1) When was the first time you touched a computer?
There is a picture of me as a baby moving a mouse on a computer. I can't remember a time when computers have NOT been a part of my life, but I also was not one of those kids you hear about taking them apart.
2) Who is your hero and why?
I have two – My Grandmother and my Mother. They are truly foundational to the woman that I am today. I am forever inspired and thankful.
3) What is your mantra?
I have two mantras that I think go hand in hand – (1) If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are? – T.S. Eliot and (2) She believed she could, so she did.
4) You are the co-creator of LINGO coding kit. Why did you want to create a technology product?
I got my first taste of passing on the joy of teaching technology when I was a camp instructor for the nonprofit Black Girls Code. Over two weeks, I was one of two black women to introduce 24 young black girls to coding. Visibly watching those girls shed their insecurities around STEM made my heart swell. They got to see that there was a space for every part of them in tech and that there was no shame in making mistakes. Beyond teaching them the foundations of coding, I was able to encourage them to view their differences as an asset, embrace vulnerability, and disregard external validation in their calculus for belonging – all things we try to instill in students with LINGO. LINGO gives me the opportunity to teach students the way I wish I was taught and that’s why I love it!
5) Can you give us an example of a challenge you've had to overcome in tech?
I have been used to being the "only one" and when I arrived at Cornell to pursue my degree in engineering, I was once again the only underrepresented minority woman in the entire department, but for the first time, I felt like I did not belong. One of the key steps to me realizing my innate strengths was re-establishing my comfort with vulnerability. I had to stop fearing challengers like my professor, and truly believe that weaknesses were not flaws. I discovered that exposing your weaknesses opened you to a community of others on the same journey of overcoming them. I found my sense of belonging once I was empowered with the intrinsic confidence to be imperfect and authentic. In hindsight, I am grateful for that professor because he forced me to build my sense of belonging through self-discovery and ignited my passion for passing on the lessons I learned.
6) As one of a few black women in technology, what is a misnomer that you'd like to correct about STEM?
My Instagram name is @geeky.and.glam because I want people to know that they can do and be both. There are so many times that women are inundated with messaging saying that parts of them are not welcome in STEM and that’s something I would like to dismantle.
7) What would be your elevator pitch to get more people of color involved in STEM?
The future is in tech-our voices need to be a part of the revolution of this country and world.
8) Your favorite quote and by whom?
"My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style." – Maya Angelou
9) You are currently getting your MBA-where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I am currently pursuing an MBA from Harvard Business School to develop me into the dynamic transformational leader that is needed to shape the national security of our future. More than ever, the private tech sector and the public sector are diverging, and few are equipped to bring them together. I recognize that the scale of this task is monumental as it is a fiscal, security, congressional, and organizational lift and I want to be a part of it.
10) If you could have any superhero power-what would it be?
I would love to be able to look at a person and know what things in life they need and magically be given the tools to fill that gap. As an additional layer, I would like this to be a secret superpower so it could happen before my eyes, but they would think it was just the world looking out for them.
11) What is the one piece of technology you cannot live without?
It is wild how my iPhone is truly an extension of myself. I feel naked without it because everything that I need to do during the day could feasibly be done on the device. If I had to think of one piece of software/service though, I would choose Google. Google has saved me on so many occasions both academically and personally.
12) Technology is: Magic!