August 30, 2015

Catt Small, Product Designer

Catt Small is a Product Designer at Sound Cloud where she builds prototypes and designs to increase the user experience and engagement. In her spare time she also volunteers at Code Liberation, an organization that teaches girls how to code through gaming. Check out the game she created: Prism Shell.

What made you decide to work in tech?

I grew up surrounded by technology. It’s always been a part of my life. Over the years, I naturally transitioned into tech by experimenting with games and web design.

By the time I was 18, I knew I wanted to go to school for graphic design. Halfway through college, I decided to aim for web design. By the time I graduated, I had a good digital design portfolio and was able to land a job as an Interface Designer.

What was an obstacle you faced and how did you overcome that obstacle?

I initially found the homogeneity of tech difficult. Until the age of 18, I was surrounded by diverse people in New York City public schools. My experiences in college and tech at large have so far not been similar. In both cases, there have been many White and Asian people but few Black, Latino, Indigenous, or other people.

Jumping over the hurdle of constantly feeling different was tough. I managed to overcome it by surrounding myself with other women in tech of all colors. I have dinner with a diverse group of tech ladies as often as possible. We also have a group chat where we discuss issues related to life and tech. These women keep me grounded and make me feel less alone. I’m proud to have them as friends!

What is your experience being a POC in Tech?

Being a person of color in tech can be frustrating. It’s common for people to rely on marginalized groups to lead diversity initiatives. Balancing technical work with mentorship, speaking, and event organization is challenging.

I’m honored that people see me as someone who can inspire others. However, in order to fulfill my personal needs, I am currently more focused on making than speaking. Technical work is what I enjoy most.

What was your perception about the tech industry before entering it,? What is your perception now?

I didn’t know what to expect before I entered tech. I now know that the industry is ever-changing. It’s quite exciting. The tech industry experience depends on where you’re located and what company you work for.

What are three tips you can give to students who want to enter tech?

Write a list that describes the kind of job you’d like to have in five years, then plan how to get to that job. Your first few jobs probably won’t be great or pay what you expected to earn. Value your work as much as you want others to. 

Ruth Mesfun

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