Will.i.am has praised the power of technology, saying it has done “what companies and governments and cities were not able to do” when it comes to battling discrimination.
Talking as the keynote speaker at the Black Young Professionals (BYP) Network’s two-day leadership conference on Thursday, the musician, record producer, and tech entrepreneur used Uber as an example when describing how “technology has made the world a lot easier”.
“In 1991, if I needed to get up a car app and go and hitch a ride, if I was in New York, being black, a taxi (is not) stopping for me. It’s not stopping for me if I’m in New York,” the 46-year-old explained.
“But technology… Uber, now – I could get a car whenever I want. Technology did what companies and governments and cities were not able to do. There’s no prejudice like in 1991.”
The singer acknowledged the work that still needs to be done for black professionals to become a part of the “technological tomorrow”.
“We’re not part of that conversation in the way that we should,” he said.
“And the more that we realise we should be… Let’s get our nieces and nephews, our sons and daughters equipped with these skill sets.”
The rapper stressed the importance of collaboration for young, black professionals in any industry.
“There is no such thing as a solo successful anybody… When it comes to solving problems, networking and collaboration is key,” will.i.am said.
His biggest piece of advice for aspiring professionals is what he describes as the “amazing combination” of humbleness and audacity.
“Be audacious and be fearless… Humble and audacity is an amazing combination,” he added.
The Black Eyed Peas frontman also told attendees how crucial it is to dream big.
“At one point in time people said… ‘There’s no way you could sell records like Michael Jackson. You can’t sing like Michael, you can’t dance like Michael’ but damn, we came close,” he said.
“We sold almost 40 million albums.
“Now why can’t we do the same thing in technology? I want to make a product that has as many users as WhatsApp one day. Am I not supposed to dream that big?”
Will.i.am gave his advice to the audience at the BYP Network leadership conference, an annual event where more than 150 speakers offer their insight into the world’s most competitive industries.
The network, co-founded by Kike Oniwinde in 2016, is a platform for black professionals to connect with each other, find jobs, sign up to mentorship schemes and seek funding.
Ms Oniwinde told the PA news agency how the conference makes people like will.i.am become accessible.
“They are role models and they are reachable,” she said.
The 29-year-old explained that the BYP Network’s aim is to “change the black narrative” as she discussed the difference between diversity and inclusion.
“Diversity is being invited to the dance. But then inclusion is actually being asked to dance,” Ms Oniwinde said.
“The BYP Network is here to develop the next generation of leaders. And we’re here to promote role model visibility and provide opportunities and this conference is that.”
Taking place over Thursday and Friday, the BYP Network conference is free and anyone can attend online at: corporate.byp-network.com/leadership-conference-2021