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Leadership Program Fosters Black Talent in Pittsburgh Area

A woman is writing on a whiteboard in a business meeting.

​A nonprofit program in Pittsburgh is on a mission to develop Black talent.

The Advanced Leadership Institute (TALI) is a professional-development initiative dedicated to cultivating Black executive leadership to strengthen companies, institutions and communities. Founded in 2016, TALI delivers executive education classes customized to support Black leaders.

The program aims to deliver greater diversity in corporate Pittsburgh, helping to establish a higher rate of retention for Black professionals in executive levels of leadership.

"TALI partners with Carnegie Mellon University to deliver its programming," said Evan Frazier, TALI's founder, president and CEO. "And together we seek to educate, develop, connect and position our cohort members for advancement and professional success."

Developing Black Leaders

In 2016, Frazier wanted to address the lack of Black executive management in Pittsburgh's corporations. He talked to other business leaders about the concept of a development program that cultivated Black leaders throughout the Pittsburgh area.

In 2017, he partnered with Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business to create an executive leadership academy based on his idea. The organization's goal was to educate, develop and position Black leaders for meaningful advancement in corporate and community roles.

"The program signifies the importance of having Black professionals in leadership roles within Pittsburgh," Frazier said. "This signals to others that we have a vibrant community where everyone can grow and prosper. The success of our city hinges on our ability to grow our regional population."

TALI comprises two programs: The Executive Leadership Academy caters to executives and mid-level managers, and the Emerging Leaders Program provides early managers and individual contributors with the tools needed to succeed.

Each program runs seven months. Participants refine their leadership and management skills and learn to effectively use coaching, mentorship and sponsorship to advance their careers and organizations. They also learn to leverage peer relationships for continued professional growth and personal support.

Program graduates are better prepared to successfully navigate corporate culture and organizational structure as Black leaders, Frazier said. TALI also gives them visibility within their organization and in the community, helping them to leverage opportunities for advancement.

"Graduates use the program to think more strategically about their career goals and to create wider social and professional networks," Frazier explained.

Has the Program Found Success?

In 2019, Stephanie L. Herring heard about TALI. The more she learned, the more interested she became.

"There had never been a leadership program specific to the professional development of Black professionals on the trajectory for C-suite roles in the region, but even more so offered through a prestigious university like Carnegie Mellon," said Herring, the vice president of human resources at Dollar Bank in Pittsburgh.

In 2019, she enrolled in the program. Herring said TALI spent significant time outlining the benefits of mentorship, sponsorship and networking. Sessions included topics such as critical thinking, leadership identity, financial decision-making and resilience in the workplace.

Herring explained that TALI refined her existing skills with training and coursework that required her to think critically. She also said the program has helped her achieve visibility and success in her organization.

"If I am being honest, Black professionals are often at a disadvantage in the workplace because of years of engrained racial and cultural barriers," she explained. "The training in this program brought forth real issues such as how Black professionals engage in 'imposter syndrome' to fit in and strategies on how it is OK to be comfortable in your skin."

Diamonte Walker, the deputy executive director of the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, said her participation in the program helped prepare her for her role as principal lead of an organization.

"The seminars focused on asset-framing, building highly effective teams and developing win-win strategies to make a positive impact within our spheres of practice," Walker said. "The peer-to-peer learning opportunities and the ability to access senior executives at the helm of the industries responsible for driving our local economy forward were a true value-add."

Frazier noted that 83 percent of the inaugural cohort received promotions or significant additional responsibilities within two years of participating in the program. He projected that TALI would have more than 125 alumni by the end of 2022.

"And we do extensive ongoing alumni programming to support, connect and position these graduates for continued success," he explained. "Given the focus that both Pittsburgh and the nation have on the identification and development of diverse executives for C-suite positions, TALI is well-positioned to support this increasingly important and strategic outcome."


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