Tech Spotlight: Ramona Jackson

The Abernathy Tech Spotlight series highlights black professionals working in tech, from freelance developers to non-technical founders. Complete this form to submit your profile.

What is your current role and where do you work?
I’m a Director of Program and Project Management at Elavon in “The Grove”. The Grove is a global innovation center, which launched in 2013, to harvest customer-centered innovation in payments and establish key partnerships with third party payments and value added services providers. I lead teams of product, Dev, QA and UI/UX resources to develop omni-channel products for businesses of all sizes in the U.S. and Europe.

How did you get into tech?
Honestly, I kind of fell into tech due to the housing crisis. I graduated from college in 2007 with a degree in Marketing, and hopes of building a career in consumer products. After completing a rotational leadership program in financial services, I struggled to secure my next gig in my field during the economic downturn. After a few years working in fulfillment I had a serendipitous introduction to project management. Within a few months I was certified and accepting an offer with a small tech consulting firm.

What’s your favorite technology to work with and why?
I would have to say Atlassian‘s suite of collaboration software. As I dig deeper into the world of managing Agile teams, it’s becoming increasingly more important to have tools that enable my teams as opposed to weighing them down. With tools like Jira, Confluence and Bitbucket, we’re able to design, develop, test, execute and communicate more efficiently; both internally and externally.

What project are you most proud to have worked on and why?
That’s a tough one. I’m proud of all my projects for different reasons. But if I have to choose one, I’d have to say it’s the one I’m currently working on (tracking for a Jan 15 launch). We’re reverse engineering a platform that was built by a now defunct integrator. All projects come with risks and issues but this one came with ready made catastrophes. It has stretched me as both a practitioner and an individual. But through it all I’ve watched my team band together, especially my leads. I’m notorious for being an INTJ lone ranger, but I trust these guys. And I’m proud to work with them.

What do you see as the most interesting technology on the horizon?
Wearables. Hands down. I just left the Museum of Design Atlanta today and they had an amazing exhibit on the evolution of wearable technology. Seeing how rapidly it’s infiltrating everyday life is like opening a package from Amazon: exhilarating. My 7 and 9 year old sons have smart watches. I’ve been struggling with mobile pedometer apps and Adidas has it built into active wear now. I can’t wait to see how it expands in the next few years.

If you weren’t working in tech, what would you be doing?
I’d be a traveling bard; exploring the far reaches of the planet and bringing back “a time when warriors would gather around a fire and tell stories” (Paulo Coelho). I watched the documentary Requiem for the American Dream last night and Dr. Chomsky inspired me to find a way to do the little things that eventually become big change. Writing is my little thing. And I want to tell stories that one day bring about big change.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in your tech career?
Delivery is everything. A truth offered to a client or team member with ineffective delivery almost certainly will have the opposite intended effect. And a game changing product or service executed poorly will inevitably become a big idea that never makes it.

What can companies do to create more inclusive environments?
Hire more inclusive people. A company is not a person. The people we bring into (or allow to stay in) an enterprise form the foundation for the culture. And a culture of inclusivity is born of inclusive leaders, regardless of managerial status. Rhetoric and programs can’t replace that.

What keeps you busy when you’re not being a technologist?
Extreme wanderlust. Hidden hiking trails. Craft cocktails. Anything with ginger. My two sons. Especially the 7 year old who still believes in Santa and hasn’t lost any of his child-like imagination and wonder. My husband who encourages my whims and lets me drag him on adventures. And entertaining my circle of rock star friends who are my family away from home.

The Abernathy Tech Spotlight series highlights black professionals working in tech, from freelance developers to non-technical founders. Complete this form to submit your profile.

By Ramona Jackson

I am a Project Manager with the Grove, which is part of the Global Product & Innovation center within Elavon. Affectionately known as Disney World among our team, the Grove is hard at work defining, designing, and developing the future of the payments industry.