Kenton Hipsher

Kenton Hipsher

A biology alumnus living in the San Francisco area who started the #BlackProfessionals Project.
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About Kenton

Kenton Hipsher is a regional sales manager who is providing pure, vegan proteins to the beauty, food and supplement industries with the San Francisco-based conscious biodesign company Geltor Inc. In June 2020, he founded the #BlackProfessionals Project to educate and inspire Black and Brown youths by highlighting professionals – and several Rose-Hulman alumni – who share their career experiences and journeys through YouTube and social media interviews.

He also utilizes LinkedIn and Facebook communities as places for Black and Brown youth to connect with Black and Brown professionals, and partners with schools and community groups across America to share professional journeys with youths.

WHY DID YOU START THE #BLACKPROFESSIONALS PROJECT?

At the most recent peak of racial injustice in the United States, the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, I sat down and asked myself, “How can I make a difference? … How can I do more than donate to a cause? … How can I solve this problem? … What can I do with my power?”. Speaking with my high school nephew about his future aspirations, I remembered my own career planning experience and discovered the answers to these questions in the form of yet another problem that he, myself and everyone, especially people of color, face growing up – professional representation and awareness.

Black people account for approximately 12% of the U.S. population but occupy only 3.2% of the senior leadership roles at large companies in the U.S. and just 0.8% of all Fortune 500 CEO positions. Meanwhile, Black and Brown people make up 76.2% of the NBA and 47% of Billboard's top 100 artists of 2019. Racist gatekeepers hold back Black and Brown people from getting jobs and increasing our representation every day, but they are out of my control and not the only problem. I believe the biggest reason for this disparity is a lack of awareness that non-athlete, non-musician careers do exist, and are available to Black and Brown people to make great money, and are fun!

So, in June (2020), I started reaching out to Black and Brown professionals to see if they would be interested in being interviewed about their career journeys – in hopes of providing encouragement to today’s youths that they, too, could follow in the footsteps of these professionals. I was hyped by the love and positivity that I received from other Black and Brown professionals who saw the work that I was doing. By July I started posting interviews on The #BlackProfessionals Project’s YouTube channel and, so far, have 21 videos on the site with over 40 recorded in total.

In addition to posting videos, I also share inspirational stories and other great news about victories being made by Black and Brown professionals across the globe through LinkedIn. My ultimate goal is to build a network of accessible Black and Brown professionals where youths can comfortably learn and receive professional guidance on how to succeed in the professional world.

WHO HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO FEATURE IN THE INTERVIEWS?

Everyone does not have the time to be a mentor, so utilizing video has allowed me to capture the stories of Black and Brown professionals at all stages in a career from CEOs and VPs of major finance corporations to entry-level professionals starting their careers strong. Since my audience starts at freshman in high school and moves up in age from there, these youths typically want to hear professionals talk about why they choose their career fields, their time in college and their unique experiences within the first few years of their careers.

I have been blessed to interview such interesting professionals from diverse STEM fields such as TheDoubleTalk Twins (Hannibal and Malcolm Brooks), discussing interesting insights into market research and human psychology; Dr. Ashley Queen, director of microbiology and public health at the American Cleaning Institute; Science Program Manager Dr. Norbert Tavares of Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a philanthropic endeavor supporting science, education and justice projects; Dr. Dominique Kagele, a global product strategist in the pharmaceutical industry; Dr. Crystal Humphries, a biotechnology senior data scientist who has lived throughout the U.S.; and Talent Acquisition Manager Aneisha Johnson.

If you are a Black or Brown professional who wants to give back by sharing their professional journey, then I am interested in telling your story. It has been super cool learning where these professionals have come from, what they are doing and the challenges they have encountered along the way, especially how they learned and adapted from those experiences.

HOW ARE THE INTERVIEWS CONDUCTED?

The interviews are casual conversations, recorded through Zoom, that typically last about 30 minutes. The subject gets the questions beforehand, so that you can think through your answers, then I ask you the exact same questions on the call. It is very easy. No skeletons coming out of any closets. No shocks or surprises on release day. I will never change the integrity of a guest’s answers without their request. I even send you the video and promotional materials before I release it, so that you can approve it before it goes out.

Due to the nature of my career, I can carve out time to fit any schedule and conduct the interviews in my home recording studio. I want to make this as easy of a process as I can for all involved.

The videos are released each Monday at 9 a.m. Eastern Time/6 a.m. Pacific Time on YouTube.

YOU HAVE FEATURED SEVERAL FELLOW ROSE-HULMAN ALUMNI AS WELL

Kicking off the platform, I wanted to reach out to my friends and family to build up some content. As a Rose alumnus, I first went to my former Rose-Hulman classmates, teammates and National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) chapter friends. I knew they had very interesting stories to tell and were working in cool STEM jobs today that would get the youths’ attention. They also knew me and felt comfortable sharing information with me.

This alumni group would include Linnell Williams, a second lieutenant in the U.S. Space Force; Malcolm Marshall, a patent engineer; Stanley Hogan, a process automation engineer with Endress+Hauser; Jada Davis, an electrical engineer with Raytheon’s intelligence and space systems group; Jaedren “Jae” Murray, a production engineer with Toyota; and Marcus Tucker, a manufacturing engineer.

SO, WHAT’S YOUR OWN #BLACKPROFESSIONALS STORY?

I came to Rose-Hulman from nearby Indianapolis, Indiana, and majored in biology, which is a rather small, but mighty, program within the Department of Biology and Biomedical Engineering. I loved the close interaction with my professors, plus being able to work and study with a close-knit group of classmates. The program provided me with a strong foundation in the sciences, along with the strong problem-solving, interpersonal and communications skill that I have utilized extensively throughout my professional career.

After Rose-Hulman, I earned a master’s degree in microbiology from the University of Georgia. Then, I worked in a variety of technical jobs before settling into my current role managing sales accounts for west coast and Midwest territories at Geltor, Inc. a biotechnology company that is creating the world’s most advanced specialty vegan proteins for the beauty, personal care, food, and nutrition markets.

I will be releasing a video about my own #BlackProfessional story in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for that!
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