Justina Nixon-Saintil on Corporate Social Responsibility and the Rise of P-TECH

This episode of the Getting Smart Podcast is sponsored by Screencastify.

On this episode of the Getting Smart Podcast, Tom sits down with Justina Nixon-Saintil, IBM Vice President and Global Head, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

Justina drives strategic, socially responsible programmatic investments that enable IBM’s technology and talent to address some of society’s biggest challenges worldwide. She also leads initiatives like P-TECH, Open P-TECH and SkillsBuild and uses multi sector partnerships to help create more inclusive and innovative schools and workforces. Justina was also Verizon’s liaison to President Obama’s White House Office of Science and Technology, U.S. Departments of the Interior and US Department of Education. Earlier in her career, she was an Engineer for the U.S. Department of Energy.

Let’s listen in as Tom and Justina talk about her unique trajectory from engineering to social responsibility, the future of IBM and much more.

Justina began the conversation discussing her unique story. As a tech exec, an engineer and MBA, a mother and three and being an immigrant from Dominica, she has worked hard to get to where she is today. This challenge began at SUNY Buffalo where she began studying Engineering.

From a young age Justina loved to know how things worked. She would take a part toys and machines to see what made them tick, laying the foundation for her exploration in engineering. At the time, she was the only african-american female to graduate with a mechanical engineering degree in her year. This made it a challenge to find mentorship and the right groups to be a part of.

With regards to access to and interest in STEM education, Justina says “Things are improving, but there’s more that needs to be done [… we need to be] expanding access to emerging tech.”

After making a recent transition from leadership at Verizon to leadership at IBM, she is pleased to see that “social purpose is woven into the fabric of IBM,” and loves getting to explore the future of climate, healthcare, automation. Recently IBM made an announcement of a partner ship with HBCU’s to develop quantum centers.

She also noted that the pandemic appeared to accelerate most trends including inequity–especially for women of color. In fact, the WEF said gender parity runway has lengthed for women from 99.5 years to 135 years.

Another initiative at IBM, SkillsBuild, believes that skills building is part of the solution. “We need targeted and intentional working with women and with vulnerable population […] we also need need to prepare for new collar jobs, jobs that do not require a four-year degree.” In fact, IBM is practicing what they preach — 50% of IBM hires don’t require a four-year degree.

Skillsbuild launched globally a few months ago. It is a free digital platform allows anyone to access and get the right skills. They are also partnering with nonprofits on the ground who can reach the underserved populations. This work naturally parallels IBM interest in digital credentials. Right now they are “focused on consortiums of companies coming together and really hiring the people with those credentials.”

Another IBM initiative is P-TECH, which is celebrating its 10 year anniversary this year. This program has expanded to 28 countries and includes 240 schools, 200 community colleges and 600 community partners. “A zip code should not determine your future. That’s the goal of P-TECH,” says Justina. IBM also uses these P-TECH schools to create an internship pipeline, they are hiring 1000 PTECH grads for IBM internships this year and the model includes a free associates degree. One of our favorite examples of this is Dallas.

A newer initiative, Open P-TECH is a similar model that focuses on soft skills and mindfulness. This program is freely available to everyone. Some of the most popular courses are cyber security, block chain and AI.

On Artificial Intelligence, she says: “Young people need to understand what AI means for them. As early as possible they should understand that when they are talking to a voice assistant, that’s AI. When they’re seeing ads on the internet, that’s AI.” In fact, as we speak IBM is sunsetting certain AI tech that could lead to bias and is listening closely to an AI ethics board.

Justina keeps learning by attending virtual conferences and learning from the experts. She also is a strong advocate for simply listening to those around you.

Key Takeaways

[:01] About Screencastify, the leading K-12 screen recording solution.
[:39] About today’s episode with Justina Nixon-Saintil.
[1:33] Tom welcomes Justina to the podcast!
[1:57] Justina speaks about her upbringing and early education.
[4:10] Justina’s experience as the only African-American to graduate in her engineering class.
[5:06] Tom and Justina speak about how we have to do a better job of introducing young people to the STEM field.
[6:30] Is Justina encouraged by the response of leading companies like IBM to really live into their corporate social responsibility?
[9:15] IBM’s stance on AI.
[10:33] Justina’s thoughts on inequities in America (especially for women and People of Color) and how it fits into her role at IBM.
[13:35] How IBM has been a leader in moving towards skills-based hiring as a strategy to attack inequity.
[16:29] About IBM’s leadership in digital credentials.
[17:40] About P-TECH.
[20:29] Tom and Justina give a shout-out to Dallas ISD for having a P-TECH as the campus.
[21:17] What is Open P-TECH?
[22:20] Applications of AI that Justina is most excited about.
[24:25] How does Justina continue to learn?
[25:52] Tom thanks Justina for joining the podcast!
[26:02] Thanks to Getting Smart’s sponsor, Screencastify.

Mentioned in This Episode


This post is sponsored by Screencastify. If you’d like to learn more about our policies and practices regarding sponsored content, please email Jessica Slusser.

Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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