Celebrating our Black Community and Creating Space for Growth

The Winter Olympics wrapped up last week with Olympic bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor becoming the most decorated Black athlete in Winter Olympics history. Over the course of the Olympics we also saw Erin Jackson earn gold in 500m speed skating, making her the first Black woman to win gold in an individual sport at the Winter Olympics. Two incredible storylines that cement their names in Olympics and Black History, and will undoubtedly inspire future generations of Black athletes to pursue and succeed at Winter Olympics in the future.

As the torch is extinguished in Beijing and we get ready to flip the calendar to March, one thing that we shouldn’t turn the page on is celebrating Black History and the Black voices in our communities. It’s a perspective Carah Lockett, our People Operations Specialist, is embracing this year. “Yes, I should honor the month, but also realize that I don’t have to be performative. Honor the month, go to events, support Black owned businesses, but understand that I should do that in March, April, May, June and every other month. I’m Black all year long. Celebrating myself, my Blackness, my Black community, my Black History and what that means for me should happen every month”.

In addition to celebrating our Black community beyond the month of February, Product Manager Austen DeWolf challenges us to also not focus all our attention looking backwards. “You talk about Black History Month and I feel like everyone takes it and looks backwards, which is certainly what we should do. I’m guilty of it too, thinking what contributions have Black people made throughout history. There’s so many of them and we don’t always elevate them. But we take such a backwards looking approach to it, that I feel we kind of miss out on the forwards looking one”.

Together, lets celebrate Black voices, amplify Black voices and create opportunities to bring more Black voices into our industry.

Working in Tech as a Person of Color

Austen DeWolf – Product Manager

“I got lucky my Dad is from tech, he works in tech, and we always had these open conversations about what he does. It always sounded really cool to me. I’ve always been into technology and computers and such since I was a little kid. I knew what I wanted to do when I went to college. I’m one of the lucky few that gets to do what I wanted to do. I went to college to do that thing, and I’m still doing that thing. And I really like that thing.

If I didn’t have their support behind me, pushing me when I walked into my first programming class in college to realize there’s only 13 people there and I am the sole Black person (Come to find out I’m the only Black person in the tech program in the college I went to), I’d walk in there and question: Am I in the right place? Am I doing the right thing? and then you go home and you get this affirmation that you are doing the right thing. This is normal. You’re in the right place and you’ve got to stick with it, that certainly helps. I could only imagine where I would have ended up if I didn’t have my Dad and my Mom’s support and confidence in pushing me to go into this field.”

Carah Lockett – People Operations Specialist

“I’ve worked in tech before, at a SAAS company, in a non-technical role. The difference between Tagboard and that company is I knew everybody at that company who was a minority, and there were a ton of people at the company. I didn’t have a direct say in what programming looked like, what hiring looked like; I had nothing, I was a number, another face in the office. Whereas with Tagboard I feel like I have a little bit more say so to be an influence and impact on the hiring, the company culture, and the sense of belonging. I feel like now I have more of a platform to be able to speak to people who are wanting to break into tech, or my Black and Brown friends who may not see themselves as qualified. To be able to sit in the space of reflection and encourage others  – being able to say I did it and you can do it’.  That is the beauty of Tagboard.”

Looking Forward & Keys to Making Tech a More Diverse Industry

Carah Lockett – People Operations Specialist

“Firstly making sure there is a place of belonging for Black people. I think one of the hardest things is to be Black and go into a room and be the only one. It messes a lot with your self-esteem, your self- worth; you internalize a lot of things. It’s already hard to adjust to a new job or a new role, let alone adding that intersectionality of being Black and the only Black.

Another thing relative to hiring:  when it comes to job descriptions, make sure the qualifications are ‘must haves’ and not ‘nice to haves’. Reading a vague job description or a job description loaded with fluff is the worst. It automatically discourages you to the point of not even wanting to apply for the role. When in most cases you’re probably overly qualified. 

The biggest thing I can say is this: continue to be fully Black wherever you go, whatever that means to you. Don’t shy away from who you truly are as a Black person. Don’t let fear rob you of being holistically yourself. For me, that’s huge. I can change where I go, I can change the rooms I walk into, but I can’t change who I am. I’m Black all day, every day of the month, and every month of the year.  I want to make sure that’s represented everywhere I go.“

Austen DeWolf – Product Manager

“When I think about moving forward, as a black person in tech, sometimes you’re proactively approached, recruited, and you might have all the skills necessary too, but someone is targeting you based on your skin color which is kind of a good initiative but kind of leaves some salty feelings sometimes, if you feel like that’s the sole reason you’re being recruited. As far as numbers go, if I’m already working in tech and being recruited to another tech firm, it doesn’t actually make tech more diverse. It doesn’t get more Black people in the door. What actually makes tech more diverse is these companies going in and creating initiatives and creating pathways to create tech workers from underrepresented populations, black people, going to colleges and converting people maybe into programmers or other technical fields that they normally wouldn’t have done. Once they make the jump from having a career outside of tech or maybe no career, into tech, tech has become more diverse. But it doesn’t help to just shift numbers inside of tech.

The barriers into technology are actually pretty low considering everything else, having a nice computer, but the nature of the industry you can teach yourself so much about what you need to know. If you need to be a programmer, product manager, support specialist – so much of that stuff can be taught online for free using Google as your starting point and then moving up into those other resources like LinkedIn learning or portal sites, these paid platforms for education.”

If you’re interested in opportunities with Tagboard, and working with incredible leaders like Austen and Carah, here is a link to some open roles. If you’re not interested at this time, but know someone who might be, please share with those in your network and communities.