What these technologists of color would tell their younger selves - Technical.ly Delaware

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Aug. 31, 2018 2:15 pm

What these technologists of color would tell their younger selves

Some advice for those starting out on their own entrepreneurial journeys.

What advice would you give your past self?

(Photo by Pexels user nappy, used under a Creative Commons license)

To cap off Technical.ly’s August theme of technologists of color, we wanted to know what some of Delaware’s up-and-coming technologists have learned — and what advice they would give their younger selves if they could.

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“Don’t be afraid of tech,” said Garry Johnson, founder of UrbInvest. “It is such a broad term with so many ways to apply any skill set to it. If you’re interested in tech, there’s definitely a place for you. If you can’t find a place, you can create your own. For example, I can’t code, but I do have a degree in user-centered design and entrepreneurship, which gave me useful skills for any tech startup. Tech gives us a unique opportunity to democratize access and opportunity for marginalized groups, and that’s what makes it so appealing to me.”

Johnson would also encourage his younger self to embrace his “nerdy” side.

“I used to tinker a lot and was really interested in taking things apart to see how they worked,” he said. “At some point, those things became uncool, and I wanted to fit in with a cooler crowd — you know, teenager life. Now I realize that the ‘nerds’ are the ones changing the world, so I’d want any young person to embrace that curiosity and creativity, and not be afraid to be different.”

"If you are afraid to do or try something new, it is probably the thing that you need to do in order to grow to the next level."
Tia Goldsmith

Jordan Gonzalez, cofounder of GeoSwap, is all about teamwork.

“The advice I’d give is to be sure that you have a solid team behind you,” he said. “If you can’t build the tech yourself, then you aren’t a tech company — you’re a marketing company who contracts tech work. Things are going to break and need to be fixed, and if you can’t do that in house, you’re sunk. A good balanced team can build tech and market/make sales, but if you can’t build tech, then you aren’t in tech.”

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"'Faking it till you make it' doesn't work when you are the outlier in the room. People are going to challenge you. You must know your stuff because we have to be twice as good to get half of what they have."
James Massaquoi

Sisters Miracle and Deborah Olatunji are still young enough to be on the receiving end of the advice. (Miracle, founder of OpportuniMe, just graduated high school and is starting her freshman year at Northeastern University, while Deborah and twin sister Dorcas are juniors at Charter School of Wilmington while building their own tech startups).

“Relationships and community are so important,” said Miracle. “It’s crucial to connect and collaborate with others. Not knowing where to turn when discovering the problem I identified when starting OpportuniMe, I decided to apply to this new incubator for high school students called Dual School. It was a great decision! I was accepted and matched with a mentor, became part of an amazing community, and received a lot of support.

For Deborah, it’s about positivity and faith. “I would tell young Deborah to be more open and to take charge of her ideas and propositions,” she said. “I would constantly remind her that there is more to come, more people to meet, and more projects to create. However, most importantly, I would encourage her to keep the Christian faith, tell others about God’s free gift of salvation, and tell her to remember that every day is another chance to share.”

“Do not let others impose their limitations onto you, for it could be the biggest mistake in your life,” said Markevis Gideon, president of NERDiT NOW. “All you have to remember is that technology can be hard, but technology is fair. If you want to learn it then learn it and let nobody stand in your way.”


Read more: Meet 11 of Delaware’s up-and-coming technologists of color

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