I want to encourage you to embrace your professional diversity.
We live in a world where we hyphenate ourselves when our cultural background includes many influences. We are encouraged to embrace our cultural diversity, understanding that the mix of backgrounds makes us richer, fuller human beings. But we don’t do the same when it comes to our professional diversity. Let me tell you a story.
I have always loved the cultural celebration of weddings. I love the blending of families and cultures that come together to create something new. I love how the couple has to decide which cultures to keep, and which ones to let go of. I love knowing that no matter what they decide, they are embracing all of the cultural influences that have conspired to bring them together.
Why are we not encouraged to embrace our professional diversity in the same way?
Let me tell you a story.
I studied creative writing in college. I also work in technology as a UX Designer. I also own a software development company where I manage teams of designers, coders, and product developers. I’ve also co-founded a startup and hosted a Twitter chat about diversity in technology.
All of these things may seem so different, but they have actually taught me to embrace my professional diversity. When I take the stage at a tech conference, I am leveraging my years as a poet and how that experience prepared me to engage with an audience. When I build software, I am thinking about it through the lens of the poet, searching for the story first.
Like cultural diversity, your professional diversity is nuanced.
It is hyphenated and it allows you to bring a different (and new) perspective to your work.
We can do the same with our professional diversity. All of the different paths you’ve taken have value. Everything you studied gives you an opportunity to create more meaning in your work. Cultural diversity is often seen as valuable because it brings together of many cultural influences to make an experience and/or person richer. It is meshing together, a gathering of the best of each to make us better, more unique, more whole. It is 2019. Most of us will not have the same job as our parents did. We will be hyphen-creatives, bringing our work from one discipline into the other and leveraging all that we have to offer. There will be people who tell you to pick one. This might work for you, but remember that almost no one has one job even if they have one specialty. In 2019, the doctor is also a blogger. The blogger is also a photographer. The photographer might become a web designer just to get her website up and running. We are not chasing jobs. We are running towards one impact, and using every and any tool we can to get there.
Our work has to be multidisciplinary creativity. This is the future of creative work. Embrace your professional diversity in the same way you would embrace your cultural diversity.
Remember the work that allows you to have your one and only impact. Love, Your Future Self
During this year’s Emmy Awards, Viola Davis gave a speech that was both moving and personally resonated with me. After winning the award for best actress in a television drama, she said: the only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there. Oh, that last line struck a chord!
For me, her words struck a chord. I have always been openly passionate about why I believe diversity in technology is not only good for business (more global creativity leads to products that serve a global world), but also good for shaping the conversation around opportunity and access in the tech world.
During her speech, I was also struck by the talent of the women nominated beside her, especially Taraji P. Henson in her short clip from Empire, her hit show. I decided to see f binge watching Empire, the new hit show featuring Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard. And I’m hooked. The show centers around the story of Howard and Henson, an ex married couple who also run a record label empire together. What I found most astounding was how riveted I was by both of their performances. They’ve always been great actors, but the opportunity to be featured in roles where they can shine really allowed me to see their gifts.
Does Viola Davis have a point? As a tech entrepreneur who’s been bootstrapping my company, I am left wondering how much of the difficulty for underrepresented communities in technology has to do with access to opportunity. After teaching tech skills, how do we create opportunities for all of us to show those skills?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe we each have a personal responsibility to handle our business and that luck is about being ready when an opportunity comes, but what happens when we’ve prepared ourselves as much as we can and we just need an opportunity to break through?
A few questions to think about:
What are some missing opportunities for underrepresented tech entrepreneurs?
After you’ve done as much as you can to prepare for opportunities, what can you do to move forward?
What can tech cities do to create more opportunities?
How can we address this issue without being accused of wanting special treatment?
This week, Apple announced the new iPhone release for later this month. Around the world, customers will line up in Mexico City, Lagos, Lisbon and Manila to purchase Apples latest artistic release.In a world that has more mobile phones than toilets, it’s clear that global ad diverse customers make our products more profitable and valuable.
Isn’t it time we represent our world not just as consumers, but also as creators?
As tech innovators, how do we create user experiences that factor in the needs, desires and worldviews of global population?
Do we have a responsibility to innovate with a focus on global user experiences?
I think we do! As a UX Designer, I’m always thinking about how my Nigerian, American, Swedish, Mexican and Jewish family engages with the products I create.
How do I factor them into my design process?
The conversation about diversity in technology often centers around bringing diverse ideas to the table for the sake of inclusion, but the need for inclusion goes beyond fairness and equality. It also allows for better user experience, better design and more innovative products.
Stepping outside our comfort zone is not only necessary for self growth, it’s also good (no great) for business. The future of technology will focus on creating products for the more than 7 billion people in the world (4.5 billion have mobile technology) who look like less like the 19 year old white male Stanford grad and more like a kaleidoscope of ethnicities, languages and cultural contexts.
We are the answer to the question, “who will be best positioned to come up with products and services that will win in the global market.”
I think it’s time we make sure global centered UX is at the core of our tech diversity conversations and design innovation.
Questions to think about:
What does global UX mean to you?
Do you practice it?
How has it impacted your design experience and perspective?
As consumers, how would global centered design impact your user experience of a product?
As creators, do we have a responsibility to “think globally?”
As outsiders, do people of color have an advantage in the global market of tech products?
I think it’s really important to ask ourselves about the cultures we’re trying to create and what roles we as founders play in supporting or dismantling certain assumptions and behaviors within our companies.
How does the culture we create impact the future of our companies? Does it matter? How do we make room for all of us? The single mothers, the full time parents/techies and everyone and anyone who might not be seen as a cultural fit in an industry that lacks diversity in almost every way.
Join us for the next #yeswecode chat to discuss startups, company culture and the tech culture we’re trying to create.
#YesWeCode chat #25: Why The Tech Diversity Conversation Needs A New Narrative
Two recent events influenced this Yes We Code chat topic. Last weekend was James Baldwin’s birthday and I celebrated by writing about the lessons I learned from him, and his take on how to go after what you want and actually get it. In his historic “Rap on Race” conversation with Margaret Mead, he talks about how he needed to “change the narrative” of what was expected for his life in order to change his life.
During #YesWeCode chat #24, we discussed the assumption/expectation of minority startup founders to create businesses focused on social good. While that wasn’t every founders experience and we didn’t come up with an answer, we did conclude that maybe we need to rethink how we view the following conversations within the tech diversity:
Social good can also be profitable.
Minority entrepreneurs can create companies that are profitable.
The solution towards more tech diversity isn’t about one solution, but addressing the whole pipeline.
What if the way to really achieve tech diversity is to change the internal and external narratives we tell ourselves about what that means and what it will take? What if in order to engage this topic we need to know and understand the real underlying issues and concerns?What if we refuse to accept that lack of minority CS majors is at the heart of the lack of diversity in tech? What if we choose to rethink the expectations and assumptions we put on ourselves? What if, in the end, we need to “change the narrative” we’ve either created or accepted about what’s possible in the greater tech diversity conversation.
This Sunday, we’ll talk about this and more.
Questions to think about:
1. Is there a consistent tech diversity narrative?
2. What does it say?
3. What assumptions about tech diversity impact how you see yourself and your work?
4. If there are many tech diversity narratives, which ones do you think we need to change? Why?
5. How can we create a new narrative that includes the needs of youth, entrepreneurs and tech startup entrepreneurs?
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