UCSC's Van Williams discusses diversity in IT at Stanford event

Van Williams, vice chancellor of information technology and strategic technology initiatives
Speaking at the second “Conversations with Extraordinary Leaders” at Stanford University last month, Van Williams, vice chancellor of information technology and strategic technology initiatives at UC Santa Cruz, said designing for diversity and inclusivity within organizations requires planning.

Williams was the guest speaker for the virtual event sponsored by Stanford’s People of Color in Technology (POC-IT) and moderated by Stanford Chief Information Officer Steve Gallagher. The event’s more than 245 attendees came from IT communities at both Stanford and UC Santa Cruz, and other UC schools and beyond. A video of his talk is available here.

During an hour-long conversation with Gallagher and a Q&A that followed, Williams discussed his career journey, lessons learned, thoughts about diversity and inclusion, and traits he has found to be most important in his leadership approach.

He outlined eight actions organizations can take to address racial injustice in the workplace:
  1. Encourage mentorships
  2. Provide sponsorships
  3. Offer training
  4. Provide advocacy
  5. Serve as models who provide inspiration
  6. Partner with shared interest groups
  7. Focus on recruitment and retention
  8. Create opportunities for women and people of color

Williams joined UCSC as vice chancellor for information technology July 1, 2018 from New York University’s Stern School of Business, where he was chief information officer. He spent more than 15 years at Stern in a variety of  roles including chief technology officer and senior director of enterprise operations and solutions. He holds a master's degree in business administration from Stern, and a bachelor’s degree in classical civilization from NYU.

Williams acknowledged that transitioning from the very diverse environment at NYU to UCSC required him to become more comfortable in his own skin and to advocate more strongly for diversity from his leadership position.

When Stanford’s Gallagher asked what it means to be a person of color in the ranks of IT leadership, Williams also acknowledged the pressures of modeling behaviors and being a change agent for his staff of 250. He also noted that he has benefitted during his own career from connections with other inclusive leaders.