I didn’t have a traditional path to a tech career. I started out as a magazine journalism major. During my junior year, I made the decision to learn how to build websites because I knew print wasn’t going to be around. Even then, publications were growing their web presence and I wanted to be in position to run the online side of a major publication. If you haven’t noticed, I don’t just dream of doing something; I always see myself running it. It’s how I’m wired.
“Black women must be innovators so we can have economic power and enhance our possibilities.” Lynette Johnson, PMP
But 15 years post-grad school, I am a tech maven. I manage tech for an education non-profit and some days it’s a lonely world. I frequently have days where I only hear problems. Imagine going through an entire day and the only time someone speaks to you is when they are bringing a problem to your attention. Other days I’m in meetings where people try to explain my job to me despite them not having a clue what they are talking about. So much fun.
Having an opportunity to be in a room with black women working in the tech space was more than I hoped for despite what the summit description read. Walking into that room took my breath away. The panelists were women who had varied journeys in tech, all of them willingly sharing their stories and insight. At one point, everyone took out their phones, opened the LinkedIn app, and began following everyone in the room using the Nearby function. I sent and received more than 30 requests. And yes, I plan to follow up with every single one of them.
I got tools to improve my project management, explored the implications of security on digital design, discussed the importance of owning your story, and had a heart to heart about living your values in the workplace. The best part of the entire experience was receiving all of this from women who looked like me. No, we weren’t all the same complexion or age. What we shared was a unique story of being in tech in a black, female body. The scars, the struggles, the successes were oddly universal.
The icing on the cake was actually the sit down with Grammy winning singer/songwriter Ledisi. As I chatted with her about my loc journey while she signed my book, I expressed my gratitude for that moment, that day, and the vision of the women who made it all happen. Black women are amazing. To say who we are and how we live is magical minimizes the blood, sweat, and tears that goes into creating our realities.
“The black female voice moves the needle on every industry. It’s time to own it.” Dominique
At the end of the summit, I walked away with some gems. I’m going to share a few of my key takeaways.
- Advocate for yourself and know your worth: You have to speak up for yourself. It’s ok to role play before having hard conversations, but be willing to have them.
- Get a personal board of directors and meet with them regularly: These are people who serve as mentors and sounding boards. You should be able to plan, vision, and do damage control with them when needed.
- Be clear about your values and live into them: Seek the things that align with your values and be honest with yourself when you are not living into those values. You might have to make some changes to remain in integrity with your values.
- Be relentless with self care: No one needs you to be a martyr. Don’t sacrifice your health, relinquish your joy, or allow others to steal your time. You have to prioritize caring well for yourself.
- Surround yourself with people who live from a place of heart connectivity: You should stay connected to your heart and build community with others who desire to live from that place. You are the company you keep!
- What you do speaks so loud I can’t hear a word you say: There isn’t really much more to say about this. Walk it like you talk it.
- Take risks with confidence: Life is about taking risks. You can’t grow without assuming some risks. Lean into those opportunities to grow personally and professionally and do it with confidence.