Posts in Speaking
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


Women in Tech Panel at Flatiron School

Meetup is heaven for an extrovert like me. It's a great way to find speaking opportunities. In January, I attended a meetup at Flatiron School (coding/programming school in NYC). They have reoccurring Women in Tech Panel events. This event focused on women in tech leadership and how they got there. I was inspired by the support Flatiron provided their female students. After the event, I completed a survey praising the event and inquired if Flatiron was seeking speakers. Doesn't hurt to ask, right?

Several weeks later, Emily (Flatiron Marketing Associate) reached out to me and asked if I knew anything about technical recruitment. For three years, I've been involved in hiring systems administrators, engineers, support staff and everything in between. After telling her my background and experience she invited me to speak at their March panel focusing on technical recruitment. I was ecstatic!

Before speaking events I don't get nervous but this was my first recorded panel discussion. The panel featured a software engineer from Facebook, three technical recruiters (including the moderator). The event was packed! Young women and men were excited to discuss how to get hired in tech, what to do if you're a career changer and if women sell themselves short in interviews.

The discussion lasted an hour and Q&A happened during and after. It was astounding! I love when the audience participates, it increases the value for everyone. We received great questions from the group. One highlight was a question from a young man in the audience (Jon). He asked, "What can I do as a young man to help with diversity and inclusion for my female colleagues...?" I responded, "...We need to champion for each other. Young women need to support each other as well. As a young man in tech you may not always have women on your team but when you do ensure that she has more than a seat at the table. Ask for her opinion, engage her in conversation because having a seat at the table isn't enough. We need to ensure women have a voice and the support to succeed." The audience applauded.

This was the highlight of the event for me but there were other moments that were just as significant. Video footage is here. The panel provides insight about what hiring managers are looking for, how to utilize tech recruiters, taking charge of your career and being the best candidate possible.  

Ok, I have a second highlight. This happened when the event ended. After an event I expect to head home within five to ten minutes. I got mobbed afterwards and stayed late to speak with each young lady standing in line for one-on-one advice. This solidified the purpose of the panel. We were able to reach young minds that evening and that's the best part. Knowing you made a difference.

Thank you to Flatiron for the amazing opportunity. I can't wait to work with your team again. To all the young ladies who reached out to me, I see you doing great things in the future!

Inclusion NYC

As a recent transplant to NYC I'm overwhelmed when chosing an event in the city. Luckily a colleague sent my name to an organization hosting a tech event that aims to bring communities together across the tech sector. The layout of the event involved pairing students with professionals to co-facilitate discussion topics regarding diversity, inclusion and bringing under and over represented groups together. This was right up my alley and I couldn't wait to volunteer my time to (a) have an excuse to hang out late on a work night and (b) finally find a tech space for my inner nerd to glow. With over ten years in the tech field, inclusion and diversity are obstacles I always faced however I never allowed these hurdles to discourage my advancement in tech. I empowered myself and others even though the environment is not very inclusive. I couldn't wait to share my experience and bring awareness to a problem that affects women and minority youth. 

Nicole (L), Natalia (R)

Nicole (L), Natalia (R)

The event was amazing! More than 200 people showed up, 11 groups were facilitated and at the end I made a new friend. My student co-facilitator was Natalia, a Freshman majoring in Computer Science. We got along instantly and as we guided our group through dialogue, the real test was summarizing our group discussion to all the participants. This event taught us that as women in tech we have an obligation to raise awareness and provide accessibility to tech related programs and information to our communities. We must champion the success of our counterparts in the workplace and partner with organizations that recognize the achievements of women and minorities in the tech space. It was a great night that fostered learning and growth for the students and professionals in attendance.