Tuesday, April 25, 2017

COTL Spotlight Story: Dennis Williams

Got a chance to connect with Dennis shortly after he made it to The Bay by way of New York. Super talented brother. Be on the lookout for the moves he'll be making now that he's set up shop in the Valley.  And be sure to follow along for updates about his short film, Note to Self. Here's a quick introduction he wanted to share with the COTL community: 
I moved to the West Coast to be amongst the best in my industry. I work on the content marketing side of tech and I thought there was no better time to relocate to Silicon Valley to further my career.

To be honest I really loved New York City, but I know what I can do there and it meant something to be young and black in a city that lacked diversity, especially in my profession.

The goal is to build a platform and help grow products that have a positive impact for our culture and I want to open the door from humble begins that have just as optimistic ambitions.

I’m currently the Head of Content Marketing at Redbooth and I also help companies with their growth strategy. I've always been invested in storytelling and I found that lane growing audiences for tech companies.

Friday, April 14, 2017

COTL Spotlight Story: Stephanie Perez

Stephanie Perez is putting a spotlight on women in leadership with Faalta.

I first met Stephanie Perez in New York while I was in grad school. Below, she shares some details on why she decided to leave the Big Apple and focus on her new digital platform, Faalta. 

In late 2016, I decided to step away from what is arguably one of the best cities in the world - New York City - and recalibrate/recharge back home on the west coast. And I'm so glad I did!

In between my full-time job (yes, I'm still working! :P) and traveling I began to lay the groundwork for what would become my new digital platform focused on women in leadership - Faalta.

The reason I decided to create Faalta is two-fold. I like getting to know people on a deeper level and empowering women. For me, it's pretty simple. And I wanted to leverage the network I had built over the years and put it to use for some good.

The Faalta website is now live (read more about it in the press release here)! The content is available in English and Spanish.

There are some exciting things ahead for Faalta, including a partnership with BeVisible. BeVisible fills a void that established career platforms have not — authentic Latino participation. BeVisible has attracted the attention of early adopters and reputable investors! They've been featured in: Color Magazine * Vibe Magazine * Elle Magazine* NBC * Forbes * Latina Magazine. The content from Faalta will also be available on the BeVisible platform.

I hope you'll help me spread the word about Faalta so that others can glean insights and feel inspired by some raw and honest stories because this is truly why I am doing this.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

COTL Guest Post: Silicon Valley’s “Jackie Robinson” Moment

About the author: Dave Scott is founder and CEO of Laugh.ly, a serial entrepreneur, author of the "New Rules of Lead Generation," and host of the nationally syndicated radio show "Marketing Superstars Show."

The conversation around race and the new reality for minorities in Donald Trump’s America has me thinking about Jackie Robinson.

Everyone knows (or should know) Robinson’s story. In 1947, the 28-year-old son of Georgia sharecroppers broke baseball’s color barrier when he left the Negro Leagues to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Robinson would go on to have an incredible career in Major League Baseball, winning rookie of the year honors his inaugural season and becoming a six-time All-Star — to name just a few of his accomplishments.

More impressive than his individual stats, however, is the mark he left on baseball and, frankly, America. Robinson’s courage and belief in his abilities, particularly in the face of racist taunts and ridicule, paved the way for so many other African Americans to follow in his footsteps. It didn’t happen overnight. Baseball wouldn’t become fully integrated until 1959. But Robinson proved that African Americans could play baseball and, dare I say, dominate the sport.

Consider this: Earlier this year ESPN came out with a list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time. African Americans (not counting blacks of Hispanic origin) comprised 22* of the top 100 players on that list. That’s pretty incredible for two reasons. It greatly exceeds our percentage of the overall U.S. population and we were literally banned from the MLB throughout nearly half the league’s existence. All the more interesting, perhaps, is this factoid: Of the five best baseball players ever, according to ESPN, three — Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays — are African American.

This baseball analogy gives me hope when I look at a field that, like Major League Baseball seven decades ago, remains largely shut off from African Americans today. I’m talking about the startup world of Silicon Valley.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

COTL Spotlight Story: Alan Emtage

Over the past few weeks, I saw a number of folks share updates about Alan Emtage. Wanted to make sure I shared my learnings with the COTL community. A bit about Mr. Emtage below:
In 1989, Emtage was  graduate student at McGill University in Montreal, where he’d moved from his native Barbados. As a systems administrator in the university’s information technology department, it was his job to find software for students and faculty members—which at that time involved manually digging around the various FTP (File Transfer Protocol) servers scattered across the nascent internet.  To save his own time, he wrote some code that would do the searching for him, and named his FTP search engine “ARCHIE” (after “archive”, without the “v”.)
Read more about Alan Emtage's game changing breakthrough that helped define the internet landscape that we know and love today here

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

COTL Spotlight Story: Phyllis Kemide Senah

After a random LinkedIn connection, I had the privilege of chatting with Phyllis about her experiences at Google and her future ambitions. Below, you can read about her journey - in her own words - into the world of tech and her experiences thus far.

My Google story started 3 years before my actual start date at Google. I was in my 2nd year at Citibank, when a Google recruiter reached out to me about a forecasting role in Finance. At the time, I had grown tired of crunching numbers and so I told him about my new interest, project management, specifically product implementations. Our conversation ended with the intention to stay in touch, but nothing further materialized.

Almost two years later I wanted to take a break from corporate life and do some traveling. I got a certification teaching English and volunteered at an international school and community center to gain some teaching experience. After visiting a friend who was teaching English in Japan, I decided Asia was the region I wanted to teach in. I researched areas in Asia that were hubs for foreigners but I didn’t have much luck with landing a teaching position in those locations. Even China proved a tough market, due to stricter requirements imposed on English teaching positions. After roughly 6 months, I conceded that teaching English wouldn’t be the conduit to to making a significant dent in my travel bucket list, so I decided to look for jobs in my field.

My parents had moved back to Ghana (my father’s homeland) and as my Asia plans weren’t materializing, I decided I’d follow them. I went through my inbox and reached out to every recruiter I'd ever interacted with in the last 2 years. My email to the Google recruiter triggered an automated message, informing me that the person I was trying to contact was no longer at Google and provided the contact details for another recruiter. I reached out to the new recruiter who then put me in touch with Lauren. I would send Lauren positions at Google that I was interested in and she would provide feedback on my likelihood of being selected for a telephone interview.

After 3 months of consulting with Lauren and getting turned down for numerous roles at other companies, Lauren informed me that the hiring manager for one of the positions I'd sent to her was interested in interviewing me. The position was located in Singapore. I expressed my interest in further pursuing the position, without any real expectations. I contacted a friend from business school that was currently at Google in Lagos and he provided some great tips about preparing for the interview. The phone interview for the position went well, except for the fact that I blanked on what the role was; I was doing a lot of recruiting at that point! To my surprise, as promised, 2 weeks later I was contacted for a second round of interviews with the hiring manager and the person who was slated to replace him. I would later tease my current manager that this interview felt like a good cop, bad cop session. After I got the news that I had qualified for the third round of interviews, the prospect of landing the job started to feel more like a reality.

The third interview included a process design question, which I didn’t answer as well as I would have liked. After the interview, while having dinner with my brother, I expressed doubt about moving on to the next round of interviews but fortunately I was wrong and made it through 2 more rounds. Almost one month after completing the interview process, I received my offer packet from Google, and almost 3 years to the day my Google story began, I was packing my belongings in preparation for my move to Singapore for a position in the Finance Operations team.

It’s been almost 2 years since I joined Google and my time here has been as equally challenging as it has been amazing. Between my first project at Google (which was a global initiative) and taking personal trips, I was able to visit 12 new countries; 9 in Asia and 3 in Europe.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

COTL Spotlight Story: Rasheeda Yehuza

This time around we bring you Rasheeda Yehuza. Check out the story of her journey from Ghana to her work leading software engineering at Hello Tractor. 

What's your background and what are you currently doing professionally?
I grew up in Tamale, a city in the Northern Region in Ghana. The Northern Region is known for agricultural activities with very minimum access to Technology. I however, decided to do a BSc in computer science in other to apply technology to social projects in Africa and as a result, I'm currently leading software engineering at Hello Tractor, an agricultural technology company improving mechanisation services via a machine learning fleet management platform for mobile in Africa and efficiently connecting rural farmers to farm machinery and agricultural products via SMS. Prior to Hello Tractor, I founded a technology company, Nasara Tech, which is still operational and led development of the Nasara Mobile platform for easy dissemination of information and justelect, a secure cloud based elections and voting platform.

What are your thoughts on the importance of have a more diverse / representative tech industry?
Without a doubt, technology has impacted us beyond unimaginable lengths which is analogous to location, culture and education,and in many ways has shaped my understanding of the field. It's very important to have a diverse tech industry because there are many solutions that are not representative of other cultures and the solutions provided incompatible with improving efficiency. Having more black people, women, etc in the tech industry means more diverse solutions that can impact different communities positively.

Creativity is very important in the tech industry and the more diverse a company is, the better decisions are made. You have people from different cultures and backgrounds bringing on board different ways of approaching an issue, which encourages out of the box thinking.

What are things we can do to continue changing the face of tech?

I'd say, we should continue innovating :). But most importantly, we should innovate by involving individuals from all walks of life. We can achieve this by improving education through tech and providing opportunities for less privileged individuals in marginalised communities.

For updates from Rasheeda, follow her here

Saturday, February 4, 2017

COTL Spotlight Story: Janet Barrientos

The COTL team was lucky enough to catch up with Janet Barrientos. Check out what she has to say in this week's Spotlight. 

What is your background?
I am a computer scientist who primarily works in software automation field. On the personal level, I am a first generation Mexican girl who was born in San Francisco and raised in Compton, Ca. I am the oldest of three girls in a family where my mother is the primary breadwinner. Around my neighborhood, there weren't many role models to look up to, so as I child I had my mother who worked tirelessly to provide for the family, my father that helped in whichever way he could, and my will and determination to get out of the ghetto.

What lead you down your current career path? 

As a little girl, I was always very curious about how tech worked. So, I did what any curious little girl would do, dissect fancy electronics. In my dissecting process, I was not always able to put things back together and ended up breaking a lot of remote controls and printers in the process. It was this process pushed me to explore more opportunities in tech eventually landing on software.
Why do you feel that diversity is important for your industry?
In software, every problem that engineers face is like a puzzle and everyone approaches solving them in a different way. The ways in which people approach these puzzles is often shaped by their backgrounds. If software were only developed by one type of person then the solutions to all software problems would look the same, and everyone would have software that was made for solely that type of person who created it.
The problem with that is that in our current society we depend on software for our daily tasks, and we all come from different backgrounds. So, we need diversity in the software industry to find solutions to problems in different ways and give every gender, race, and ethnicity a better experience using software every day. Diversity in the development of tech is important and we all need to work together to shape tech in a way that works for everyone.

Keep an eye on this rising star! You can find out the latest with Janet here