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The narrative of Black technologists

  • Posted on January 11, 2021
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes
The power of being visible as a Black person in tech

The following blog post was written by Avanade alum Steve Buchanan.

Avanade Cloud Transformation Director Steve Buchanan sat down with Greg Greenlee on the Blacks in Technology BIT Tech Talk podcast to discuss his career journey, becoming a Microsoft MVP and what it means to be Black in the technology field.

In this blog post, hear Steve’s thoughts on the power of being visible as a Black person in the tech space and changing the narrative.

Greg:

Traditionally, the Black athlete and the Black entertainer have always been front and center in our culture. The Black technologist, however: Look at how we get depicted. For instance, look at Steve Urkel; no one wanted to be like Urkel. Look how he’s depicted: really awkward. We need to be protecting our brand and trying to highlight our brand, which is one of the core principles of BIT.

Steve:

You bring up a good point. Like if that’s how Black people in tech are depicted in the media, and that’s what the youth see, they don’t want to be like that. And then on the flip side, they see someone in the NBA being able to drive a nice car and they see people in entertainment, who do you think the youth is going to want to be like?

I think it’s important for any of us in the Black community that are in tech to really think about that as we’re putting ourselves out there, and basically, we need to make sure that anyone coming into tech knows that it’s OK to bring your whole self. We’re not just nerds; we are who we are, whatever you’re into. and we’re just like any other black person out there.

I have always played basketball (not as much anymore due to age), and I used to run a hip hop website and was into hip hop shows. I wasn’t the entertainer, but I was putting the shows on and I was tied with the brand. There are things that we like and that we’re into. A lot of us share the same interests, and we also share an interest in tech and are in the tech field professionally. There’s a lot of us who, we’re into these different things that everyone else in the Black community is into, I shouldn’t say everyone else, who we have these shared interests. That’s one of the things that I really loved about BITCon is I was able to be around people that look like me, that are in tech that I can also have a conversation with about the new Drake album.

Typically, we go to work and you probably don’t have a lot of things in common with your coworkers, although you might have something in common. You know you have tech in common and you might have one or two other things in common, but you feel out of place or you just don’t relate often times on a personal level. And then outside of that, you might have friends and family and you can relate to them because you’re Black, but you’re not talking tech with them; you start talking tech and their eyes glaze over. So BITcon was almost a Nirvana; it made me think, “Imagine if work was like this.” Not saying we should have all Blacks at companies, but it should be diverse with a bunch of different people. To be honest, usually when you’re Black you may be the only one on the team.

That’s why I really like BITCon and I think it’s a positive thing, and we just need more of it. With the recent events and a lot of companies pushing for diversity and a lot of companies even embracing Black Lives Matter and the changes we’ve seen, to take that a step further, I challenge you if you’re in leadership to go to BITCon and see how it is. We need more of that in the work environment. It’s about becoming more diverse; what we have at BITCon, we’d like a piece of that at work.

This discussion has been edited and condensed for clarity. You can listen to the full podcast here.

Pam Greenstein

This was a very enlightening article.  Thanks for sharing.

January 25, 2021

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