In the late 1990s, Buchanan & Edwards’ then-Chief Technical Officer Greg Parchment recruited a student from Howard University, a historically Black institute, as the company’s first intern. Since that day, BE has helped nurture dozens of underrepresented young adults by providing them with opportunities to develop, learn and grow in their professional careers.
Today, that same intern is a manager on one of BE’s largest contracts. Parchment, a board member, continues to spend a significant portion of his time giving back personally and professionally through programs aimed at helping underprivileged youth.
Recently, Parchment developed BE’s Robin Hood Program, a formal mentorship initiative designed to help underserved individuals who would not otherwise have as many opportunities to receive training in marketable skills.
“We’re providing fantastic opportunities for training and hands-on experience for traditionally underrepresented organizations and races,” Parchment said. “These folks are getting certifications for skills that are going to make them extremely competitive in the job market. For BE, it’s really great, because we can establish a pipeline resource that enables us to potentially hire these folks directly after certification or place them in our internship program. It’s a win-win.”
The Robin Hood Program, which started with Howard University, has expanded substantially since its initial implementation, and now includes members from vendors and partner organizations BE works with, as well as other historically Black colleges and universities from across the nation.
“With the Robin Hood Program, there is synergy between personal efforts to help students gain desirable skills and leveraging company resources in a way that also aligns with the strategic goals of BE,” Parchment said.
“By leveraging our corporate resources, we’re getting a flywheel effect — there’s more momentum behind some of the energy that we’ve been putting out there for years,” he continued. “Some of the program members may even end up staying with BE for a long time, growing with the company in parallel. The executive management team really sees the value of this effort, and it has become weaved into the fabric of our corporate culture.”
Parchment’s drive for helping young people stems partly from his own background, as he counts his parents among his best life mentors. With his father working in the math and computer science department at Morgan State University, and his mother working as a social work supervisor in Maryland, Parchment, and his older brother Tony, got to see firsthand how rewarding supporting the members of a community could be.
“Seeing how dedicated our parents were to working with youth and developing social causes was a big influence on us,” Parchment said. “When Tony, Brian Karlisch and I created Buchanan & Edwards in 1998, we knew we wanted to ingrain a sense of community and support into the culture. We wanted to create a place to work, full of opportunities that were available to anyone who was willing to work for it. It was extremely important to us.”
Speaking with a few current and former employees, it’s easy to see that community-based influence alive and well at BE. It’s not uncommon to find a former intern among the ranks who not only began their career with BE, but is now working in a management position with the company.
A sense of mentorship and opportunity are still a massive part of the company’s culture, and much of that is owed to Parchment.
“Every young adult, when coming of age, is looking for guidance and security in career growth,” said Vivin Viswanathan, a former BE employee. “Greg, through Buchanan & Edwards, had provided myself and my peers a place where we could clearly provide value and solutions for BE and their clients. Greg did not hesitate to pour challenges, trust and resources into his interns and the IT operations group. I not only learned about SharePoint, Office 365 and service desk management, but I also learned what it meant to lead, mentor and trust. I owe my success and career trajectory to Greg.”
Lionel Fleshman, a BE IT project manager, was recruited by Parchment from Howard University more than 14 years ago.
“While BE has certainly grown and expanded, the culture of providing opportunities to train and learn new skill sets has definitely remained,” Fleshman said. “The entire organization, from Greg down, has always provided encouragement and the means to succeed. What you do with that opportunity is up to you.”
Some 23 years later, all three original owners now serve on the BE board, and both Tony and Greg continue to have a strong sense of community by helping individuals from underserved groups excel. Tony has been working for years with the Year Up program aimed at helping young adults with fewer opportunities be able to jump start their careers.
In addition to heading up the Robin Hood Program, Parchment, himself, is on the marketing department and cyber advisory boards at Howard and helps with the robotics team at the Academy of the Holy Cross, an all-girls high school in Kensington, Maryland.
“I think it’s well worth the time investment to develop the youth,” he said.
Companies have shied away from working with students in school. Parchment said it’s easier to have a transactional perspective — if there’s an opening, hire somebody who’s going to be perfect for the opening.
“But I think when you take the time to really engage with people as people, you get to kind of grow with the people, and a lot of times, that will generate loyalty from the students where they see you as being engaged and interested in them as a person as opposed to this is just a financial metric,” Parchment said. “I think it’s very rewarding to see some of the things these kids are capable of doing whether they are with your company or not.”