What is your current role and where do you work?
Currently serving as the Head of People Development at Outco Inc., headquartered in San Francisco, CA. I train job seeking software engineers on the non-technical skills necessary to get through technical interviews (i.e. communication, networking, negotiation, presentation, emotional intelligence)..
How did you get into tech?
While in college, I read an article discussing the future of “social recruiting.” The article predicted how recruiters will find candidates for hire on social platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. After reading the article, I immediately thought to reverse engineer this “social recruiting” process and worked to find recruiters willing to hire me using social media, and connected with them directly, bypassing the extremely bias application/resume review process. Had I not learned to do so, with a last name like mine, I probably would still be looking for a job #FactsOnly.
Before graduating with my bachelors in HR from The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, I had secured a full time job offer to join Google’s staffing department and worked on a team that hires software engineers. Screening software engineering resumes and projects, and conducting initial phone screens was my formal exposure and invitation to the tech industry.
What’s your favorite technology to work with and why?
Social media platforms, all of them. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc., democratize access to people, and if used intentionally, allow people from all over the world to create their own opportunities for personal & professional development. By building online social networks we care about we can serve, learn from, and grow with people from different walks of life without having to leave our living rooms.
What project are you most proud to have worked on and why?
Working at Outco I’ve helped design, develop, and deliver a four week training program that has supported over 300+ job seeking software engineers in navigating the technical interview process. I initially questioned my involvement and contribution to the training program (imposter syndrome), and even wondered if it would ever work. Now that I see software engineers from all types of backgrounds earning jobs at companies like Amazon, Google, Facebook, Apple, Tinder, Microsoft, Atlassian, etc. and crediting our program with their success, I feel a deep sense of gratitude, achievement, and fulfillment. It’s dope to know my experiences navigating the job search are helping others find their way through a life changing experience They may write the code that makes the world a better place!
What do you see as the most interesting technology on the horizon?
The growth of personal finance technology. Where I grew up (Brooklyn NY, Lawrence & Springfield MA) financial education is not a thing, which I know to be true for most black & brown people in the states. Apps like Digit, Acorn, or Stash are growing as platforms that help people automate saving and investment decisions, and more importantly (my bias), provides FREE financial literacy education on those automated decisions. The only barrier to entry is having a cellphone, learning how to download the apps, and of course, spending time on them (as much time as we do on social media apps). These apps, if introduced in our lives at a young age, are useful tools to help us grow as capital owners vs. living as consumers.
If you weren’t working in tech, what would you be doing?
Education. I was raised in the era of the internet takeover, and love what it has done for the future of my family, but feel so many people still don’t take advantage of all it has to offer. Teaching people how to use the internet to their advantage vs. the internet taking advantage of them is work that needs to be done—I’ll be doing this work one day. Blessings to the people already in the business. Educators, we appreciate you!
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in your tech career?
People skills matter! Tech skills are important, but at the end of the day, if we don’t learn how to communicate the value of our tech creations, then they will be rendered useless. If we can’t inspire people to join us in building our visions, then they’ll never get built. If we don’t know how to work with ourselves (a person we are constantly battling with) we’ll never understand what we want to accomplish, why we want to accomplish it, and even worse, we’ll never get started. People skills = emotional intelligence, we need that!
What can companies do to create more inclusive environments?
Leaders at companies need to immerse themselves in diverse environments, so they can learn how to empathize with diverse communities. Empathizing (learning to understand) in diverse environments allows leaders to think through the many challenges they may originally ignore or are unaware of due to their personal & professional biases. When leaders hold themselves accountable for their bias, their employees will follow suit. If leaders continue to delegate this accountability to a team or department, inclusive environments will not form. Companies like Google, Facebook, Apple etc. have experienced this over the last couple years (1-2% increase in POC representation in the three to four years since releasing diversity reports and highlighting atrocious numbers for black & brown representation).
Special message for the tech leaders of our world: If you don’t have POC friends and family outside of work, you are not going to have POC friends and family at work. Also, how you treat Women outside of work is probably how you are going to treat Women at work. If you truly care about creating more inclusive environments, be intentional with your relationships—even the ones you don’t have. Understand why you don’t have them, at work and at home.
What keeps you busy when you’re not being a technologist?
Outside of turning up with friends & family, I’m writing a book “Redefining The Way We Believe In People.” It’s based on ideas I shared during a TEDx talk I delivered in 2015. With the book, I plan to share a coaching philosophy I learned from from working with a mentor, Dr. David Milstone, The Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs at The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. I believe if we internalize this coaching philosophy we’ll grow as leaders and unlock each other’s potential.