Earlier this year Ridgeline International, Inc. initiated a fundraising campaign on the behalf of 100 Black Men of Greater Washington, D.C. One of CEO Erik Wittreich’s objectives was to increase opportunities for underserved youths in the STEM field, leading to STEM careers.
The fundraising campaign was incredibly successful, securing a combined total of $20,000. On September, 9th 100 Black Men President, James Thompson, and a select group of chapter leaders went to the Ridgeline International, Inc. headquarters for the check presentation.
To show show that this partnership was extremely important to Ridgeline International, CEO Erik Wittreich had his entire Executive Team attend, including:
The fundraising campaign was incredibly successful, securing a combined total of $20,000. On September, 9th 100 Black Men President, James Thompson, and a select group of chapter leaders went to the Ridgeline International, Inc. headquarters for the check presentation. To show that this partnership was extremely important to Ridgeline International, CEO Erik Wittreich had his entire Executive Team attend, including:
– Kay Russell, Director of Human Resources
– Matt Meade, Director of Talent Acquisition
– Amanda Tavares, Research & Development
– Kristie Kendrick, Corporate Communications
– Nick Munchel, Director of Finance
– Joseph Schniebs, Chief Technology Officer & Founder
– Karl Williams, Chief of Operations
– Dr. Eric Bell, Chief Administrative Officer
Beyond receiving the $20,000 check, we wanted to highlight how CEO Erik Wittreich came to the decision to support 100 Black Men and how he’d like the relationship to evolve going forward. We hold the developing relationship with Mr. Wittreich and Ridgeline International, Inc. up as exemplary of the type of partnership that we look to forge with a variety of private corporations, with the goal of positively impacting the lives of young men and women across the Washington, D.C. region.
Here is some of what CEO Erik Wittreich shared with us:
- Why did you have a town hall on Diversity and Inclusion in June, 2020?
We wanted to host an intimate discussion on what was happening not only in the world but in our Greater Washington Area as well. Our leadership and employees wished to engage in a dialogue on systemic racism and offer a platform to drive progress and healing. I think it was a very impactful day and the discussions we had during that town hall have led to follow-on conversation today and I have confidence that this will continue to shape our company in a positive way.
2. How did you become aware of 100 Black Men of Greater Washington, D.C.?
You mentioned the town hall meeting. We didn’t want that to be a single event but rather serve as the kickoff to our commitment to take an active role, as a company, to improve inequity around us. We conducted research on non-profits in the area that are focused on providing opportunities to populations that are underserved and we were fortunate to connect with your organization.
3. What about the organization was most compelling to you?
One of our employees, Doctor Eric Bell, is active with you your organization. He spoke very highly of the mission and we knew that if Eric was investing his energy into 100 Black Men than Ridgeline should too.
4. Why did you decide to financially support the organization?
We’ve always looked for ways to connect with our community. Sometimes our outreach includes free instruction and programming, in-kind donations, the donation of labor resources, and other times it’s simply financial contributions to organizations whose values align to our own. We have complete trust that 100 Black Men of DC will put this money to great use and we look forward to continuing our partnership with your organization.
5. Why did you focus your support on 100 Black Men’s STEM The 100 Way programming and Saturday Leadership Academy?
At our core, we’re a learning company. We’re fascinated by the application of disruptive technology and our success comes from iterating new and innovative solutions for our clients. One of our corporate values is to Foster a Learning Environment. We think these programs will teach participants to think critically, curiously, and with cognitive diversity.
6. How has your company been impacted by selecting to support an African American organization?
Only positively. Last week, a junior employee came to my office and said, “Erik, your last company-wide message on diversity was meant for me. I needed to hear that. Thank you.” This is one example of the impact our decision to support an African American organization has had internally on our employees. We’re really looking forward to continuing our partnership with you and seeing long-term the impact we can make together.
7. Many times, there is limited appreciation for the differences between co-workers from different ethnicities, races, or cultures. Why was supporting 100 Black Men so important to you?
We’re building an incredible team at Ridgeline and we’ve learned that diversity in thought has served as a key driver to our growth. We achieve diversity in thought by assembling teams comprised of teammates that have different ethnicities, different genders and sexual orientations, different political and religious views. Different hobbies and interests, etc. We’ve embraced these differences. The irony in talking about differences in people is that of course, in part, that’s true. But we learn that we also share so many similarities. And, our company has so many similarities to your organization. You want to teach and mentor the next generation of the STEM workforce. Our interests are clearly aligned.
8. Ridgeline is developing internship opportunities for qualified students, mentorship opportunities in technical specialties, and a Ridgeline STEM week. Can you talk about why you are developing these initiatives and your goals for these programs?
We think there’s a beautiful synergy in assisting your organization in its mission to mentor underserved youth and our desire to attract and retain the best technical talent. We’re building our company for the long run and know that great talent is hard to find and so we choose to invest in opportunities for high school and college students so that we can hire them in future years, after we’ve had a chance to shape their understanding of tech. Ideally, we’d hire all the participants that excel in your program.
9. What would say to other CEOs, or leaders, your employees, or your family and friends as it relates to building cross-ethnic, cross-cultural relationships?
I’d probably take an academic and show how it’s been proven that diverse workplaces are more innovative, smarter, and more profitable. Even with all the data that highlights the economic benefit to cross-ethnic and cross-cultural relationships, there’s a social benefit as well. It’s the obvious approach.