People & Leadership

BUILDTalk Conversations that Matter: Blacks in business and technology

Women in tech

February marks Black History Month – an annual celebration and recognition of the achievements and contributions of Black people throughout U.S. history. Earlier this month, our colleague success network BUILD (Blacks United in Leadership and Development) hosted our “Blacks in business and technology” Twitter chat.

Below are the highlights from our conversation.

What advice would you give to Black young professionals and entrepreneurs in today’s climate?

“To Black young professionals: Business etiquette still matters. And corporate culture still matters.  Make sure as you are entering the workforce that you understand the company culture. Remember the business was established before you arrived and will be there after you depart – so spend the early years of your career learning corporation norms and business etiquette. Set aside monthly or quarterly time to read professional development books.” – Kay Dexter, @TheKayDexter

“I’d recommend developing a skill that helps you stand out from others – pick something that’s a good fit with your personality!” – Laurie McCabe, @lauriemccabe

“Create a network of like-minded entrepreneurs, whether that’s about industry, shared challenges, or similar phases of businesses.” – Rieva Lesonsky, @Rieva

“Today’s world is vastly different then when I started my career and entrepreneurial journey. However, no matter the age, time, or climate you should always strive of excellence.” – Nicole Davis, @wifemomcpa100

“Take extra time to build better relationships. It’s not volume, it’s quality and create value through connections. Learn how to choose your peer group.” – Tripp Braden, @TrippBraden

“First, now where you want to be on 12/31/21. Second, create a GPS plan on HOW you plan to get from where you are today to your goal on 12/31.  Third, create an ‘A’ list of the top 20 people who will help you achieve your goal. Fourth, stay connected to those people!” – Brian Moran, @brianmoran

What is your definition of business success?

“In the COVID pandemic, the definition of business success is actually surviving! That is success. COVID-19 has been devastating on the American small business economy. COVID proved that America is dependent on SMBs. Hopefully, in the recovery, our government and citizens alike will elevate SMBs higher.” – Kay Dexter, @TheKayDexter

“Watch Kimberly Ellison-Taylor talk about her leadership journey as a Black female in the tech/accounting world.” – Tom Hood, @TomHood

“Everyone needs to have their own definition of success.  And it’s important to understand your definition of success can shift over time.” – Rieva Lesonsky, @Rieva

“Helping as many people as we can, as many ways as we can, as often as possible so they can achieve as much as they can.” – Brian F. Tankersley, @bftcpa

“My definition of success is lifted from a rap song. There is a line in a verse that says, “Backyard, it looks like the Garden of Eden.” Success for me is being at peace knowing my needs and wants are taken care of…whether financial or emotional.” – Nicole Davis, @wifemomcpa100

“I heard an inspiring quote yesterday about building a successful career: ‘Learn it, earn it, and return it’” – Laurie McCabe, @lauriemccabe

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 What strategic steps can allies take to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace?

“Allyship has to be learned over time. I think it is unfair to expect ally behavior to change in a snap. Allies can engage to listen, versus engaging to respond…Participation in one employee resource group event will aid allies in seeing that the colleagues that they work with daily share some of the same home life issues and build lasting friendships for life.” – Kay Dexter, @TheKayDexter

“Adding on to what Kay said, don’t just attend seminars, but really do the work to be inclusive.  And, listen at a deep level” – Carol Stephen, @Carol_Stephen

“Being an effective ally means opening life-changing doors for others interested in working in your industry, including referring them to jobs where you think they would be a great fit, fostering a more diverse professional network, and mentoring young Black people who are interested in pursuing STEM careers.” – Monique Daniel, @monidaniel

This [article] has some great real-life anecdotes.” – Beth Staub, @AdventureGlass

“Allies can start by speaking up. They usually have a front row seat to the inequities experienced by minorities in the workplace.  Then, have deeper conversations with family and friends about diversity and inclusiveness.” – Nicole Davis, @wifemomcpa100

“Be willing to knock down doors or for that matter on doors.  Take time to understand where people come from and where they want to go. Be willing to provide support to help other succeed in new roles and responsibilities.” – Tripp Braden, @TrippBraden

How have you handled adversity and doubt?

“First you cry. Then you act.” – Rieva Lesonsky, @Rieva

“Handling adversity and doubt, means that you simply have to continuously ‘prove’ yourself – every meeting, every email, every interaction to contradict the myths of Black corporate people.” – Kay Dexter, @TheKayDexter

“As a Black woman in tech, my biggest obstacle has been overcoming my sense of ‘imposter syndrome’ – nagging thoughts that I don’t BELONG in tech…I’ve learned to retrain my thoughts and ‘lean in’ to the valuable knowledge and skills I’ve nurtured over the years and continue to develop every day.” – Monique Daniel, @monidaniel

“I am not a confrontational person by any measure.  Yet, when it comes to my mental health and well-being, I confront it head on. I overcame adversity by working through it.  Whereas doubt is very subtle. It can eat away at your goals and ambitions if not checked.” – Nicole Davis, @wifemomcpa100

“Anything worth having will be difficult, and adversity makes you work harder toward my goals.  Enduring challenges gives you perspective on what’s really important and what isn’t important, and helps you remember to be grateful for what you have.” – Brian F. Tankersley, @bftcpa

If you could rewind time, what career misstep would you make again because the lesson learned was so invaluable?

“Coming in HOT! Meaning thinking that I could come into a company and change their way of working, thinking I had all the answers to solve their problems simply because I was youthful and had ideas.  The lesson was so invaluable that I teach it to this day when I mentor girls in STEM & STEAM…Learn the job first – perfect it, then offer ideas for improvement – this will lead to your ideas being more receptive.” – Kay Dexter, @TheKayDexter

“Two times with companies being severely disrupted and thriving thru the storm!” – Tom Hood, @TomHood

“What a great question. I think I would have started my business sooner than I did. Don’t let comfort blind you from the toxicity you are surrounded by. Most important, don’t beat yourself up for the mistakes you’ve made. All mistakes are learning experiences.” – Rieva Lesonsky, @Rieva

“I was teaching on the Navajo Nation and was in line for my mail (we had general delivery). The man behind the counter didn’t ‘see’ me and served everyone behind me. When it was ‘my’ turn, he left. I didn’t get my mail that day. I became much more aware that day.” – Beth Staub, @AdventureGlass

“I would make ALL my mistakes again because of where I am today. Change one thing, and you might change everything. My mistakes showed me I could get knocked to my knees, get back up again, dust myself off, and say ‘Seriously? Is that the best you got?'” – Brian Moran, @brianmoran

“I got laid off in the great recession. At the time I thought it was the worst thing possible. But started SMB Group shortly after that, which I would never have done had I not been laid off.” – Laurie McCabe, @lauriemccabe

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If you could write a book about your career experiences, what would you name it and why?

Being the Only One in the Room – it would chronicle my experiences of being the only Black [person] and most times Black woman in the marketing room.” – Kay Dexter, @TheKayDexter

The Accidental Entrepreneur.” – Laurie McCabe, @lauriemccabe

The Accidental Road Warrior.” Brian F. Tankersley, @bftcpa

Customer Service Doesn’t Need to Hurt – I fell in love with customer service when I started and it’s one of my biggest passions.” – Beth Staub, @AdventureGlass

The Accidental Billionaire – what they don’t teach you about life and love in busines school.” – Tripp Braden, @TrippBraden

The World of Business is a Carnival and I Got Stuck on the Rollercoaster.” – Brian Moran, @brianmoran

“I want to write a book called Why not?”Rieva Lesonsky, @Rieva

Lemons: Make More Than Lemonade. We know the old adage…but you can make more than lemonade. My career experiences afforded me options. Figuratively [speaking], I’ve made lemon sorbet, lemon cupcakes, and lemon drops.” – Nicole Davis, @wifemomcpa100

Upcoming BUILDTalk Conversations That Matter

Thank you to everyone who participated in this Twitter chat. Visit our Twitter moment to read the full conversation.

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