From insecurity to insight at this entrepreneur's first tech showcase - Technical.ly Delaware

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Jun. 14, 2019 3:34 pm

From insecurity to insight at this entrepreneur’s first tech showcase

High school entrepreneur Dorcas Olatunji offers an inside look at presenting at the Technologies to Watch Showcase, and how to get more people of color in the room.
t²’s display at the 2019 Technologies to Watch Showcase.

t²'s display at the 2019 Technologies to Watch Showcase.

(Courtesy photo)

This is a guest post by technologist Dorcas Olatunji. Find her "My First" series here.
My initial thought of a technology exhibition or showcase was something that matched a movie description.

After eagerly accepting the invitation to showcase my rideshare startup, , at the fifth annual Technologies to Watch Showcase in Wilmington on May 15, I had the sudden realization that I was nowhere near prepared for the event. Since it was a little over two weeks away, I had the time to do some research, and eventually decided to make my presentation unique.

When I walked into the event, I saw gadgets and gizmos like those described only in a fictional universe — technology such as Microsoft’s HoloLens, communication innovation via Eye Need a Witness and a new fuel cell company called W7energy. All the tech filled me with awe, and I suddenly felt like I did not belong there.

This feeling was strong, especially since I brought all the wrong items to this kind of showcase. I realized that attendees came by private invitation, so my bowl of candy and stickers would not go well with my display. A total of nine tables serviced the invited companies, and I chose the one second-farthest from everyone else.

For some reason, fear and insecurity gripped me from my far side of the room, and this motivated a mental self-argument about how to address the situation. Bewildered, I wondered whether I should network by moving around the room like I would any other function or just remain in my area, and I unfortunately chose the latter option. My system of networking that evening was using my personality and presentation to get others to come to me and not vice versa, like a magnet.

See, my display was vastly different from the other eight. There were VR goggles and a chemical battery presentation across from me, for instance. Mine, on the other hand, had a huge white board propped up with the question: “Where would you go if you could go anywhere?”

The survey’s QR code. (Courtesy photo)

My display also included a canvas I painted the night before for more “earthy” vibes with a traced “t²” in black, as well as stickers I printed on shipping labels from a logo I threw together a few days prior. I included teal green and light green sticky notes for people to add their dream destinations. To top it all off, I had no actual technology to showcase, but only a survey from a QR code I printed to do some surveying.

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Although I prepared last minute — that week also happened to be when my AP exams were scheduled — while there, I felt as though my preparation was not much of anything at all.

On top of it all, I was one of two women of color at the showcase. I felt outnumbered, like how I felt in my honors and AP classes at the Charter School of Wilmington, surrounded by white males and a few females. I cannot judge on who registered and showed up to this event, but this is not a rare occurrence. Not only that, I was the youngest person there by perhaps 10 years, and this was another thing that made my presentation stick out.

Now, here’s how we get people who look like me in the room:

  1. Research up-and-coming technologists in the area.
  2. Ask your network about nominations for rising technologists.
  3. Promote community groups of color and invite them to the conversation.

If any one of these suggestions were implemented, the change would be evident.

I was filled with nervous emotions. But to my surprise, my strategy worked in my favor. I used my natural charisma and explained what t² was in a million different phrasings and made some great connections. Sometimes the conversations and ideas people provided were so profound that I forgot to ask for a business card!

Attending this showcase was quite eye-opening for me, as it helped me decide where I am taking t² next. With my senior year gearing up, I believe it is time to put t² on the shelf for a while. The past year-and-a-half has taught me so much about being an entrepreneur, and what actual hard work looks like.

With my new appointment on Delaware’s Board of Education, my role as chief justice for the 2020 Youth in Government Program, captain of the CSW track team and a myriad of other things, I am deciding to take my own time management and prioritization tips in one of my previous Technical.ly Delaware articles. I still have so many things to share about my journey of how I got to this moment, and am excited to give to the readers, old and new, of the My First series.

This is not the end of a chapter, but rather, the beginning of an incredible one.

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