Tech Spotlight: Vaughn Dabney

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.

RSVP to Vaughn’s book signing event here.

What is your current role and where do you work?
Currently, I am a freelance software developer focusing primarily on mobile applications for iOS and Android. I operate under my company, Empty Box Media, which I started in 2010. I build mobile applications for clients with projects that range from booking on-demand barbers to connecting European travelers with French farms in the countryside. As the wearer of all hats, my job is never dull and keeps me on my toes.

How did you get into tech?
As a young boy, I was always interested in how things worked. At least one day a week I was taking something apart or asking family members to give me all of their non-working devices. The “engineer” was always in me. I went to DeVry University for electronics engineering but the thought of working in some corporate lab environment frightened me, so I taught myself how to code. First it was websites and that moved to mobile development in 2012. I’ve been doing that ever since!

What’s your favorite technology to work with and why?
Obviously I would have to say software development, however, I’m also an inventor. Whether it’s the merge of hardware and software or prototyping with a 3D printer, the heuristic approach to learning and working with things has always been my thing.

What project are you most proud to have worked on and why?
One of the most challenging projects I’ve worked on and completed was an app called Cue. It’s an app to allow people to book barbers (and soon stylists in general) on demand. The premise is to drive more clients to the barbers while also creating a more convenient way for people to book hair appointments, even if they’re out of town. My client Obinna Onungwa is absolutely amazing. I’ve seen his drive to get this out and we recently finished phase two of adding in an easier payment and scheduling system to the app. Currently it is available on iOS and soon Android. I’ve been a fan of this project since I took it on and I’m looking forward to it’s growth!

What do you see as the most interesting technology on the horizon?
What I foresee for the future that could prove to be interesting is the introduction of “intangible devices”. Being able to interact with projections or augmented reality is going to be huge. It’s already occurring but we’re just crossing over into this realm of technology.

If you weren’t working in tech, what would you be doing?
If I wasn’t working in tech I’d either be a middle school math teacher (this will happen anyway) or I would be a traveling photographer (is that still tech?) Honestly, I can’t even envision that kind of life because of the way tech permeates our daily interactions. There’s not much you can do that doesn’t involve some sort of technology.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in your tech career?
The most valuable lesson I’ve learned to date is how to communicate clearly. Obviously there are disparities in the understanding of tech and how people perceive it to work, so communication is paramount in this industry. Being able to understand what a client is saying or ask for clarity if I do not understand the scope of features desired is a skill that transcends into all aspects of my life and I’m thankful for every single one of my clients because my communication continues to improve.

What can companies do to create more inclusive environments?
I think the approach to finding new talent should be shaken up. We tend to follow the traditional guidelines of hiring and finding great employees, but I feel we should not base quality on criteria such as: schools attended, grades, etc. But instead, performance, thought process, communication skills, and personal projects. When I meet people, I could not care less about where they come from or what university they graduated from (or if they graduated). I need to know that person’s character and work ethic. By addressing inclusion before the employee is inside the company, we’ve already started down a path of progress to be aware of and sensitive to all employees.

What keeps you busy when you’re not being a technologist?
I’m usually creating, whether it’s photography, DJing, or art. I love to travel too. Being submerged into other cultures, whether domestic or international, is something I absolutely enjoy.

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.