As Black History Month comes to an end I want to reflect on my life as a Black Woman in the Technology industry. I have been most fortunate to spend the most of my career in the field. I was introduced to Information Technology by accident. My aspiration was to be a talk show host like Oprah Winfrey, but like many youth I got distracted, and lost my focus. And I found that new shiny toy to focus on called Information Technology.

Although my way was unplanned, it became a feeling of loneliness. I was the only African American woman in the office, conference room, on the floor, in the IT department. My sister obtained her Bachelors in computer science and she was the only woman of color in most of her college classes.

Current data reveals the number of Black women in IT is disproportionately low as Black women only represent 3% of women in technology.


What Lead Me to Technology  

My first experience was at one of the largest Banks in the bay area. I started as a Monday & Friday bank teller at a branch and used my days off to attend classes at San Francisco State University Full time.

There was a position as a sorter operator available at the bank's data processing center, so I interviewed and got the job. Data Processing would be the impetus to my career in Information Technology. I quickly learned how to operate an IBM 3890 check sorter machine (look it up I dare you). Literally I ran from one end of the sorter machine to the other collecting checks from the machines 26+ pockets, placing the checks in boxes on the top shelf of the machine. The challenge was that each check received micro-coding on the bottom so it was vital that the checks stayed in the exact order it was processed. This area was predominantly male but there were 3 African American women (including myself) in the department. 


As I completed college I stayed at the bank moving into different departments. Eventually I landed a promotion to Business Analyst in the Account Set Up and Process department. I learned all of the Microsoft Suite of tools like Excel, Word, how to write product test plans and I began working with developers.

In my next role I was a UNIX Computer Technician. It was around this time when I noticed I was the only African American female in the department, on the floor and in the building.  

By the time I left the Bank to pursue greener pastures, my background included business analysis, UNIX, account management, operations management, test management, tape operations, project management, project coordination. Armed with these marketable skills I was always employed. I had recruiters reaching out to me constantly. I began to work for recruiting firms on contract jobs in Silicon Valley.


 I became aware that I was the only African American woman in these IT companies. In fact in those days it was rare to see an African American male in the IT department. In some companies I would count 4 African Americans on one floor and I was the only person of color in the IT area. Joining a department where I was the only person of color was hard. I would be treated coldly by others, I wasn't sure if they didn't like me or they were scared of me. It was funny at times! But I never had a defeated attitude about the looks and stares I received from my team members because I knew given some time all doubts about me or my skill level would be washed away due to my performance and my positive attitude.   

Since my humble beginnings in the IT field I have seen more organizations focused on bringing young African American women and men into technology, engineering and science.  More recently there’s been a big push to get students interested in technology at a younger age, even pre-school.


I read an article that stated, “not enough women are choosing technology-related careers. The main reason for the small number of women in technology is due to the lack of role-models for women within the sector and this is mainly down to the gender stereotype of 'boys being better at science and maths'”. 

Thank you to the African American women who made a difference in the world of technology like Dr. Shirley Jackson, the Inventor of fibre-optic cables and the first African American woman to earn a doctorate in nuclear physics at MIT.

To NASA’s Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Dorothy Vaughan, mathematicians who played a significant role in 1962 when they helped send the first American astronaut John Glenn into orbit.  

Hattie Peterson was the first African American female engineer to gain a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering and made waves when she became the first African American woman to join the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1954.

There are others who’ve paved the way in the technology arena as well as other fields who we should pay homage to not just during Black History month but everyday - where would we be without their efforts!

Thank you for reading about my personal journey in Information technology. In closing, I'm grateful for the opportunity to work in an exciting industry that has brought technology into everyone's lives and essentially made our lives easier. There will always be challenges, and yet we all must find a way to work together and prosper no matter what our backgrounds, or cultural differences are.