Keystone Computer Solution: preparing youth of color for IT professions

Couple says creating future leaders is ‘the right thing to do’


By Isaac Peterson

Contributing Writer


The Richburgs, Joe and Dorothy, have extensive experience with a large number of large local corporations. Between the two, they have worked for Pillsbury, Control Data, 3M, and the Federal Reserve Bank in various capacities.

That lasted until the time, as Joe Richburg describes it, that “The light came on. Working for somebody else means you are always at their beck and call, and you will never be truly independent and free; you will never realize your potential working for someone else.”

That realization led to the couple founding Keystone Computer Solutions, Inc. Dorothy, originally from Washington, DC, and Joe, from Philadelphia, had met at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, where they both had focused their studies on mathematics and computer science. After graduating, they both had job offers in the Twin Cities: Dorothy with 3M and Joe with Pillsbury.

Joe told MSR that after they started having kids, Dorothy wanted more flexibility schedule-wise and that her skills with computers allowed her to become an independent contractor and work her own schedule. Eventually Dorothy realized, as she put it, that “I’m finding a lot of opportunities; why am I just giving them away? I should probably think about pursuing a professional staffing firm, where I can couple those candidates with those opportunities.”

The realizations — epiphanies, as Joe puts it — led the couple to found Keystone Computer Solutions, or KCS, as it is now known. KCS grew rapidly, with three main business lines:

1. Professional staffing

2. Electronic equipment recycling

3. Non-information technology services for clients, like janitorial services, landscaping and snow removal

Joe maintains that while KCS is “geared towards supplying and servicing other businesses [including] Fortune 500 businesses,” it is also “part of our normal business model, to try and hire as many people of color as we can find.”

Joe went on to explain that “We believe that the more businesses of color that there are in the minority community, the better off the entire minority community is. We become sufficiently self-sustaining; we spread the dollars amongst the

Dorothy and Joe Richburg Photo courtesy of KCS
Dorothy and Joe Richburg
Photo courtesy of KCS

people in our community; we help provide different ideas, different ways of thinking to others in the community.”

Dorothy added, “We share knowledge.”

Also, Joe explained, “We benefit the community, and thereby [are] benefiting everybody. We believe that we need to be successful, and with our success it is going to help the rest of the community as well.”

“Uplifting and raising our youth — our future leaders”  is of primary importance to the Richburgs. One of the organizations they are involved in, Black Data Processing Associates (BDPA), trains and mentors youth of color in technology, as well as imparting job skills, professionalism, dress, and more to help youth of color along the path to success.

“We do that because,” Joe told us, “number one, it’s the right thing to do because we have opportunity. We know the IT field; we know there are tremendous opportunities. All the charts, all the data says that there’s going to be a continual shortage of IT professionals in the upcoming 20 years.”

Many corporations currently recruit computer talent from abroad; the Richburgs want to have a ready pool of qualified IT professionals available in the ranks of American youth of color.

Other organizations the Richburgs are involved with are:

• MEDA (Metropolitan Economic Development Association) MBE Advisory Council

• St. Paul Chamber of Commerce Foundation

Boards that they are members of:

• BDPA – Twin Cities Foundation Board of Directors and Executive Committee

• Brownbody Board of Directors

• Friendship Academy of the Arts Board of Directors and Executive Committee

• Midwest Minority Supplier Development Council (MMSDC), Executive Committee,

• Minnesota Black Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and Executive Committee

• St. Paul Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors

• Ramsey County Workforce Investment Board of Directors and Executive Committee

They also provide college scholarships to minority students.

As Dorothy expressed it, “If we don’t lift up ourselves, I don’t see where it’s going to happen. We don’t expect anybody else to lift us.”


Isaac Peterson welcomes reader responses to