2018.... a blur

The title says it all. 2018 was a blur. I’m finally able to reflect on this year and prepare for 2019. If you’re wondering why I haven’t blogged, I spent 2018 traveling:


Most of this travel was for work, luckily I was surrounded by a great team throughout the struggle that was Windows 10. I had 6 months to complete this project for 12 offices which meant traveling to 10 offices and working over 20+ weekends. To sum up Feb - Aug, I rarely slept in my bed. Although this project consumed my life, I’m amazed at the level of engineering done to successfully complete this project in a short time. We had very few issues, the project completed on time and the team received major kudos in the end.

I managed to speak at one event in January, which I neglected to blog about with the activity going on above however I’m lining up speaking engagements for 2019!

Around this time of year, most talk about what’s being left behind or what to do better in the new year. For once I’m not doing that, although tempted. I want to ride the 2018 wave into the new year. I had so many blessings that were too much to blog about. My cup ran over with new experiences which I plan to use for future mentoring and speaking engagements. 2018 was my year to work, learn and grow silently. 2019 will start differently because I got promoted to Associate Director of End User Computing. A long title but in short I’m in charge of the engineering strategies and implementation of mobile, virtual and physical computing. I didn’t believe this would happen so quickly but as the only black woman in my organization rocking this title; I will have a lot to share in 2019.

Nicole Patton
Microsoft Ignite

I attended Microsoft Ignite in Orlando to learn about Microsoft's new products, vision and be a geek. The best part, no lines for the bathroom! I chuckled when long lines formed at the men's restroom. Day one, the gender and race gap was dissapointing. Not a lot of women or women of color as attendees or presenters. I wasn't surprised by how many white men were at this conference but I would've believed Microsoft had enough resources and partnerships to diversify their speaker and attendee pool. With the lack of diversity, the conference felt like I was at work again except on a larger scale. Over 30k attendees and the percentage of minority participation was abysmal. Less than 10% of attendees were women or minority. In an attempt to give women a space, Microsoft had a women's lounge and exclusive Women in Technology sessions. These were opportunities for women to connect, discuss business and leadership and get Shark Tank tips from Daymond John -- my favorite take away from the conference besides the technical tips, tricks, Microsoft Kool-Aid, etc. 

Daymond John was a special guest at one of the women in technology sessions. His delivery was passionate, entertaining and informative. While taking us through his journey, his objective was to motivate women to take the lead and think more like entrepreneurs. He shared these Shark points: 

  • Set a goal and make your own decisions
  • Do your homework. You won't create anything new just a better version of what exists.
  • Amor. Love what you do.
  • You are the brand. Market yourself.
  • Keep swimming. Never give up.

After this session I was inspired because these are things I forget to do. In the tech industry it can be hard to integrate your inner entrepreneur. The takeaways most helpful for me were doing your homework and setting goals. Reading and doing research gives you knowledge to branch out on your own or challenge yourself. Creating new widgets is a thing of the past but servicing niche markets with better versions of what exists is what entrepreneurship is about. Setting goals and sticking to them is a challenge. Life gets in the way, you want a social life and sometimes we deserve to bum it. But having attainable goals motivates us to push through and turn dreams into reality.  

I challenge you to explore areas in your life that could use more diversity. How can we get men to attend women in technology break outs to understand the value women bring and their role in bridging the gap? How can we be better CEO's of our life? Are we networking enough, participating in events so there is representation of phenomenal women? There's a lot more work to do, this conference showed me that tenfold. 

Women in Tech, Diversity & You

There are common themes among women in tech; how do we get more minorities and women interested in technology careers? What kind of pipeline is needed? What is my role? We struggle putting action towards the problem. In April, I spoke at a 100BusinessGirls brunch in Philly to present how we solve this problem versus discussing the poor, marginalized black woman experience. I chose this approach because the problem is discussed enough but empowerment isn’t. As the speaker, I wanted to challenge these ladies by exploring how to become the change they want to see.

The group was small, informal, and diverse. The perfect mixture for enjoyable conversation. Everyone shared their experiences in tech, their struggles and the desire to be strategic in their spaces. Collectively as a group we knew that being black women in male dominated spaces comes with challenges and burdens that we build an immunity to. It's not normal to be the only black woman in a thriving department and it's not OK for your ideas to go unnoticed. It can be alone at the top. So, with our grievances in the open I shifted the conversation to how we turn oppression into optimism and efficient action. These are the ideas we discussed as a group. I hope you consider them in your own walk, regardless of your career. 

Mentoring - Mentoring is the most rewarding experience because it gives you something to look forward to after working in environments where you aren't sure you're making a difference. The key to mentoring is teaching a mentee how to grab hold of their careers and exposing them to the art of being tech smart and business savvy. I told the ladies that this is the first step into being the change you want to see. Find organizations that are seeking tech mentors because part of the problem is that young men and women don't see people like them in tech positions. This doesn't make the field appealing and we all know that if we see ourselves in certain careers it peaks interest. Mentoring doesn't require a lot of time but the beauty of it is you can learn from your mentee. If you're isolated at work, having a meeting with your mentee can reinvigorate and motivate you. We all need positive experiences and mentoring is a fantastic way to do that. 

Support - We are guilty of only collaborating with groups that are like us. I challenged the group to seek out spaces that are trying to solve the gender/race gap in tech but aren't very diverse themselves. There are a lot of tech summits that have no female speakers or woman based organizations that lack minority committee members or sponsors. Additionally, going to free events to support others is a terrific way to build your network. It's imperative to find support through your journey because it provides positive spaces where you can learn and grow from others. In addition, it puts you out there to other groups who are looking for women with your knowledge and expertise. Strategically choosing events that enhance your network helps you find people you never knew existed. For example, in 2014 I attended the Women of Color in STEM Conference in Detroit. I met amazing women of color who were in tech careers I never knew existed. Exposure to this event motivated me to get more involved in my community, find ways to bring others up with me and was a constant reminder that I’m not alone in this tech walk.

Championing Change - Corporate environments can be the hardest to convince the importance of diversity and inclusion. One of the best ways to get buy in from your organization is to work with schools that have tech programs. This gives you an opportunity to volunteer at events where judges are needed for student engineering or tech projects. Corporations love publicity and anyway you can create groups at work that are interested in giving back to the community are great paths to building diversity related work programs.

These three how’s are a great place to start in creating a different experience for the next generation of coders, engineers, and technologists. I want to thank 100BusinessGirls for giving me the platform to reach others, for more information please visit their website


MBA, check.

Eighteen months ago I started my MBA at the University of Maryland. The Robert H. Smith school has a superb program and I wanted to be part of it. Business and IT fascinated me but I chose IT as my academic focus early. The pursuit of a MBA was to learn how to create value for others. I wanted to learn finance, negotiation, marketing, data analytics, and entrepreneurship. This accelerated program didn't hold back. I had the same professors and course load as my peers in the Full-Time MBA program and within the first few months I wanted to quit. Class subjects were new, many I'd never explored. Especially with my IT background. Constantly I was challenged and forced to stay up late, learning how to deal with business anomalies and the pressure of looming deadlines. This program turned me into the family member that never answered the phone or returned calls. And the friend that didn't return texts for days and turned down outings because of homework. I had no life. I moved to NY midway into the semester (crazy, right?) and still had no life in the busiest city in the world. 

So how did I make it? Perseverance and three of my wonderful classmates. Texts of frustration, stress, and support were a constant thing. Support and the willingness to make sacrifices gets you through this program. But with anything in life there's always a light at the end of the tunnel. And that light came April 2 when our cohort graduated. 

Seeing everyone again was an indescribable moment. Many of us didn't have a lot of classes together because the program mixes different cohorts together. It's a great networking tactic, especially for a program that is done remotely. We told each other horror stories, what life milestones we achieved and how ready we were for this pain to end! Despite the lectures and long hours, I learned so much. My ability to consume more than IT was astounding and leveraging work experience made some subjects easier to grasp. I was mentally stretched and outside my comfort zone. I expounded my knowledge on collaboration, understanding client needs and creating something from nothing. This program drove home the importance of the balance needed to succeed using quantitative and qualitative data. In IT there's right and wrong. Right code and wrong code. The right solution and the wrong solution. Business is so much more and requires trial and error, teamwork, and creating value. I'm so glad to be a TERP for life and look forward to giving back to my alma mater in so many ways. Thank you to the faculty and staff who also make sacrifices for students like me. It was a journey and I'm glad I chose UMD for the ride. 

After our cohort ceremony (the big graduation is in May), I got time to speak with Judy Frels. The Dean of the OMBA program. She gave well wishes and encouraging words. In parting she said, "During the presentations (which we'd done some hours earlier for our last simulation project), I took notes on everyone. And I want you to know that you are a great speaker, so poised. You kept the presentation moving forward and your presence was strong. You're a remarkable presenter." In that moment, she helped solidify the work I'm doing today. I have a remarkable gift and I intend to continue the path I'm on. 



Branding = Makeup?

I always own the skin I'm in, the clothes I wear and accepted that I'm a tomboy. Being in the tech field always warranted jobs where khakis, a polo shirt, and casual shoes were appropriate. I spent the majority of my career crawling under desks, learning how to run cable, patching telecom panels and occasionally taking apart printers. Job promotions led me to more senior roles, where crawling under desks became a thing of the past. Meetings became my best friend. I managed small/large teams and started presenting my project ideas to upper level management. So of course the tomboy had to get a new wardrobe :). I owned the image/perceptions that leadership thrust me into but never completely. I'm always prepared to do grunt work. 

Now that my "work" includes speaking, I knew I needed professional photos to brand myself a little better. Surprising myself, I called one of my friends and said, "Hey, I'm thinking about doing a photo shoot and I want you to style me." Of course, the opportunity to make me over was an easy yes for MarkQ. I was then put in touch with DeexDee (a photographer in New York), Beauty by Chantal Marie for make up, and last but not least Pete from Ursie Hawk would assist with production and keep me from losing it. Everyone, except me, was excited about the chance to put me in stylish clothes and makeup. Yes, makeup - who knew personal branding would require makeup :)

March 19 came and I was nervous. I couldn't sleep the night before because I'd never done this. A photo shoot required me to a) trust MarkQ and whatever wardrobe he picked and b) trust that I wouldn't look crazy with makeup on. The Team, which they will forever be named, showed up and showed out. MarkQ picked the best outfits, power suits and casual power looks. Oh and heels! Ha, I had no clue how to walk in them but luckily I lean against stair rails really well. Chantal Marie did a flawless job on my makeup, which included lashes. I never wore a lash in my life btw. The products she used were superb and made a newbie like me extremely comfortable. I left the makeup on for the rest of the day and asked for a set of lashes later. I have no clue how to put them on but the fact that I have them is a step in the right direction. Dee, the ever so patient photographer, captured great moments. I learned that relaxing and being comfortable with my body gives the photographer more to work with. I admit the first hour or so I was pretty stiff and wasn't sure what to do but I'm grateful for her patience and ability to take a lot of beautiful shots. Pete made sure everyone was on the same page, she recorded footage of everything going down and captured the best behind the scenes moments. Pete, MarkQ, and Chantal Marie were the cheerleaders, keeping me sane while I struggled with what to do with my hands, face, legs and pretty much every aspect of my body. Everyone contributed to making this a success and we had so much fun with it. This day I embraced this journey and focused on how I present myself going forward. I want to own the room and show that tech can be fashionable and a lifestyle.

This experience made me realize how much being in a male dominated field effected my femininity or what I think femininity is. My clothes have always been professional but never extremely feminine in the workplace. Working with a lot of males I never wanted to look like an object of their affection. I feel like I suppressed some of those traits for the sake of being an equal. Speaking allows me the freedom to break out of that shell, try something new and embrace those qualities that have been hidden for so long. It was weird to hear my friends swoon and yell YYYYYYAAAASSSSS as I posed in front of the camera but was a confidence boost I'll never forget. Presentation is everything and from now on I'm going to practice turning this #techNIKspeaks into a lifestyle.