Back in the days, seeing or hearing the words “Black women” and “tech” in the same sentence was an anomaly or like using an oxymoron. It just never happened. Fast forward to decades later, not much has changed in the heart of Silicon Valley, and women continue to be disproportionately underrepresented in tech. But here’s the good part – some early career professionals including Black women, have become deliberate about pulling up, ruffling some features and taking up space in the tech industry.
We had an amazing chat with, Netta Jenkins, diversity, equity and inclusion executive, co-founder of Dipper, keynote speaker, consultant and a baddie in tech who’s been featured in Forbes. Check out what Netta had to say about her journey in tech below.
What is your educational background?
Netta: My bachelor’s degree is from the University of Rhode Island, where I studied communication, leadership, and behavioral psychology. I graduated from university in three years instead of four. My MBA is from Cambridge College, where I was selected to be a graduate commencement speaker. I am a creative thinker, innovator, relationship builder, and I’m constantly pushing boundaries which allows me to navigate powerfully.
What experience or event in your early life got you interested in tech?
Netta: I chose a career in tech because I recognized that innovative technology has the opportunity to bring change to the world. The power of technology is why I decided to utilize it as a tool to reach people around the world and empower companies to create more equitable and inclusive workplaces. As a result of my interest in the field, I co-founded Dipper, a holistic platform that guides people of color to a better workplace by sharing ratings, reviews and surveys to help them make informed decisions.
In a few sentences, describe your current role and career journey.
Netta: I am a leading voice in the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion field whose soaring audience engagement was doubtlessly a key factor in Forbes naming me as one of the top 7 anti-racism consultants in July 2020. I have been advising corporations and audiences of all kinds for more than 15 years on the most effective strategies to address systemic racism, its traumatic impact, and the path to social justice. My career has been a journey of continuous learning. I enjoy equipping leaders with the tools to create a safe space for employees to thrive.
Why did you choose this career path?
Netta: I’d say my career path selected me. It was the lord preparing me for this mighty work from a young age. Every adversity and challenge propelled me to fight harder. I got so good at fighting for myself that I knew I had to do it for others. It is not easy to do, but it’s what I’m moved to do. My overarching objective with Dipper is to hand over the power of workplace accountability and inclusivity back to employees. Through my other company Holistic Inclusion Consulting, I help companies grade, contextualize and improve their own internal workplace culture.
What’s the best part of your career?
Netta: My favorite part of my career is engaging my curiosity, daily. I enjoy implementing solutions that improve people’s lives within the workplace. I’m actively meeting with leaders and guiding them to utilize their privilege and power effectively within the workplace.
Has networking helped to shape your career in any way? If so, how?
Netta: Absolutely. Networking has helped me open my mind to the importance of relationship building. I see networking as a two-way street. I always ask those I’m networking with, “how can I support you?” I’m a member of Chief, which is the only private membership network focused on connecting and supporting female executive leaders. They have powerful women in leadership roles driving impact every day. They have brought incredible speakers like Michelle Obama, Ursula Burns, and Bozomo Saint John. LinkedIn is a great place to network and connect with thought leaders in different industries. It is an accessible way to meet new people.
What’s a major challenge(s) that you’ve had as a woman in tech and how did you overcome it/them?
Netta: One challenge that I had to overcome early in my career was finding sponsors that promoted my work and expertise. I had a couple of people who would go out of their way to put me in spaces where I was allowed to show off my skill sets. I learned the importance of having a solid network. I also learned that quality is better than quantity. I do not need a lot of people to share my work. Instead, I need some quality and influential people in spaces where I am not to speak about my contributions in a way that opens more opportunities for me. I pay that forward through the work that I do every day.
What professional advice do you wish you had gotten when you were younger?
Netta: I’d say- things may not happen overnight; pause and allow it to come. I’m a very passionate person who is always fighting for others. Early in my career, I’d feel a high level of stress because I wanted things to shift immediately. I had to believe it would happen and give things time.
What are THREE life hacks or advice you’d give Black women wanting to get into tech?
- Know that you can do anything you truly desire, even if others question your capability.
- Start building a community of supporters and folks that genuinely want to see you succeed.
- Study areas that may not be clear to you and seek a technical mentor to support you through the process.
What’s that one DON’T you’d tell early career professionals to avoid in the tech industry?
Netta: Don’t forget what it felt like to need help. Access to resources and knowledge in the workplace is critical. Take the time to find ways to share your knowledge and expertise with others who need it.
Netta dropped lots of gems during our interview, but a key takeaway we want to leave you with is her emphasis on networking and relationship building. Not sure, how, where or when to get your feet wet in the networking game? Start with Obsidi.com; find your tribe; meet other Black professionals just like you and level up your career!
Until next time, take care!