Ernest Priestly started his career at HP through a summer work-study program after his first year at Howard University in 1975 , and was hired as a full-time engineer after graduation in 1978 . He was recruited by Ken Coleman , a pioneer of diversity programs at HP and one of the company ’ s first African American executives . At a time when women , people of color , and other minorities faced formidable obstacles in the tech world , Coleman and HP ’ s leadership were determined to open the company ’ s doors and create new opportunities through community outreach and diversity programs . By 1978 , HP had marked several milestones in this regard : Women in professional and management positions had grown fivefold in just five years , and minority representation in the same areas had increased nearly 300 %. The company went on to double down on recruitment efforts globally , hiring 300 Vietnam War veterans for positions in the United States ; older employees in Japan ; and Indigenous residents of rural Malaysia who typically were not part of the mainstream economy . After starting his career with HP , Priestly would go on to found several software startups and be awarded a patent for a graphics controller timing circuit .