Honoring an important day in history
Juneteenth, which falls on Saturday this year, commemorates the day in 1865 when former American slaves in Galveston, Texas, were finally informed of President Abraham Lincoln’s January 1, 1863, Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the Civil War.
As an organization, we are learning, listening, and want to acknowledge the importance of this day. Today is not about us.
We want to use this post to celebrate the impressive achievements of influential black leaders in the tech community that have not historically had the same options and opportunities. These individuals are making a difference in their communities and in the technology industry as a whole. Below are their thoughts on what tech companies can do to make the industry more inclusive for people of color.
4 Inspiring and Influential Black Tech Leaders
Chris Young, EVP of Business Development at Microsoft
In a world where data privacy and cyber security are top of mind, Chris Young has dedicated his career to making the world not only more secure, but also a better place. As former CEO of McAfee and current EVP at Microsoft, Chris has been a leader in the tech space for quite some time. After leading the billion dollar cybersecurity company, McAfee, for three years Young then took on the leadership role at Microsoft where he is responsible for spearheading business development, strategic partnerships and alliances, and joint ventures.
Chris wrote an article for the Silicon Valley Business Journal on creating real change and taking action to racial injustice following the death of George Flyod. Young writes, “Racial inequality is a challenge many generations in the making. A unified multi-generational response is the only path forward.” You can read the full article here.
Michee Smith, Security & Privacy, Product Manager at Google
Michee is truly a master in her craft, with a Computer Science degree from RIT, 11+ years of experience at Microsoft, and many years as the Product Manager for Google Cloud. Michee is passionate about making customers feel confident with keeping their data in the cloud and setting expectations around data privacy.
That’s not all the Michee is extremely passionate about. Michee is a leader when it comes to making the technology industry more inclusive of Black women and strives to shed light on underrepresented communities. In an article with Refinery29, Michee says, “Across tech, I am still hearing stories where people are being referred to as a “diversity hire” or they try to start a diversity initiative and it’s received with statements like “I want to hire the top talent” as if the top talent can’t be more diverse than the mainstream talent that exists. Hiring top talent and hiring diverse talent aren’t opposing goals but complimentary.”
Ime Archibong, Head of New Product Experimentation at Facebook
As Head of New Product Experimentation, Ime Archibong is responsible for leading rapid growth, numerous entrepreneurial teams, and testing and experimenting different products to create new and innovative solutions that make a meaningful and positive impact on people’s lives.
Ime Archibong not only is an icon for impressive career growth, but also a truly significant leader in the black community named Facebook’s “unofficial Black leader for employees”. During the Black Lives Matter movement, many employees turned to Archibong as he spoke up internally on his experience as a Black man in America.
“For the industry to get this right over time, you got to have the butts in the seats. You’ve got to be representative of the community you’re trying to serve,” says Ime in an interview with Prokit, “There’s a lot of work to do. I’m sitting in a technical seat now. I look around at the technical representation of Blacks in our industry, and I know that we’re not where we need to be, or we deserve to be.”
Olabisi Boyle, VP, Product & Mobility at Hyundai
IBM, GTE (now Verizon), Ford, Chrysler, Visa – these are only some of the companies that Olabisi has made her mark on! After her 3 years as VP of Internet of Things (IoT) at Visa, Olabisi then became the VP of Product for Hyundai in August of 2020. Her main responsibility is to guide the strategic direction of the Hyundai vehicle and lead the Mobility Strategy, including Connected Car Technology and future innovations.
With degrees in Mechanical Engineering, Industrial Engineering, and Physics, Boyle’s advice to Black women who want to get into tech is to, “Get built up, gain knowledge, and even if others come at you with negativity, stand tall, because you are built up. You may be afraid, but just go on in anyway, you just might end up owning the place.”
In an article with Yahoo, Olabisi calls on tech companies to “have empathy for the very real effects for under-represented minorities who do not feel a sense of belonging in majority-centered spaces, and cannot pretend not to understand why some people may not feel included.”
The list of amazing black tech leaders goes far beyond what we’ve included in our blog today. A common thread above is clear, we as a tech industry have more work to do. With more tech companies educating themselves on what it truly means to be inclusive, we are hopeful that as an industry we can all come together to create real change.
Juneteenth is an important day to remember, but it’s even more important to carry the meaning of this day year-round as we all continue to grow, learn, and reflect on how each of us can do better.