Blacks in Tech: Challenging the Status Quo of Racial Diversity
“The benefits of racial diversity have been well-documented, and it’s time for the technology to pivot on this issue.”
The summer of 2006 is when my formal journey into the technology industry began. After years of studying computer engineering and gaining internship experience at various companies, I landed my first gig at IBM’s Systems and Technology Group in Austin, TX as a member of their semiconductor verification team. This may not seem like a big deal, but it was a milestone moment in my family.
I’m a child of immigrants, a true first-generation American. My parents left Ghana (West Africa) to pursue the American dream in the late 1970s. As their first-born child, they were delighted to learn that I had earned a highly coveted engineering role at a Fortune 100 firm. In their eyes, mission accomplished. They could’ve cared less about what my actual job description was. Their son was an IBMer!
Before retiring from my engineering career, I went on to work in various roles from the Washington, DC area to San Diego, CA at Raytheon, Booz Allen Hamilton, and CACI. While I gained an immense amount of experience and worked on some cutting edge technology, my years as an engineer helped me realize one thing: the technology industry was seriously lacking in racial diversity. In many instances through my career, I was often the sole Black engineer on my team.
Although I remain thankful for my numerous opportunities, being the only Black engineer became a heavy burden to bear. I realized that many of the organizational structures that employed me were not really designed for me to succeed. Luckily, I had great managers and advocates along the way that invested in me and helped forge pathways for me to grow and excel.
A prevailing reason for the lack of racial diversity in the technology industry stems from the presence of well-developed pipelines of minority talent. While the talent pipeline is certainly not the sole issue, it does play a significant role as most organizations are competing in the same talent pool. As a result, many efforts are focused on growing the number of qualified minorities through specialized training programs that allow them to compete for the increasing number of available technology roles.
This is where Pivot Technology School comes into play. I’m based in the Nashville, TN, where Pivot was launched a little over a year ago by serial entrepreneurs, Joshua Mundy and Quawn Clark. Their goal is ambitious, yet simple: to foster minority talent and connect them with opportunities in the technology industry. Within a year, Pivot has gained traction and garnered national media attention. The school has launched student cohorts in web development and data analytics and is preparing to launch a cybersecurity cohort.
My memories of my time as an engineer will forever be fond. However, I’ll never forget the loneliness I often felt during the times when I was the sole Black engineer. Because of organizations such as Pivot, future minority technology professionals may have a different experience. As more minority talent enters the pipeline, the overall landscape of the technology industry in terms of racial diversity will eventually change. The benefits of racial diversity have been well-documented, and its time for the technology to pivot on this issue. The time is now!
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