On Thursday, August 26, Credera hosted our first annual Black Women in Tech panel. The intention of the panel was to provide support and inspiration to Black female college students interested in pursuing a technical degree and a flourishing career in technology.
Our panelists, with the help of our moderator Nickoria Johnson, Credera’s Chief Diversity Officer, shared their journeys and answered questions about being a Black woman in technology to inspire the next generation of Black female leaders. They shared their stories of how they learned about careers in technology, what it’s like being a woman/Black woman in the technology industry, along with tips and recommendations for pursing a successful career in technology.
Our esteemed panelists included:
Bria Ford, Manager at Credera
Ashley Alston, Principal Architect at Credera
Michelle Straughan-Harvey, Senior Vice President, Product Business Development Manager in Global Technology & Operations at Bank of America
Tiffany Thompson, Software Engineer at aware3
Origins of Credera’s Black Women in Tech Panel
The idea for this panel discussion came from Nickoria Johnson’s experiences of often being the ‘only’ when she was pursuing her interest, degree, and career in technology. The statistics attest to her experiences: only 3% of computing-related jobs are held by Black women, non-white women represent only 12% of the tech workforce, and women in general comprise only 26% of the technology field.
To help ensure other Black women wouldn’t feel like the only one, and after discussing this idea with representatives from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Credera decided to host a conversation with successful Black women in technology.
While planning the event, Credera reached out to several partners who worked with students to see if any others were interested in offering this educational panel, including the National College Resources Foundation, Howard University, and Prairie View A&M University. Many were excited about the chance to offer their students a glimpse into the lives of successful Black women in technology.
A screenshot from the Black Women in Tech event
An abundance of key lessons were shared throughout the panel discussion, spanning the importance of exploration, community, and resilience.
Key Lesson #1: Exploration
The group discussed the importance of using college as a time to explore various technical majors and career opportunities. Some avenues suggested were internships, projects, and getting involved with community organizations or student clubs designed to help build a technical skillset.
“The trend or the thing that I look for in students on resumes and in interviews is what are they doing outside of the classroom. Everyone says to go get an internship—that’s great! But if you aren’t able to land an internship, then what’s next for you? Are you networking, attending hack-a-thons, do you have any certifications, how are you building your skills, [can you contribute on GitHub]? What we see translate more… to the real world and your job is how you apply the skillset you are learning.” -Ashley Alston
“When I was actually in school, I didn’t know a lot… about places you can go with my degree. … But while I was there I had the opportunity to job shadow at a company that was local to the area, in their IT department… It was an opportunity to see how people did work together, and I used that for fuel for progression later on.” -Tiffany Thompson
Key Lesson #2: Community
Our panelist stated that you need to create your own community who can aid in your professional endeavors. Panelists suggested participating in student technology development programs, other student clubs or groups, and leadership development programs where they can connect with others who have similar interests and a desire to be in the technology field.
Most importantly, it is key to identify mentors who may or may not look like you but who value you, understand the importance of having diverse representation in the field, and who will support you in starting and developing a long-lasting career.
“Throughout my nine years [at Credera], I’ve had great mentors and they have all been male… and I never got the sense that ‘Oh, this is a token hire.’ It was just, ‘Hey you are a great technologist, I’m a good person, what can I do to help you.’” -Ashley Alston
“There have been programs tailored to women (i.e., Black Women Ready to Lead and IT Service Management Forum) that I’ve been able to be a part of that have allowed me to network and find other women of color in technology from across Bank of America and other Fortune 500 companies who are my friends and colleagues”. -Michelle Straughan-Harvey
“I recommend getting involved in the tech community… For me, a lot of benefit came from being involved with Women Who Code – DFW. It very much helped me in my career to be around people that were already doing this… I went to the events and networked with the people there—it was super important.” -Tiffany Thompson
Key Lesson #3: Resilience
The final overarching sentiment was being resilient. Failure will come knocking on everyone’s door, but all agreed that failure should be directed toward growth and learning. The panelists encouraged students to ask their community for help and guidance, which is essential to avoiding burnout. Lastly, they shared that trying to be authentic and slowing down to take care of your mental health throughout the journey helps everyone succeed in the long-run.
“Don’t be afraid to take a risk. Don’t be afraid of having to fail a little bit sometimes or having to change paths… It’s OK to have that moment. The best thing to do after that moment is to do something about it.” -Bria Ford
To watch recordings from our discussion, please visit our YouTube channel here.
The Future of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Credera
At Credera, we believe that representation is key to making our organization strong. We are passionate about bringing technologists with diverse backgrounds into the firm through a variety of targeted approaches including:
Aiming to have future conversations highlighting the experiences of diverse people in technology. In particular, we want to help connect diverse student populations with diverse Credera employees to further their knowledge of opportunities in the technology industry and consulting.
Partnering with our talent acquisition team and employee resource group leads to engage more with diverse talent via attending the Latino and Black College Expos, supporting recruiting events at select HBCUs and Hispanic Service Institutions (HSIs), and scouting additional community organizations to develop long-term relationships.
Interested in Working at Credera?
At Credera, we have a culture that values the many unique perspectives, backgrounds, and histories that our employees represent. If you’re interested in learning more about our DE&I initiatives, please visit our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion page. If you're interested in a career at Credera, please visit our careers page.