Christina Morillo, Technology and Information Risk

What made you decide to work in tech? 

Since as far back as I can remember, I’ve always loved gadgets. Technology and problem-solving have always piqued my interest. Back in the 80s, consumer technology wasn’t what it is today as far as being accessible and affordable and so we never had a computer in our household. To compensate, I read A LOT and also played with tech at school and even more so in college. This is where I got to build my first computer and never looked back. 

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

In a sea full of men, you name it. I don’t focus too much on obstacles however, because I’d rather channel that energy into finding a solution. But I will say that in the beginning it was my technical ability being questioned. This rattled me at first, as I felt the need to prove myself around men. At this point in my career/life I do not go out of my way to “prove” anything because I don’t owe it to anyone. I just do. My work speaks for itself. 

What is your experience being a POC in Tech? 

We live in a world where just being a person of color is difficult. Unconscious bias is baked into so many of us. The reality is that this is no different in tech. While I recognize and appreciate the privilege and opportunities that I’ve had, I have also been passed over for senior roles, been told that I look more professional with my hair straight vs. curly, and have been viewed differently for not “looking the part,” whatever the part is (i.e. White women/men, etc.).

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

When I started out I didn’t have a “perception” about the industry, probably because I just wanted to eat/live/breathe tech. My expectation, however, was that it would be inclusive and that anyone could partake irrespective of race, social class, gender, disability, etc.

My perception now is that it’s complicated and that the reality is further away from my original expectation 17+ years ago. I believe there is still a lot of work to do beginning with our own communities of color. We can’t expect others to be “inclusive” if we don’t make a collective effort to stand together and support one another.

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

Work on your communication skills – While learning new tools is cool (I still love that part too), your ability to communicate will hugely contribute to your success. Keep in mind that this includes verbal and written communication, which means that those writing assignments/reports in school are preparing you for the outside world. One way I like to practice is by explaining a technical concept to a non-technical person and surveying their feedback. I still practice this.

Always be open to learning new things – You will never know it all, no one knows it all, but one thing that will make you stand out is your openness to learn new things in an ever-changing landscape. It’s okay to not know about a certain technology or framework, but if you are keen to learn it, you will get the job/contract/client.   “….Stay hungry, stay foolish.” – Steve Jobs   

Check your ego  Despite any successes you may or may not have, please remember that you are not better than anyone and no one is better than you. Do not let the world easily impress or depress you. Your ideas matter, your voice matters, you matter. Stay focused.

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

stockphoto

We recently released the WOCinTech Stock photos on a creative commons attribution license and have had such great feedback. I am a firm believer that representation matters and so I encourage everyone to use these photos and share them with companies, bloggers, and the world!

We’re also working on a couple other initiatives as well as additional WOC in tech photos. You can stay tuned by following us at @wocintechchat & @divinetechygirl

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Michael Berhane, Founder of POCIT
Ruth Mesfun

Co-Founder and Blogger for POCiT. She is also piloting the first Computer Science curriculum as a teacher at Excellence Girls Middle Academy in Crown Heights. She was selected for the CS Educator Fellowship at the Flatiron School and is also a member of Teach For America-New York's Ambassadors Program.

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