November 30, 2015

Hadiyah Mujhid, Software Engineer & Founder

What made you decide to work in tech?

The short answer is that it was a financial opportunity for me. When I first started, I really didn’t understand what a software engineer did or was. I was just happy to be graduating from college with a pretty decent salary offer. But tech/software development was a natural fit for my curious personality. The technical challenges of building software appealed to the problem solver in me.

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

As a software engineer, you face technical obstacles all the time. With more experience you become not only more resourceful but you also build tenacity. When dealing with technical obstacles, it’s important to identify what matters in order to avoid rabbit holes and distractions. Interestingly enough, I believe these are the same attributes that are important to being a black person in America.

What is your experience being a POC in Tech?

My experience being a POC in Tech has been greatly positive. I’ve had opportunities to build relationships with colleagues of different backgrounds, work on technologies and programs that are of interest to me, and earn a decent income which has afforded me some privileges such as frequent travel and starting a business. Of course, I’ve had some negative experiences as well. Every now and then you come across assholes with difficult personalities (and that’s with any industry), but you chose your battles and move on. I’ve worked professionally in tech for 15 years, and it’s helpful to know these difficult personalities and negative experiences are rare.  

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

I didn’t have any perceptions before entering. My perception now (15 years later) is that I’ve been incredibly lucky to have naively entered this field and still enjoy working in it. I’ve enjoyed watching the tech industry change to become more accessible and affordable. I’ve also enjoyed watching the consumer’s interest and role in tech grow. When I first started, tech (specifically, software development) was not the popular route. It was close to impossible to explain to others what I did. Now, most people carry software in their pockets (phones), which makes it a bit more relatable.

What are three tips you can give to high school/college students who want to enter tech?

For those interested in software, my best tip is to ‘Always Be Coding.’ You should always have a project that you’re working on to help further develop your skills. Find an area of curiosity and apply software to it. This can be anything from finding a problem and using software to address it or building a silly game for fun. The advice to ‘stay curious’ is overused, but in this case fundamental.

Any projects/ programs/etc. you are working on?

The project that I am most excited about is HBCU to Startup. The goal of HBCU to Startup is to connect HBCU students and alumni of all ages to opportunities in tech. This may include opportunities within a startup or tech entrepreneurship. Currently, we host weekly Google Hangouts with startups and founders in tech. The intent of the hangout is to give an insider perspective to startups, but also to build relationships. Many of our featured speakers have made themselves available after the hangout to further connect with participants. Building relationships is key in tech. You never know when or where your next employer, business partner, or opportunity may appear. HBCU to Startup is helping to drive more opportunities to HBCU alumni and students and thus further increase the number of blacks in tech.

Ruth Mesfun

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