As we transitioned across computing eras ( desktop → mobile → immersive), tech roles expanded beyond programming. As a result, the tech industry’s poster child, “a nerdy hacker in a basement,” has become less true over time.
Simultaneously, the mainstream culture shifted from mocking “tech geeks” to respecting them. Today the biggest, fastest-growing, and most prestigious employers in the world are tech companies.
Moreover, with tech impacting all areas of our lives, having diverse perspectives at all stages of the product life cycle is critical. And achieving this diversity of people and thought starts with altering the narrative of what a tech professional looks like and the prerequisites for entering.
Founded in 2019, Baddies in Tech is on a mission to empower young professional women globally to take a seat at the tech table or create their own. The platform aims to democratize access to tech careers for WoC through actionable, career-focused learning resources, targeted coaching and mentorship, and a supportive global network.
Baddies in Tech empowers women to be their full selves, even if parts of their identity don’t align with the tech poster child silhouette by emphasizing that “BADDIE” and “TECHIE” are not mutually exclusive.
How did your journey lead you to create Baddies in Tech?
I was born in Ghana and lived there until I was six. My mom won the visa lottery, so my parents, little brother, and I came to the states while my three older siblings stayed in Ghana.
Growing up, I had this split existence, one foot on the continent and one foot in the US. Like any Ghanaian kid that makes it to the US, there was this pressure to succeed. I was pushed to pursue a career in medicine, so I ended up studying biology at Syracuse University, where I graduated in 2018 with a B.S. in biology.
During my sophomore year, I worked in a hospital emergency department as a Medical Scribe. In that role, I worked with EMRs (electronic medical records), which is the software that doctors use to keep track of patient records.
That was the first time I saw the application of technology in medicine. Then my senior year, I took a genomics course, where we discussed genome editing, CRISPR Cas-9, and how technology would revolutionize medicine.
That class exposed me to the world of biotech and showed me that medical school wasn’t the only route, and so I decided to explore tech instead.
When I graduated, I got a job at a health tech startup called iScribes (now Nuance Communications) in Durham, North Carolina as a Software Implementation Consultant.
I helped our client digitize the scribe role. I’d train them on the software and hardware, which was wearable tech partnered with software that helped them complete their notes.
That was my first experience working for a startup. I was the 8th person on the team, and when I left, there were about 50 people.
Baddies in Tech started with me looking for a community of women in tech on Instagram for support, as I was also new to the tech and startup space. At that time, there weren’t very many, and definitely not any for black women.
Two days after my 22nd birthday, I took a work trip to Connecticut. Looking good, I took a photo and put #BaddiesinTech, assuming that it was a thing. I clicked the hashtag, and I saw no one had ever used it. I thought I could make this a thing, and that’s how it all started.
Fast forward, I recently graduated from MEST Africa as a Software Entrepreneur. I came to MEST because I saw it as my training/crash course for the tech industry, and at the time, I had an idea for a Ghanaian health tech startup.
What specific void or opportunity did you discover that inspired Baddies in Tech?
Baddies in Tech started with looking for a community of black women in tech on Instagram and finding a gap.
Starting, I didn’t have any skills in community building, social media marketing, or community management. But over time, I’ve learned a lot.
I learned why the people in our community are attracted to us as a brand and why they’re here. I’ve done extensive user research to figure out what they need and how we can serve them.
Recently, I saw this statistic from Women Who Code. It said five percent of software engineers have 5+ years of experience, and 75% have 1–5 years of experience. Currently, there’s this huge experience gap because most developers are juniors.
And many of them are looking for guidance as they try to find their way in the tech industry. They want a clear roadmap of how to get from where they are to where they want to be.
How does Baddies in Tech support women?
The biggest thing is for women to have a supportive culture around them. Research by Accenture shows that only 8% of women of color say it is easy for them to thrive in tech, and that’s because Tech Culture is really “Tech Bro” Culture.
We’ve done a lot of user research on the experiences/ challenges facing women of color in tech, and we’re now developing products and services to address what we’ve found.
As I mentioned earlier, most tech talent is at the junior level, and many of them are looking for guidance for their journey. Whether it’s determining which career is a fit for them or which learning resources they should spend time and energy on.
A huge priority for us right now is our peer mentorship cohorts. People want to learn together and interact in small subcommunities around their tech interest areas.
We’re building a cohort-based peer mentorship model with set learning milestones; this lets members give back to the community and sisterhood. The goal is to learn and grow together while empowering each other. It’s already happening organically in our community, but we want to formalize and amplify it.
Niche Job Board
Women of color want to work in places where their ideas and identities will be accepted and valued. That’s why we are partnering with companies who value co-creating equitable workplace cultures that nurture diverse talent.
Our job board, set to launch in January 2021, will be curated with jobs from companies who share our community values. We’ll be helping these companies attract and retain talent with our tailored Company & Recruiter membership subscriptions. This way, companies not only get to attract top female tech talent, but they also get to build relationships that will retain and grow that talent.
Niche Social Network
We’re developing our BiT Career Clubhouse™, which will act as a hub and niche networking community for women in tech, allies, and companies.
Women in tech and allies will be able to support one another and share opportunities and resources in open or closed groups on the platform. Companies can create branded profiles where they can be rated anonymously by diverse employees and monitor their brand’s sentiments from current and potential employees.
Clubhouse will also act as a resource hub for our members, with mini-courses and access to career coaching by the best coaches of color in the game.
Why is it important for women to be in tech? And how is BiT contributing to Africa’s tech industry?
There is an African proverb that says, “If you educate a man, you educate an individual. But if you educate a woman, you educate a nation.
The same thing happens when you give women the opportunity to advance themselves. Let’s face it; tech is the fourth industrial revolution. The tech industry is the 5th largest economy in the world, and tech jobs are the highest paying.
In short, tech is the opportunity of a lifetime! And when women are a part of it, economic empowerment is passed on to their children, family, community, and nation.
Moreover, the tech industry needs not only diverse perspectives but all perspectives at the table. My final team at MEST was all girls, and from that experience, I realized that it’s important to have a male perspective on a team because they bring something different.
Again, we all bring something different. Feminism is not about women replacing men; it’s let’s all have equal opportunity, equal say, an equal impact when we’re building our society. Like, let’s do it together.
How do you see BiT evolving in the next 3-5 years, and what impact do you hope to make?
I want Baddies in Tech to become a shining pinnacle of sisterhood, leadership, and success in the tech industry, where women of color can congregate and find like-minded individuals at the beginner, mid and senior levels in the tech space.
A place where they can ask for advice, gain opportunities, and learn. That go-to community for women of color who want to enter the tech industry and thrive once they’re there.
A freelance tech writer in the BiT community got one of her biggest contracts as a result of being a part of our community and connecting with other women who are having similar experiences.
“I want to thank you for being the cool people you are. I use Fiverr on the side, and I just got a big order/contract because of you guys. A techie wanted an article about black women in tech but wasn’t sure what she wanted to say. I drew on the vibe from here and wrote an article that got me two contracts today.”
This really emphasizes the point I made earlier about the importance of culture in the tech industry and workplaces. It is important to see people who are like you thriving, becoming leaders, and reaching their goals to know what is possible for you and your career.
In closing, what advice do you have for others who are growing a community?
Start by addressing something close to you or a problem you face. That’s the easiest way to attract people to your community.
Then from there, it’s just asking questions. This is where UX research comes into play. Every community manager needs to have a basic foundation in UX research and know the principles of building a product or service because a community is a service.
Again, start by solving a problem that you feel/have because it’s most likely that someone else has that problem. Then get those people in a group or a close setting and ask them questions. Then iterate.
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