Lantera Labs: Seeding Change

— Emilie von Unwerth

“All that you touch You Change. All that you Change Changes you. The only lasting truth Is Change.” - Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower

Between the ever-rising cost of living and widespread gentrification, confounding political landscapes and unreal data mining practices, apocalyptic climate reports and harrowing school shootings, the world feels heavier. Our daily lives feel heavier.  Casual conversation seems to have gone the way of the flip phone. Instead, we’re either hotly debating whether our future dystopia is more Atwoodian or Orwellian, lamenting the apparent futility of ethical consumption under capitalism, or avoiding conversation entirely, our eyes stubbornly glued to our 5-inch phone screens as we absorb our own curated universe of targeted ads.

This despair over our future is not new, or particularly revelatory. How, then, when our collective future is so seemingly bleak, do we work toward positive change? Think, for a second, about that Ghandi quote (you know the one) that litters a million Pinterest boards, adorns millions of coffee mugs and graphic tees and inspirational posters. “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

The sheer amount of times that quote has been used is enough to make it seem contrived, part of the generic live laugh love mentality. But when you take it out of its thwarted social context, what he said is real, and it’s genuine, and it holds weight.

And to create real change, to grow, to succeed, to fight for what we believe in, and to win, we must create small, individual change. We must take ownership of our actions, of our politics, and of our beliefs. How can we hold others accountable for creating change — how can we point our fingers at people in power, to people who don’t represent our ethics and morals, and tell them to change things — without first trying to create change ourselves? A tree grows up, after all, not down.

We can’t sit back and be armchair activists. We can’t be satisfied by firing off a tweet about wealth distribution, about workplace racism, about PR-driven “diversification efforts,” about a million other things we know to be wrong. We can’t pat ourselves on the back for thinking about changing the system while at the same time reaping the benefits of the fundamentally flawed one that’s currently in place.

Adrienne Maree Brown sums this ideology up in her wonderful book Emergent Strategy:

In a fractal conception, I am a cell-sized unit of the human organism, and I have to use my life to leverage a shift in the system by how I am, as much as with the things I do. This means actually being in my life, and it means bringing my values into my daily decision making. Each day should be lived on purpose.

This logic is the guiding principle of Lantera Labs. We understand that large-scale change — societal change — starts on an individual level.

Lantera Labs is here to disrupt the system, to create change through democratized access to high-value skillsets. To put it plainly, Lantera Labs is a hybrid organization that provides consulting services and offers accessible, inclusive technical courses. Our tech courses are currently evenly split between traditional paid students (think college-educated career switchers or people who want to get a promotion at their current workplace) and scholarship students (people who historically have less access to the hi-tech career sector). Those scholarship students include persons of color and all people below the poverty line. Democratizing access to these high-value skillsets is a way to redistribute wealth and resources from the small percentage of privileged Americans who hold the keys to almost every (if not each and every) powerful door.

We’re working to do this by using the skills we have cultivated throughout our careers, skills common to our team of educated, like-minded, and largely privileged people. The "we" I'm writing about here refers to our core team, founder Aneesha Rao and me, Head of Content Emilie von Unwerth. We came together through everyday circumstance: we met at a former job. At that job, we realized we both had similar ideals that simply didn’t align with the corporate world we worked in… we wanted to work towards something positive, something good, something socially responsible. That's where Lantera Labs comes in.

Aneesha started Lantera Labs shortly after leaving the corporate world. She’s the lifeblood: the brains and the brawn. Lantera is her brainchild, her baby. She’s an idealist living in the real world, and sees tech’s potential as a great equalizer. Tech skills are, after all, objective. If you have the skills, you have them. Nobody can take them away from you.

Money and a degree and social status and race don’t make for intelligence; these things are not signifiers of ability to learn and to do.

I, Emilie, am the voice of the operation. I believe in the power of conversational language, in the strength of writing to an audience as though I’m speaking with my peers. We’re all equals, after all. Everybody possesses knowledge someone else doesn’t, everybody has had an experience someone else hasn’t. Money and a degree and social status and race don’t make for intelligence; these things are not signifiers of ability to learn and to do. With privilege comes access. Aneesha and I know this, because we live it. We believe in using our privilege and our access to create access for others.

We’re in the consulting business because we’re good at it, and because we enjoy helping companies grow. We’re in the education business because we believe in it. We pour the money we make from consulting into tech courses because we believe the world of hi tech should be accessible to anyone who desires that access, to anyone with a genuine interest and drive to learn. Not just people with money, not just people born with a silver computer chip in their mouths.

We know we’re not going to change our societal structure overnight, but at Lantera Labs we believe that if we help even one person get their foot in the door, that small victory creates momentum. And momentum perpetuates movement. And movement creates change.

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1657 west broad street, suite 206
richmond, va 23220