have my own two companies as a, I guess you call it C-suite executive. So, [inaudible 00:01:41]... Keep going?

Darshan: Keep going. I mean, I love hearing about you, because I [crosstalk 00:01:44].

Tia: Keep going? I am a HBCU graduate of Howard University. I got my bachelor's in biology from there. Later on, I went back and got my master's in entertainment business from Full Sail University.

I actually have a chronic condition myself. I thank about two-and-a-half years off, and during that time, I ended up following my friends to LA. They're all in music and film, so I got into the music area as far social media marketing and all that stuff when it was super, super hot, and at the beginning of Twitter's hype and all that stuff at that time.

Then, when I was cleared by the doctor, I went back to biotech. In that time, I got my second master's in regulatory science from University of Southern California. Regulatory science is the study of taking food, medical devices, and drugs, of course, from benchtop, or research, or another country, for food perspective, and bringing it into the commercial market, whether it's in the US or any other country around the world.

So, that's a bit of background around me. I love science. I've been science nerd since day one. I got [inaudible 00:02:47] nerd out on biotech feature, bioconference, a few years ago.

Darshan: Oh, I love it [crosstalk 00:02:54].

Tia: Happy to be here, and glad to speak with you today, Darshan.

Darshan: Thank you again, Tia. So, Tia, we're actually going to have... We're both in Philadelphia, and we've been dealing with some riots and some protests in the last few days. We're going to tangentially get into that, but I want to use this opportunity to actually have a discussion about how to... Actually, you phrased it better than me. Say it again about what our discussion's going to be, because I was like, "Yes, that is exactly what I want to talk about."

Tia: Got you. So, our topic of discussion today is to, as entrepreneurs, or any other business, how to attract people of color for employment. More specifically, how to retain them, and more specifically than that, how do you retain and attract African-American men into these respective roles, and how do you go out and search for them? So, this is right on time for me as well, because I'm actually having this discussion with my staff.

Darshan: So, talk to me, was this discussion raised to you by your staff, or did you do it yourself?

Tia: I did it myself. We had a outside contractor come to us, and they do hiring of executives, and things of that nature. Now, right now, I have a team of 12. Majority of them are African-American and/or people of color.

So, we have a few executive roles that we need to hire for next year second quarter. So, they came to me, and this... They only do executive roles, and they only do biotech executive roles. So, the first thing I asked them was, "Okay, so what is your rate of diversity? What is your rate of attracting people of color?" And I left I blank like that on purpose.

So, the first thing this person said was, "Oh, we have a five, six percent rate of hiring people of color. They are Indian descent, Chinese and some..." I think it was from the UK, which I don't know how that goes into people of color, and particularly for the majority, no disrespect, I know there's black people in the UK, but I don't think he meant it like that. He was just trying to show that he has the capability of hiring people outside-

Darshan: Non-US?

Tia: ... of the...

Darshan: Right.

Tia: Right, of different cultural backgrounds. I said, "Oh, okay." I said, "Well, the majority of my team-"

Darshan: The [crosstalk 00:05:13]?

Tia: Say it again?

Darshan: The Canadians as well?

Tia: Right, right. He just... I don't know if he pulled it out his *** or whatever, right? So, I'm like, "Okay, well, here's the deal. I purposely hire folks of color. When I say people of color, I'm talking about black and brown people, to be on my team, and I know I have a unique way of going after them, because either they're in my network, or I know where to look."

So, we got to talking, and I brought up Jopwell. Jopwell is a hiring talent agency specifically for manager and executive roles, specifically for people of color. The whole spectrum, black, Latinx, Indian, anything but your traditional white Caucasian male.

So, I brought them, and he had never heard of Jopwell, at all. I said, "Well, here's what we can do." I said, "Jopwell has a very good platform, but they don't have anybody that can recognize who's ready for an executive role in life sciences. That's just not their background. Their background is everything else except life sciences, but I think it's a good opportunity, as a biotech company, to partner with them," I said, "but I need somebody to do the screening process for them. So, I'll hook you up with them, but y'all had a conversation."

So, then the next question was from him to me, and say, "Okay, well, where are you finding these people?" I said, "Well, here's the thing. You don't see a lot of faces like me at the C-suite level that's ready to do some type of lateral transfer move." I said, "You have to go under." I said, "What people don't know about the life science and biotech industry is that it is mostly black and brown people doing the core of the work. They are on the floor, making the drugs. They are doing the quality audit. They are doing the quality control testing. They are doing the packaging and labeling and supply chain."

I said, "Now, here's the kicker. You're thinking that these are all entry-level, blue-collar, low-paid jobs. They're actually... Some of them are well-paid, but they don't get any higher than maybe supervisor or manager."

I said, "I have somebody on my staff that actually helped and was instrumental in a big pharma company, setting up their whole clinical development department, and then when the 2008 shitstorm hit, they got laid off. Now, this person worked their way up from the floor to the semi-manager level. I think they got associate manager at the time. She is way senior than me. She's been in this industry for over 30 years, close to 40. Do you know, since 2008, she has not been able to get a full-time job?

"She always gets hired as a temp. She only has a high-school diploma, and they use that against her, despite her 30 to 40 years of experience, and then when they do hire her, at whatever associate level they're going give her in pay, they have her sit in the room with the C-suite people, and do the ******* job of a C-suite person, without the title, without the pay. And she's been doing that since 2008 up until now. So, that's 12 years. 12 years, she's endured that. And she's on my team now and she only got a semester or a year left of her bachelor's degree that's she's able to now because of COVID."

Darshan: [inaudible 00:08:21].

Tia: But that is my point, and that is my example of what people of color go through, and how we keep our head down, we do the work. Many of us don't know that it's not about keeping your head down and doing the work to get to promotion. Many of us don't even have the opportunity to network with the appropriate people to get in that appropriate lane to be seen, to be promoted to those positions.

If you were fortunate enough, like I was many, many times throughout my career, you did all that work, you got to where you needed to go, you did the interview, and they came back and told you, "You're not qualified. You have no manager experience."

They don't care what you did the lower level, and that you had ******* 20 people reporting to you. They'll make up a number, as one was made up to me. "You haven't managed 100 people yet." I think I was up to like 60-something, 75 at that point, at the company that I had came from.

Or they tell you, "Oh, it's not your turn. This company is not ready for someone like you to have that position, and we can't afford that right now."

Darshan: See, there's so many things to unpackage there. My first question to you, as an entrepreneur, I remember having a similar version of this discussion with you the last time you were on, and I asked you, "Do you look for black and brown people?" And you were like, "No, I look for the most qualified people. If they just happen to be black and brown, that's a very useful thing to have."

But I thought that was very valuable to go... It's not a quota system. It's not like, "Oh, we're going to have this quality." It's, there are qualified people that, quite bluntly, need jobs, and I'm happy to help them if I can, as long as it helps me as well, and this is not a charity, but they don't need charity either, so it works out.

Tia: Yeah. It works out.

Darshan: So, let me ask you this. As a entrepreneur, do you think... And this is actually coming from a person who's held jobs, but quite honestly, I'm an entrepreneur at heart, and that's always just been the case, and I don't like admitting that in the future, because there might be a position [inaudible 00:10:32] to hire me. But it's out there.

But my question is, why do you think we don't see more entrepreneurship, when someone is that qualified, to go, "You know what? I do the job that the C-suite's doing"? Is it fear? Is it lack of mentors? Is it lack of hope, or is it cash, or is it something different, that's holding back people who are eminently qualified, that can do the job? And when I say do the job, actually do the work, because it would be your business. What stops them from becoming entrepreneurs and raising that next level of businesses that's going to take it to the next level?

Tia: That was a wonderful question. Look, that's literally applicable to me. Like, where the hell did I get off thinking I can go here and do a C-suite type of job, and I've never had the opportunity to even get a C-suite job when I was actively working in the industry, right?

So, it was three things. It's fear, of not being successful. It is confidence, or lack of confidence, thinking that you aren't credible, right? Because you've been working in a system for so long, and all these people have been telling you, "No, no, no, no, no. Go get this, go get that, go get this," and every time you went and got X, Y and Z, you still didn't have enough. You still weren't enough. So, there's a lack of confidence.

Then, the last part is funding. You have all these different types of opportunities, as they like to call it, for small businesses. I'm actually a member of a small business minority council in Philadelphia.

So, we've been doing monthly meetings concerning this topic as far as funding. What I've personally come to the conclusion of is that we've been doing all this brainstorming and trying to revamp the system, that COVID-19 has happened to highlight, now that you see the lack of funding going to these type of business, what I've noticed is that from their perspective, when it comes to funding, as a entrepreneur, from us, we don't have it, right? But from the perspective of the people that's funding the money, I think that there is a common theme of fear on that side, and this stereotype that black people and money don't mix, right? They can only have managed so much, which is why you often see minority businesses only getting funding in the thousands range, right?

When I say thousand, they may go as high as my 50,000, 75,000. Black entrepreneurs are not often enough getting $100,000 check, and they **** sure ain't getting no million dollar check. I mean, I'm probably a unicorn in the money that I raised, but that's because, most likely, my venture capital team is majority African-American, right? And they're also in my field of science, so they're very niche to where my industry is.

But other people don't have those opportunities, because from the perspective of the people that have the money, we can't manage that type of money. We're too high of a risk, because we don't come from the Harvards, or the Stanfords, or the Yale. We do not come from old money, where we did a family fundraising round, and we were able to raise hundreds and thousands of dollars, close to millions of dollars, right?

Then, the other part is that most black entrepreneurs, when they jump into that seat, when they know what they know, they get intimidated when it comes down to pitching for that money, because all that stuff that I just mentioned, as far as the friends and family round, the schooling, coming from the right type of companies, with internships and previous work experience, when I'm in a room, when I got a glaring audience of Caucasian people drilling me, and asking me questions, that can be intimidating.

And for a split second, which is all that it takes to knock somebody off their confidence pedestal, well, a split second now, while you're asking my questions, I'm in my mind, "Well, ****. Should I even be here? Maybe I'm not qualified. Oh, ****. I don't know the answer to that question," and these questions that they don't know the answer to has nothing to do with their expertise. Has nothing to do with the niche or the sector of their business, and has to do with what they've been exposed to, what they understand as far as taking money from somebody and being able to use that in their business.

And oftentimes, it comes down to the funder not listening. And what I mean by that is, that person of color is telling them exactly the correct things they need to say to receive that money, but they're not using the terms that they're used to hearing. It's happened to me.

Darshan: Give me an example, I'm very curious [crosstalk 00:15:11].

Tia: And I had a team... I'm about to give you an example.

Darshan: Okay.

Tia: So, I had a meeting with this certain part of the Philadelphia sector. It was big opportunity for me to pitch. It wasn't for funding. It was for trying to acquire some land, and they asked me something, and I mentioned to them, I said, "Okay, so what do you need to see, that I have this money?" I was like, "You want to verify it with a letter from the investors, or whatever?"

I said basically everything but ******* term sheet. Now, it wasn't that I didn't know what a term sheet was, it's just that, ****, I'm in there, you asking me questions, I'm trying to make sure I answer it, and so I might have fumbled a little bit in my brain, and term sheet, it wasn't coming to my mouth.

Darshan: Yeah.

Tia: So, as I'm saying, "Do you need a letter of verification? Do you want a letter from the venture capitalist? Do you want..." whatever the hell I said, the person that was asking me the question was like, "No, no, that's not enough," or, "no, we need something more substantial." All these words that they knocked down my credibility in front of... I was in there in the room with maybe 10, 12 people.

So, my team member that was working with me as part of [inaudible 00:16:10] at that time, he stepped in and he said, "So-and-so, so would it be okay if she brought a term sheet?" Do you know what he said? "Yes, that's what I need."

And I'm in there like, "I just said that. I literally said that. I just said the same thing." "No, no, what he said was correct. That's what we need. We can't do anything with a letter of verification. We need to make sure that the funds are committed and accounted for," and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

That's what I mean. So, fear, confidence, and lack of ability to close or receive funding is the problem with more minorities getting involved in small business. And also when you're getting involved in a small business that's not stereotypical to you as a person, or your culture, or what they perceive to be stereotypical to your race.

For instance, and I've been talking about this openly with Philadelphia, I was like, "Y'all have tons of money ready for people that have a salon, barbershop, construction company, restaurant, you name it. Anything leisure/entertainment, y'all throw money at it, and y'all not throwing tons of money at it. Y'all throwing like five, $10,000, whatever, right?

"But when somebody like me, who was a small business my default, right? Because we don't have over, what is it? 500 members, or 1000 members, to be considered a larger enterprise business, but my business is enterprise level, and my business model is, you have no idea what to do with me. You have no financial resources or tools to offer me in my fundraising.

"All you can do is tell me, 'Oh, we're looking for a business like yours. Come back when you have the money.' That's all you got for me. But when I do have the money, you find some other reason that you can't work with it, because from your perspective, it's too much money for my type of business, but it's not. It's just too much money for my black *** to have this business, and you don't want to be associated with it, because it's a start-up and it may fail.

"But here's the kicker. All start-ups start and they may fail. That's the risk you take. So, that let me know that you're risk-averse. You're not taking risks with minority businesses. You're taking risks with what you're comfortable in a black person, or somebody of color, doing, from their stereotypical perceived expertise, regardless of what the **** I have on paper with my history of being in the business 20 years, with my team who have collectively over 100 years' experience, and I got all the receipts to show you.

"It doesn't mean anything to you, but had this face been a little bit more paler, maybe this been a little bit more chiseled to look more male, I would have had money thrown at me during COVID-19." They're not throwing it. Everybody's sending me emails. We speak, and they're just watching and waiting until we sign this first customer. Then, when we sign that first customer, we may get a little rush, but when we sign the third customer, that's when everybody's going to come running and act like they've known me for years, and they want to be down, they want to throw money at it. By that time, it may be too late.

Darshan: So, let me ask you a few questions that come out of that for me. The... Oh, shoot, hold on. Oh, sorry, I had so many questions as I'm thinking through this.

So, what I hear you talking about is, obviously you here are an exception because, as you put it, you're a unicorn. You've raised money, and you've done it successfully. But for someone who's coming out new, do you think it's the lack of mentorship that teaches them, for lack of a better term, the magic words? Term sheet, that's the term you want to use. You knew it, obviously but, quite bluntly, if I had to walk in, and I'm a lawyer who's done this several times. I'm not sure... I would probably fizzle out my egg as I walked into the room. I can guarantee you I would have forgotten the term "term sheet", personally.

But, and that's me doing this. If I was a brand new entrepreneur, I don't care who you are, you're probably going to forget that term. Do we need a better system to mentor these individuals to be able to confident in that room, to start off with? No? I know you're saying no, so I'm going to hear you out for sure, but I want to at least frame my question, so that I understand why your no is applicable, but yeah, talk to me.

Tia: Yeah, I'm saying no. There are already plenty of resources pre-COVID-19 for them to get. When I had that meeting, for example, I was not fresh out of accelerator entrepreneurship bootcamp. My *** just had a ******* brain fart, and that's happening a lot.

So, I think people associate people of color as needing all this mentorship, all this help. Guess what? If anybody is a expert at their business and when they do from doing that **** every day, or working with a family member that did that **** every day, and now they want to turn it into the business, it is people of color. They don't need no more ******* mentorship. They don't need no more ******* accelerators, or, what do they call it? Panel discussions, of inclusion and diversity, and, "How do we reach out to them, and make sure that they understand how to access to these resources?"

Darshan: Yeah.

Tia: Here's the thing. That thing that I just said right now, that little panel on diversity and inclusion and access, we don't need to learn how to access the resources. Here's the kicker. Where are the ******* resources at? We don't need to learn how to access ****. We need the ******* resources.

Darshan: Right.

Tia: Where are the resources? I'm going to ask you this. Darshan, all this ******* money during COVID-19 has been raised, and it isn't just Caucasians. It's some black people too. Magic Johnson, whatever, right? P Diddy. Everybody's donating, put millions of dollars into a venture capital fund, with so-and-so and so-and-so, we take a picture, the check.

Do we ever see a article that comes out to say, "So-and-so received funding from that fund with Diddy, or Magic Johnson, or whoever," do we ever see that story?

Darshan: I have not.

Tia: I have not.

Darshan: I always assume that it happens, because it's not as sexy to talk about, "Here's what happened." It's sexier to talk about, "Here's the money that was given."

Tia: Well, that's the crazy part, because you see tons of stories of white companies on Crunchbase and, what is it? Angel VC, or whatever that **** called I'm part of. You see tons of news articles. I get it on my thing, too, a newsletter to say, "Hey, such-and-such company just raised $100 million over COVID-19."

Darshan: That's fair. That's fair. I hadn't thought of that [crosstalk 00:22:45].

Tia: No black face, though. No black person there, it's a white boy. So, obviously stuff is happening, but why aren't y'all releasing these resources? What are holding onto it for? These people like myself have been waiting for these resources to come.

Hell, I'm in the niche of COVID-19. I ain't got no money coming throwing at me like that. Everybody coming to me is like, "Oh, yeah, we're interested, but we want to see the business model proven. We want to see you sign your customer..."

So, where does that leave me, until this funding is able to be realistically funded into my account, right? I can have term sheet all day. That's nice, [inaudible 00:23:23] do it, right? Then, now it's time, right? So, we're about to do this capital call, which most minorities have to do. A capital call is when I had to do some type of call of video conferencing or email, and literally ask the money that was already promised for me, right? Whereas, again, our white Caucasians, when they get money [inaudible 00:23:46] in they accounts in less than 30 days, ain't no problem.

Darshan: So, what I hear you saying then, forget the mentors, that's not where we're going. So, how do we fix? What is the best way [crosstalk 00:24:01]... What is the best way to [crosstalk 00:24:03] have the resources, obviously. Where is the money, as you put it?

Tia: Where is the money?

Darshan: The release of money that was already supposed to be available.

Tia: Right.

Darshan: That's part of an overall general... I don't know how you even begin to say you aren't releasing the money, right? I'm not disagreeing with you. I'm actually just trying to figure out, how do you call someone up and not releasing the money? And my next question to that it is, are there any other factors?

Tia: For not having the money... Yeah, there may be some factors of you've got to meet some type of milestone, or whatever, to-

Darshan: No, no, that's not what I meant. I'm sorry. What are the other factors that are preventing black and brown entrepreneurship at the level that we probably should be seeing, and that we aren't enabling this process in the way we should be?

Tia: I think there has to be a conscious effort to stop looking at people of color as less than, more risky, under-educated, not ready yet, needy, as people. That's not who we are.

Darshan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tia: That's the last thing of who we are. You want to go all the way back to slavery and ****? We fought every step of the way. Some of us committed suicide in the ocean, on purpose, not to hit that American soil.

So, that's not the case, because the fact that we was able to withstand that, and still able to go through and withstand this current **** that's going on with Black Lives Matter, and then back to the civil rights movement, gives you a picture that if anybody has tenacity to reach that milestone, that finish line, and do right with what they're supposed to do right as far as that money, it is people of color. Immigrants, in particular outside of just general black and brown, we know [inaudible 00:25:53]... People of color built this country.

It wasn't built by white Caucasians. It was built by people of color. So, why do you think that you need to hold onto this money that tight? And if you do feel that way, right? If you understand that there's just something... "I just can't get around it, and..." maybe you did see somebody that did something, and they didn't do what they were supposed to do with the money. Got it, cool. But that doesn't mean that person was representative of everybody in the whole spectrum.

So, that means that the person who has the money, whoever's funding, you guys need to consciously come up with some type of way, with some checks and balances. It ain't even that hard, because guess what? You have blockchain technology. What you put in, a person cannot release until they meet whatever standard in the software system, or whatever the **** it is, right?

Darshan: Yeah.

Tia: You have all these things to prevent you from being in a situation, or being fooled, or duped, by the founder and them doing anything with the money. And to be honest with you, white Caucasians steal money too.

There are a lot more stories of their asses stealing that **** than it is of people of color. The difference is, the people with the money are too embarrassed to tell that story, so it never gets out. But if we was to dig and look at that ****, you will see that **** all day.

Darshan: Powerful words. Tia, if the entrepreneurship goes off, you really should consider politics, you do know how to [inaudible 00:27:23] someone up.

Tia: Oh, man... ****, I'm going through it now with the city of Philadelphia. It's political as hell, and not in a... I didn't realize that until I got knee-deep in, and I'm just like, yeah it just goes with the territory. So, I learn as I go, but I do stand my ground, just the way I was speaking to y'all today on this podcast, and tell them how I really feel.

Often, the words that come out of mouth, after we get through with the song and dance, and "It's a pleasure to meet you," and blah, blah, blah. And if you do dance with me too long, I'm going to say, "Hey, can I be candid with you?" Or, if I'm really comfortable, I'm going to say, "Hey, cut the ****. What's the purpose of this conversation? You're wasting my ******* time."

Darshan: Right. Right. Right.

Tia: I do it every time, and either we move forward and it goes through, or some people, I never hear from them again, and that's okay. It's not stopping my train. But don't waste my time. Don't do things because I'm the black face of life science, and you want to get in life science, or figure I have some information, so you figure you come pick my brain and steal the **** from me, go do what you're going to do.

I'm not going for none of that ****, and I'm also not going to be dragged along by you doing multiple ******* meetings. If I give you certain amount of explanation and we've signed an NDA, and I'm using an example that's going on right now, I expect you to read if I gave it to you one to two weeks ahead of the meeting.

Then, you ask me not only for me to be in the meeting, but some of my business partners to come into the meeting, and you come into the meeting and it's like this. "Oh, yeah, I saw this thing, I have a question. Can you explain this?"

That **** is in the ******* paperwork. Why are we talking about **** that you should have read? Because you're not asking me something that you don't understand. You're asking me to repeat the **** that's in the paperwork.

So, all that ****, this is what people of color get tired of, and then a great percentage of us just probably end up going back to work. Or, the one's that's in the job, because most of the time, they're not a full-time founder, right? They're still working they job to support they families.

That's why they never move into the full-time, because they don't have time for this ****. They got to eat, just like you got to eat. They got to pay their employees, just like you got to pay your employees.

The [inaudible 00:29:38] is, we have less resources to be able to ******** with. So, somehow, some of our Caucasian friends can put up a website, pay for the best website, [inaudible 00:29:49] this, and these pictures, and hell, they made me do a ******* photo shoot.

We ain't doing that ****. We doing Squarespace. We may not have a email like mine, it's My first email was [email protected] I mean, the **** was free. We have things that we have to do to even attract people, but we have to get funding lot quicker, because we don't even have it at the beginning like the white folks do.

We not doing the friends and family round. They got no money [inaudible 00:30:20] money. We can't come from money. For the example I just told you, with the young lady that works for me, that's been in the industry for 30 years, without the title or the pay, simply because she had no ******* bachelor's degree. But she has all the experience of a bachelor's degree.

And then [inaudible 00:30:36] we can just move over to this whole thing with attracting black men, and retaining them, and being able to have them go through the matriculation actually, I guess you say retain, a high-quality, high-wage employment opportunity.

So, here is the thing you need to know when it comes to black men, and this is from my personal experience. When it comes to black men, they have a ton of **** on they plate. Whether they married with kids, or a single dad with kids, or just a single guy.

They have tons of **** on their plate mentally and financially. So, when they come to you and they do that interview... What's that movie, with Will Smith, when he came to the interview, and he had the paint, and the members-only jacket, and all that ****? That **** is real life. When that dude, when he had to take the train... And I just went somewhere today. When that black man, a person-of-color man had to take that train to that job that's way out, he probably was on that train for at least two-and-a-half, three hours, because of where he lived in relation to that job.

In between that, he probably didn't have enough money to get on the train. Somebody probably gave him something. And I'm not talking about everybody. I'm talking about this particular character that's on topic for our discussion today, okay?

So, he had to scramble to get that money together. He had to take off work, from the mediocre job that he works at, and when he took off work, he ain't get no **** PTO. He's not getting paid that day, as he bust his *** to get out there to do that interview, for you as an employer to not even hear what he has to say, because his hair wasn't cut and fresh and faded like mine. He probably two weeks behind on that, because they had to save up some money to do whatever, just to get to you.

Probably had to pay for whatever suit he was able to put together, right? His nails and hands may be dirty. He may not speak with the proper vernacular that you expect for someone coming into this entry-level associate job, or even a entry-level management job.

I have an example. Two examples. We're going back to the one we was talking about first. So, that man in my family, two kids, wife, working in car sales all his life. He gets to a point where they want him to be promoted. They want him to go to the finance department in this car dealership.

Here's how they did it. "Well, so-and-so, there are a number of courses that a person has to take to have that position, and as soon as you take those courses, we'll promote you." Now, do y'all want to know how much these **** courses are?

During that time, I would imagine at least 2,500, five Gs, and today it's probably at more of a five or 10 Gs today, right, all these years later. I don't know who you know that has a family, wife, right? Living in an apartment, living check-to-check, or living as best they can, because at that time, like I said, they made a little bit more money.

So, I mean, he had to be selling cars out the ***, one. And you think they just got $2,500 saved up? Each. To take each one of those courses. When you, as the employer, $2,500 is like $250 to you.

So, you want that black man to be in that management position so that you can show that you're diverse, and you have this unicorn staff, whatever the **** you want to call it? If you want him to have that, if you're really about his success and his personal interest and well-being, you would pay for that ******* class.

Instead, you put the carrot in front of him, and gave him another test that you his *** weren't going to be able to pass. You knew **** well he didn't have that money. So, then we use that as a excuse and say, "Oh, well, opportunities come to black people," or, "It's not enough black people to find for that opportunity," or, "When we do give them the opportunity, they don't follow through."

You can't follow through on anything when you ain't got no ******* money. You can't go to another job and get that same role, because when you get there, they're going to ask you the same thing, "Where is this certification?" And they're going to do the same thing of, "Well, we'll bring you in at this level, see how you do, and then we'll promote you to where you want to be."

Then, when that time comes for you to be promoted where you want to be, it's the same thing again. "As soon as you pay that $2,500," or whatever the hell it is, "to get the extra course, you'll get promoted.

And it's a continuous ******* cycle, whereas if it's my Caucasian male, now [inaudible 00:35:17] he has family that's going to give him the money, or because of his relatability, through race, that employer is going to pay for it with no problem.

I have another one. This is a younger guy, who is my age. At that time, I was working at Human Genome Sciences in Rockville, Maryland, which is now GSK. HGS, at that time, was very instrumental, and the first big pharma company to do a employment bootcamp, meaning it was open season, so to speak. Whoever applied, they interviewed, and whoever got through the interview process was a part of that bootcamp class.

And if you made it through all the tests at that bootcamp class, you had a job as a entry-level manufacturing associate level one, right? So, I got my friend in as a favor of another friend, and I'm not going to lie, I was surprised too, but he made it.

And the reason why I say I was surprised was, this person really didn't show any interest, but he knew he needed a job, and he had a kid on the way. So, I'm assuming that's probably what drove him.

So, he gets the job. He's in. He's doing okay, he's doing what he needs to do. But then it gets to a point where there's a little bit of conflict, and here's where the conflict came in.

So, he's been there less than a year, maybe up to a year at this point. There's another person that's my equal. We came at the same time. By that time, I think he was already there two, three years, and each one of us, at this point, we're versus each other to be promoted.

So, my friend is on his team, okay? So, I'm just setting the stage. So, we're doing something that's towards the end of the day, where that team is coming over to take over my shift. I was day shift, they was evening.

I'm getting ready to head out. All of the leadership was at some type of leadership meeting, so they wasn't on site. I'm getting ready to leave. The one that's versus me is a white male, okay?

And I get a phone call from him saying, "Hey, Tia, we're in this [inaudible 00:37:15], we got to do X, Y and Z, per what you said. I'm having some trouble, because this person is refusing to do his job, and I don't want to get in any trouble, and I know you know each other. Come help me out, see if you can talk to him."

I'm like, "Okay." I go in there. This person was doing their job. The Caucasian male wanted him to do something... I would just say it's just not necessary, is how I would put it. And so, as I'm talking to him, I said, "Well go ahead and do this..." and he's, "Nah, he don't want me to do that. He want me to do X, Y, Z." He basically wanted him to do some janitorial work, and we share janitorial responsibilities on purpose, so that nobody would feel like thyre the janitor of the group. Because at that time, we didn't have a separate a staff that come in there throughout the day to clean the main [inaudible 00:38:05] suite.

At that time, when I started, we had to do every ******* thing. So, we was mopping, we was cleaning parts. We was autoclaving. We doing the process... We did e ******* thing. So, I'm talking to him, I said, "Well, how long you been [inaudible 00:38:18]? Why aren't you trained on this?" I'm going through the motions, and now I'm getting concerned, and he's like, "I can't get trained because all he will let me do is mop the floors."

So, I went back and talked to him. I said, "Hey, you're going to have to train him to do X, Y, Z. You change [inaudible 00:38:33] pick somebody else to mop the floors today. Give him a break and train him on something so he feels like he's a part of the team."

Fast-forward, right? It's constant conflict with the guy on that team. Fast-forward, where we have layoffs. This is when 2008 recession hit, and as I'm coming to work that day, I didn't know, I'm coming to work that day and everybody's like, "Oh," pulled me into a room and was like, "Yeah, a couple of your team members are going to be let go. They call you, don't answer their phone. When they come in today, they're going to be handed a paper [inaudible 00:39:02] walk to this building, they won't even be allowed to come in. We are laying them off."

That person that I talked about, that was only allowed to mop floors, despite this training and bootcamp to do things like, hell, cell count, filtration, [inaudible 00:39:21] bioreactor, all this **** he was trained to do, when he finally got that opportunity to do it, he wasn't allowed to do it. He was only allowed to be a ******* janitor, for lack of a better word. So, when it came time to lay people off, he was cut.

Darshan: He was disposable?

Tia: He was disposable, because he didn't hold up his end of the bargain. He went through the bootcamp. He didn't get his training, that he did and he did and he did and he didn't. It was not him. It was that lead that I talked to you about. It was the supervisor and the manager that was [inaudible 00:39:51] responsibility to make sure things were being done a certain way to ensure his success.

Now, in that situation, you laying him off hurt everybody. Yes, it hurt him, because he had no money for his family and his son and everything he was going through, but it also hurt the business, because now you have one less trained person that can actually contribute, gone. And you in situation where you can't even hire nobody because we in a recession.

So, who got hurt the most? The company. And then that presents this culture, right? Because this black man was considered less-than. He was forced to do X, Y, Z, wasn't allowed to do what he got hired to do, and then now all of a sudden, he's pegged as the difficult employee that isn't doing what he's supposed to do.

And this happens every ******* time. I had another one, another example, black male, graduated summa *** laude. I think he went to Savannah State down in Georgia. Biochemistry major, key honor student. He didn't last in biotech a blip.

When I met him, he had braids. I said, "Dude, get the haircut, or they going to be tripping about them braids." He cut the hair. He got the job. There's one thing he couldn't get rid of, that they stereotyped him as being dumb or unfit for the job. He had a southern twang. Real... I mean, it's Georgia. That's how we speak, right? But for him, it was there, he'd been there all his life. So, coming to Maryland, that's not something you're going to turn off right away, nor should it be something that you're judged off of, to say you don't know what you're doing.

Incident happened, someone's name, right? Some **** very minor, okay? Somebody probably didn't follow the SOP, or whatever, he's new, easy target. So-and-so did it, and a supervisor lied on him and said he did it. Somebody wasn't even on the ******* floor. He wasn't even in the ******* room. But because he was a easy target, black male twang, couldn't get his words together because his nervous, because you've been accused of something you didn't do. You're trying to say you didn't do it, and from that, he was fired, on the spot, okay?

He tries to go to another biotech up the street. Fired. Didn't even last, because of that twang. I only think he lasted there a couple of weeks. He went to another spot. Fired. To this day, even me, I've tried to get him to come and work for me at LucasPye BIO. Fear factor, no.

He's been teaching science in the public school system of Maryland for, at this point, a little over 10, 12 years. He has two kids, and I think he's married at this point. At that time, he just had one kid, and he wasn't married.

But the whole point is, he said, "No. I like my life. I have my time. I spend it with my kids. I know my schedule. I'm a expert at what I do. I have no desire to go back to biotech." Could you blame him?

Darshan: No.

Tia: These are the things that are done that prevent black men from being successful in a corporate-America-type situation, from us and corporate America being able to attract them, to entice them to come after these jobs. And then a overall cycle on the employers saying that there aren't any black people out there that have these quality skill sets.

There are tons of black people out there with the quality skill set. If you really want to go all the way back to history, if that helps, it was the black people on the slave camp that had all the high-quality technical capabilities. We were cutting the wood and making your ******* furniture. Our women were cooking the food, and helped you out to your recipes, until now you all have no flavoring in your food.

But when you trying to remember why your grandma would make it versus what your mom would make, and hers tastes good, chances are she got that from back in the day, and they translated generation down to generation.

You cotton fields was picked by us. The **** cotton was woven by us. Anything you can think of. Hell, even down to a haircut, barbershop, you had a black barber, and they weren't appreciated for it, nor were they paid for it. And look where we are today. Same situation, just augmented a little bit differently because of all this technology.

COVID-19 hit, black and brown people are sent home from wherever they work at, because they work, most likely, on Main Street, for the majority of them. Or if they are in corporate America, they are working in a role where they have to be on site every day to do their job, and now you're telling them, "You can't go to work. You got to go home." Majority of them cannot work from home. Majority of them have no skill set of technology beyond this right here, and checking their email on that, and most of them only have a email because of the job that they got that requires them to have one for certain communication.

And you got this president, technically who's still in power as we speak, unless something has changed in the last few minutes, telling us that he's not giving any more money, because these people are getting rich off this check.

Who's getting rich off of $800 to $1000 a week? And taxes come out of unemployment, guys. It ain't free money. So, who getting rich off of that, when you already knee-deep in debt. You probably was out of work almost 90 days before you got your unemployment check. So, now you **** near about to be kicked out of your place. You've barely got food to eat. You finally get some money in. What do you do with that money? Well, hell, in addition to buying food, you got to back-pay all these bills. Hell, you got to keep this home, so when they do call you back, you've got a job, or whoever you've been applying to, the best work you could apply to, so they can actually reach you and say "You've got the interview."

Then you got to go figure out how you going to do the interview. You can't go in person, so now you doing the **** from the phone. These are the things that keep people of color down. These are the things that keep us from generating wealth, because we don't have the same opportunities, on the employment end, let's be clear.

On the entrepreneurship end, we have our part. We need the resources, and I'm not talking about no ******* class, or no training, or a recommendation, or a speaking engagement [inaudible 00:46:27]. We need ******* money. Either you going to give the money so we can use it to put in our business, or any time you speak to us, and as black is being cool now, then you need to pay for us to do that speaking engagement and stand there on your behalf, and vouch for you as a ally. If you a real ally, you going to pay us and give us our financial due to get ahead where we need to get to.

Darshan: That is [inaudible 00:46:54] to actually stop this on, because that's food for thought for everyone who's going to listen in. Tia, thank you so much. I-

Tia: Thank you.

Darshan: I'm going to actually be thinking about this conversation for a while. So, thank you. We're going to have you on again soon, so looking forward to that.

Tia: Please do. All right. Thank you.

Darshan: Thanks again.

Tia: Bye-bye.

Narrator: This is the DarshanTalks Podcast. Regulatory guy, irregular podcast, with host Darshan Kulkarni. You can find the show on Twitter @darshantalks or the show's website at

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