A major challenge facing women in technology today, is just getting into the game. For women of color, it is especially difficult just gaining access to opportunities. But we can make a difference by preparing our young women to compete in the tech space. As entrepreneurs, it is important to find things that motivate us beyond just monetary gain. My personal mission is to work with young Black women in an effort to get as many as I can interested in technology.
I’ve always been a tinkerer and I like figuring out how things work. I was lucky to have an uncle that was an engineer, who exposed me to computers at a very young age. That early exposure was the beginning of a long career in technology, which has led me to Sajiton, LLC. At Sajiton, we specialize in mobility software, payment solutions and mobile solutions. While we are a technology company, we also offer digital marketing services .
Working in the tech industry, I’ve seen first hand that there aren’t many women of color in this field. So, I started volunteering as an instructor for Black Girls Code to address this problem. Black Girls Code is a nonprofit organization that provides technology education programs for Black girls ages 7-17. It was founded in California but there are many chapters around the world. I work with the North Carolina chapter conducting workshops and Hackathons. It excites me to see how fascinated these young women are when learning how things work, and how proud they are of what they create, whether it is an app or website.
Whenever I work with young people, I try to meet them where they are mentally. I once had to motivate a young lady by asking her, “If you don’t care about yourself enough to try to learn, how do you expect other people to treat you?” After she thought about it, her attitude changed. I just try to instill in them that they can do anything they set their mind to do. I share with them that Black people own software companies too. Although, I don’t look like Bill Gates, I do know my stuff. No matter what the world says about us as a people, we can do anything we set our minds to.
From my experience mentoring, I’m finding that youth want to know how your instruction relates to their lives. I’ve also learned that a big part of mentoring is just listening. My younger cousin, my first mentee, was homeschooled in her high school years because of bullying. She didn’t believe she was very smart and college wasn’t even on her radar. I didn’t try to persuade her to attend college, but just encouraged her to be the best she could be in whatever field she went into. Surprisingly enough, she later decided to attend college. When she needed help selecting a major, I advised her, “If you’re going to take out loans for college, then look at it as an investment that will help you pay back the money, and make sure it involves computers.” She decided to major in Business with a minor in Management Information Systems. I didn’t try to lecture her, but simply guided her as she made the decisions on her own.
If we truly want to help young Black women advance in the technology field, it’s important to listen first and then gently guide them.