By: Krista Henry (she/her)

Celebrating Black History Month

Derrick Raphael (he/him), CEO and founder of ICON Talent Partners educates, trains and mentors diverse talent and exposes them to high-impact sectors where they are often underrepresented. 

Derrick Raphael

Derrick Raphael
CEO and founder of ICON Talent Partners

A legal advisor and entrepreneur, Raphael’s passion lies in developing others. His mission is to help people reach their full potential by maximizing their educational, employment and entrepreneurial pursuits.

Through ICON Talent Partners, a non-profit organization, Raphael helps students, young professionals and mid-career talent who identify as visible minorities.

Raphael is a panelist on Co-operative and Experiential Education’s (CEE) upcoming Building career paths for Black talent panel discussion.

Read on to learn more about his career path and perspective on Black excellence.

Tell us a bit about your career path and current role.

Over my career, I’ve had the privilege of working at amazing organizations in sectors such as finance and technology, venture capital firms, legal and the education-tech space. These experiences gave me the opportunity to explore my varied personal and professional interests. I am most proud of my work at the non-profit, ICON Talent Partners.

I co-founded ICON with my wife Marilyn Raphael. ICON Talent Partners supports top talented Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (BIPOC) youth in Canada and around the globe. We help them as they explore career options in competitive careers such as corporate law, venture capital, private equity, technology and innovation, startups.

Derick Raphael

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received, career-related or otherwise?

With the various leaders and mentors I have had, I would have to say that the best advice is to focus on what makes you stand out, or your strengths as opposed to your weaknesses, when charting your path. If you are doing something that you love and enjoy, you will likely be much more successful as opposed to forcing yourself into a space that is not a strength.

Why do you think it is important to celebrate Black History Month?

It is necessary and important to recognize Black History Month for all the past achievements by members of the community as well as those current trailblazers in the community. However, I feel that limiting the celebration of Black people to only one month is not ideal and Black excellence celebration should be a year-round effort.

What figure in Black history do you look up to most and why?

I look up to Reginald F. Lewis, a trailblazer and “mover and shaker” in the business world before doing so was celebrated in the Black community. His book, Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun: How Reginald Lewis Created a Billion-Dollar Business Empire, was a turning point in my life during undergrad when I believed anything was possible. I was still in awe of his brilliance and the belief he had in himself to make big things happen.

As a child of an immigrant father from Trinidad to the United States, and a mother who grew up in the deep south, I knew the value of hard work. Reading Reginald's book put an extra fire in me to keep pushing forward for the broader community as I wanted to open doors for others to pursue their excellence!

What are some of the barriers facing the career advancement of Black talent?

One of the biggest barriers is the lack of exposure to what is possible and the proper foundation for Black youth to be ready to excel at the corporate law firms, venture capital firms, tech startups and 'insert the name of other competitive sectors here' in essence.

If you don't know the path to these roles, then you will not apply for the role in the first place. If selected, and not provided with the proper foundation, then it will be much more difficult to thrive.

Many sectors are dominated by those with the right personal relationships and networks. So, it is incumbent on such sectors to be intentional about not only looking for qualified Black talent but to foster cultures so that they want to stay. In essence, we have as of late increased diversity from a numbers perspective, but there is not enough inclusion from the necessary cultural shifts internally for retention.

Finally, many organizations have a "pyramid structure" for Black talent where most of it is near the entry-level or lower-level roles and not enough in the senior ranks. Organizations need to work hard to correct that dynamic.

Want to hear more from Derrick Raphael?

Register today for our FREE virtual panel discussion titled Building career paths for Black talent.