Why We Need More Conferences Like AfroTech
Accountant. African American Woman. A small dot within the tech workforce.
This is my bio.
Being a person of color in the tech industry tends to feel like you’re a fish out of water. Though tech companies are working to improve diversity in the workplace, Black and LatinX employees still make up only a small margin of the workforce.
And for those of color that are in the industry, there is usually a minor representation in the more senior and executive roles. The lack of representation at those levels tends to deter individuals from pursuing such roles as they may believe they won’t have the support needed to succeed.
This needs to change. We can do that through awareness.
On November 10th and 11th, I attended the second annual Afrotech conference in San Francisco. Afrotech, founded by Blavity, is a conference that brought together over 1,700 Black tech founders and employees from all around the U.S. The conference proved not only to be a great networking opportunity but space for the community to learn the best strategies to grow their business. It’s a conference I encourage all black entrepreneurs and techies to attend at some point.
From Investors, such as Michael Seibel, to Entrepreneurs, such as Jesse Williams, to Marketing Executives, like Bozoma Saint John, we were reminded that we all have what it takes to get to the top. The conference gave all attendees a chance to evaluate their personal goals while hearing from industry leaders about their success and failures along the pathway.
During the conference Chamillionaire (yes, you read that correctly), stated: “It’s so crazy ya’ll are here right now, and there’s a whole other world that doesn’t even know this is happening right now.” This among, many other topics discussed during his session stuck with me. He was right, just being at Afrotech was an advantage. It was a chance to connect with individuals from all walks of life and an opportunity to grow together.
It was also great to see the corporate partners involved in Afrotech which included some of the industry influencers (i.e., Google, Facebook, LinkedIn). One thing I liked about seeing and interacting with the corporate partners is getting to understand the culture each company has by chatting with employees. Venturing from table to table, I realized some companies took an interesting approach to diversity & inclusion. They allowed the employees to be the focus and to collectively embody the need to bring more diversity into the workspace. The employees foster a workplace that will enable for diverse minds and backgrounds, rather than just having a Director of Diversity & Inclusion to take on the burden of hitting the “quota”.
So I look back to this weekend, and I can proudly say I left the conference with access to a network of amazing entrepreneurs and techies I would not have met otherwise. I left with a fresh perspective on how to approach any entrepreneurial ventures (not to mention more motivation than ever to be the best version of myself). And I left knowing that I will have to keep up the tech hustle, especially when things fail to work out because each failure is just a lesson learned on the road to success.
This is why we need conferences like Afrotech. Because diversity in the workplace is lacking, but we are not lacking. Because we should be able to connect and build a community. Because we should not feel like fish out of water. Because we are always willing to help each other. Because we should know who we can reach out to when we need help. Because we are the industry leaders. Because we need reminders now and then that we are amazing and our time to shine has come.
As Drake and Kanye sang – Watch out for me, I’m bound to glow.