The #BlackTechFriday project, initiated and conceptualized by Hotwire’s Alexcia Lewis, was brought about in an effort to not only inform on key happenings in the tech industry, but to spotlight Black leaders, founders, and professionals who are making waves throughout the landscape.
This internal project, starting back in July of last year —shortly after Alexcia joined the team— was a great way of not only keeping all of us in tune with new ideas and movements under the tech scope, but also bringing a piece of the Culture to a space that all too often lacks that kind of insight.
Sharing her own knowledge, research and insight, Alexcia underscored a variety of amazing leaders, movers and shakers. One example was Mike Young, a product manager at Upwork who had some great advice for Black individuals interested in creating a career in the tech space, along with tips for organizations to support those individuals’ growth.
Alexcia quoted Mike in his Essence Mag interview, where he offers the following advice:
- Connect with co-workers across departments.
- Always be learning.
- “No two products are the same, so you have opportunities to be continuously learning,” says Mike. “You learn about the entire company or business because you have to have a high-level of knowledge about what is going on to create the best product experience possible.”
- Seek out spaces that want ALL of you.
- Of course, there are a lot of corporations “talking the talk” of diversity and inclusion (D&I), but not backing it up with systemic change. As you’re getting ready to make your next move, look for organizations that make D&I a strategic business focus with a vision that is supported from the top down.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for advice.
- Mike says he tries to model his career around these words from President Obama: “Be kind, be useful, be fearless,” and it drives him to be empathic to those around him, offer up proactive solutions, and to dive into his career with enthusiasm and honesty, Alexcia quotes.
It’s insight like this that is crucial to share and let ripple through the industry because we oftentimes see Black and POC individuals shut out of the conversation very early on—by companies that speak about diversity, but don’t know the difference between being diverse and being diverse and inclusive.
Another leader spotlighted by Alexcia was Jade Kearney, co-Founder and CEO of She-Matters, a platform designed to improve mental health for Black women, and creator of Black Girls in Tech Day. This spotlight brought attention to Kearney’s DEI work and underscored some key points in an interview she did with Grit Daily.
GD: How difficult is it for women of color to raise capital?
Kearney: “For Black women it is extremely difficult to raise, because people see us as outsiders. No matter how much money I raise, when people see me they don’t think “Tech founder.” We have to change the culture to include us, so VCs and others don’t struggle to make the connection between our ventures and funding.”
GD: …“How hard has the pandemic been on Black women?”
Kearney: ….The number of Black women who have mental illness has doubled. As it stands we are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs, but also the fastest growing group of people who experience mental illness.. That is why She Matters exists we are here to change that and eventually do the same for other marginalized groups of women.”
Perspectives like this that highlight the constant battles that Black people, especially Black women, have to face are key in creating change and actually making a difference that has longevity. Bringing these topics front of mind and having the difficult conversations are what really matters in the end.
These were only a couple examples of the leaders that Alexcia researched and shared as part of her #BlackTechFriday series, but there are so many more Black leaders who have important stories to be told. We showcase this in an effort to show the importance of initiatives like this one, not just for Black History Month, but for all year round. And we encourage you to do the research, have the conversations that need to be had and support continued change.
Follow us on LinkedIn where we’ll continue to share insights from our team and keep the conversation going.