Behind the Tech Industry

As technology becomes more and more commonplace in the world, the tech industry is in need of people who are going to provide for the public’s demand for technology and related services. This means that the people entering STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields are not always going to fit stereotypical images of engineers and computer scientists, but reflect the new progressive era.

On Feb. 22nd, the Black History Month Committee (BHM) hosted Behind the Tech Industry, a Q&A event open to the public, that provided a forum to give us a glimpse of the tech industry and the growing number of African Americans and other POC (people of color) entering this field. The speakers who shared their insights and experiences were Tia Caldwell, an Engineering manager in Netflix’s Open Connect group, and Courtney Boyd, a support engineer in Netflix’s Global Technical Customer Service group. The event was moderated by Sabry Tozin the Engineering Director for Studio In the Cloud.

As college students, Netflix is something that almost everyone knows about and relies on for a break from studies and part-time jobs, and the speakers shined a light that they do behind the scenes as engineers. But being African Americans, the speakers shared their unique experiences studying in the STEM fields and working in the tech Industry.

The panel shared the difficulty of being an African American in the tech industry, both in finding people like them to network and connect with, and avoiding stereotypes like the “Angry Black Man” or the “Angry Black Woman”. Courtney Boyd wanted to remind everyone that “they belong” and that they should not be deterred from entering the STEM fields. Tia Caldwell’s advice was to “be authentic” and to not forget their culture and background.

Luis Mendez, Business Law ‘19, stopped by the event because of his own interest in working for a company like Netflix. After the event, Luis Mendes shared that one thing that was discussed that was valuable to him was that “They reach out to the community in a different way, they appeal to the minds of people and that’s the aspect of Netflix that I would enjoy doing. Not really the tech side of things, but reaching out to people and being able to reach their minds and change the community that way.”

Mendez shows that Behind the Tech Industry was not just for students studying engineering and computer science, but for students who offer skills that are much needed by the tech industry.

And though the event was sponsored by BHM, students who are can still learn from events like this one even if they are not Black.

The Student Co-Chair of BHM, Shani Boyd, International Affairs and Commerce and Spanish Minor ‘17, said, “A lot of what the BHM committee does is not only about Black history and Black culture. Like they talked about here, they talked about other minorities. The things that Black people achieve and talk about affects everybody. And it is just like a good experience to learn more about other people and their culture and participate with peers they may not know.”

Behind the Tech Industry was a really insightful and meaningful event. Adria Frazier, Biochemistry ‘17, and Treasurer of Black Student Union, shared how she thinks students should take advantages of events like this,  “They are really missing out on learning about people who are like them and had experiences like them and see them succeed.”

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Andrew Rocha

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