Tech Is the New Black: Making Waves in Technology
Photo courtesy of Christina @ wocintechchat
For most, the ideal job includes a sizeable salary, great company culture, autonomy and freedom--which is exactly why the ever-expanding tech space has become a source of such enthusiastic popularity.
EVERY COMPANY IS A TECH COMPANY
While we think of “the tech industry” in classic terms of “Big Tech” (Google, Amazon, Apple), technology has evolved into the very fabric of our lives.
photo courtesy of Andras Vas
This sweeping digitization touches everything, and when it comes to the dramatically changed way we work and find work, Black people are at the forefront of cultural development.
MUST BE THE MONEY?
The dismal numbers of Blacks in tech have resulted in a groundswell of support for diversity in the sector. Ensuring that Black graduates and jobseekers are aware of these opportunities, as well as services helping Black professionals in obtaining tech-related education or training, continues to grow in popularity.
photo courtesy of Mars
There are several motivating factors that make tech jobs so coveted, not least among them money. Black executives are gaining access to more visible leadership roles and collecting multi-million-dollar salaries and employment packages in the process.
Ime Archibong, Head of New Product Experimentation for Meta (formerly Facebook) does in fact “work in tech” -- but more significantly, he is the highest-ranking Black executive at one of the world’s largest corporations.
Christopher Young, formerly the CEO of McAfee, is now EVP of Business Development at Microsoft. Young is also evidence of the importance of representation and diversity: while some executives have expressed difficulty in finding and hiring Black employees, Young's team-building ethos can be summarized by the adage ‘don’t talk about it, be about it’. He notes that his team while at McAfee set actual targets that ultimately doubled the percentage of Black hires and ensured equal pay for equal work.
As it should be, Black talent begets Black talent.
I’M A BUSINESS, MAN
Of course, climbing the corporate tech ladder to a multimillion-dollar C-suite position isn’t the only way to make a splash in tech. Today's Black students and professionals are also making the decision to create their own tech solutions and build companies of their own.
While nothing is guaranteed when it comes to success in entrepreneurship, tales of victory like Delane Parnell's are sources of inspiration to other Black entrepreneurs. Parnell has raised $107M in investment to scale his youth athletic startup, PlayVS.
WAY UP, I FEEL BLESSED
photo courtesy of Andras Vas
But even without entrepreneurship or an executive role in a Big Tech firm, there’s a decidedly comfortable lifestyle to be had in nearly every area of tech. In fact, despite pay parity being an issue nationally for people of color, meritocratic pay is more common in technology, particularly for engineering and development roles.
This idea of getting paid for your skills and not a biased perception of your work is encouragement for Black talent, who can have some faith that they won’t discover an offensive disparity in their salary compared to their non-Black colleagues. Tech employees also typically see faster, better promotions and opportunities for advancement.
BEYOND SILICON VALLEY
Over the past decade, tech borders have slowly expanded beyond the coastal lily pads of Silicon Valley and New York City. This slow-moving change was accelerated by life under COVID, which saw newly remote workers fleeing to cities like Austin, Nashville, and Miami.
Austin, specifically, has long been seen as a new tech hub that rivals Silicon Valley. There’s a robust tech infrastructure, evident in the annual swarm to Texas for the SXSW Conference. Nashville and Miami also both have growing tech scenes that have seen an increase in startup establishment as well as investment activity.
Digital Health investor and research company Rock Health reports that the most favorable region of the country for Black founders to get funded is the Southeast, followed by the Midwest.
Black investors like Kelli Jones (Sixty8 Capital, Indiana); Candice & Brian Brackeen (Lightship Capital, Cincinnati); and Marcus Whitney (Jumpstart Health, Nashville) are capitalizing on the wealth of innovation outside of traditional tech geography and putting their money on resilient founders in burgeoning hubs.
BET ON BLACK
The tech space wins when Black founders are recognized and supported. A multi-trillion-dollar industry that will only expand is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a new career or an opportunity to start their own business.
Fortunately, there are a plethora of incredible individuals from executives to founders to investors paving the way for the next generation’s success.
Blacks in tech are not just lighting up the tech space, they are illuminating the path for others to come behind.
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Ashleigh is a writer, creative strategist, and tech founder with concentrations in sexual & reproductive health and women-focused consumer branding. An alum of The George Washington University, she also holds executive education from UCLA and Columbia Business School. She currently lives in Nashville, Tennessee.