February 6, 2023

Black History Month: The Tech Pioneers You Need To Know About (Part II)

To commemorate Black History Month, we are spotlighting the pioneers in tech who have paved the way for up-and-coming Black technologists. You can check out part one here!

From completely revolutionizing the technology world to creating the everyday tech items we can’t live without today. As a collective, this group has helped inspire a whole generation of Black professionals in tech. So, let’s meet them. 

Lonnie G. Johnson

Lonnie G. Johnson

One thing summer always brings out is water guns. Thanks to Lonnie Johnson, our most iconic childhood memories include playing outside with our favorite water guns. 

For those who may not know, Johnson is an American inventor and NASA engineer – widely known as the brains behind the Super Soaker water gun. 

The Alabama native has extensive experience that spans over 40 years. Despite Johnson being heavily involved in NASA’s space program, the innovator’s Super Soaker product became a top-selling item in the early 90s.  

According to reports, Johnson was described as “The Professor” by his friends and family due to his eerie knowledge of mechanical technology. Johnson’s idea to create the water gun came during his time working on NASA’s historic Galileo mission – a study that included exploring Jupiter and mysterious moons in space. 

“I accidentally shot a stream of water across a bathroom where I was doing the experiment and thought to myself, “This would make a great gun,” he said in an interview with Popular Mechanics.  

In addition to being the creator behind the Super Soaker, Johnson went on to create a series of products, including the popular Nerf gun.  

Lisa Gelobter 

Lisa Gelobter

What would text messages be like without GIFs? Thanks to Lisa Gelobter, internet culture will never be the same. 

Gelobter, who has both Polish and Caribbean parents, has extensive experience of over 20 years in the technology sector. In addition to creating the GIF, she created multimedia platform Shockwave and helped to launch Hulu. 

To date, millions of people have used Gelobter’s innovations, leading her to become one of our generation’s most prominent tech pioneers.  

Last year, Gelobter was named one of the Fastest Company’s Most Creative People. Additionally, Gelobter is among the first Black women to raise over $1 million in venture capital funding for her startup tEQuitable, which tackles workplace discrimination and harassment.

Eric Osborne 

Eric Osborne

Eric Osborne is a force within the tech space, on a mission to build an inclusive space for both Black and Latinx people. 

After experiencing first-hand how disheartening the lack of diversity in the tech scene can be, Osborne created a platform to help Black and Latinx boys break into tech. 

Alongside his co-founder, Seth Stell, the pair decided to create a Meetup group for Black males to network and share tips that will help them in their tech careers. 

“We wanted to build a little community that was focused on the tech and creative space. We decided to meet, and in a matter of months, we had about 20 guys meeting, then we started to invite women too.” Osborne said in an interview

The meetup continued to grow, which is when HERE Seattle was born. The platform’s overall mission is to attract ambitious and dynamic leaders looking to further their tech careers while simultaneously focusing on their personal development.  

Kimberly Bryant 

Kimberly Bryant is an electrical engineer on a mission to increase the number of Black women in STEM. Through the company she founded, Black Girls Code (BGC), Bryant has helped champion Black and brown women looking to break into the tech industry. 

The platform, founded in 2011, is determined to change the face of technology. The organization’s slogan, ‘The future looks like me,’ allows young Black and brown girls to see themselves represented in prominently white male-dominated industries. 

BGC aims to create a clear pathway for young Black and brown women to embrace the current tech marketplace. By introducing them to computer programming and technology skills, these women can see that breaking into tech is easier than it is made out to be. 

“We are taking radical action to close the opportunity gap for Black women and girls,” said BGC in an online statement

“That’s why Black Girls CODE is devoted to showing the world that Black girls can code, lead, innovate, and engineer their own futures.”

Get to know more Black tech pioneers here!

Kumba Kpakima

Kumba Kpakima is a reporter at POCIT. A documentary about the knife crime epidemic in the UK got her a nomination for the UK's #30toWatch Young Journalists of the Year.