Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

This seasoned engineer launched a Philly chapter of Blacks in Technology to boost representation in the growing industry

Organizer Kumba Janga hosted the first local event at P4 Hub last month, with plans for future networking and professional development opportunities to come.

Kumba Janga at Technical.ly's Developers Conference 2022.

(Photo by Dominique Nichole)

When Kumba Janga was starting her career as a software engineer 16 years ago, diversity, equity and inclusion work wasn’t yet on her radar.

But she knew it was a pain point, as all-white, all-men engineering teams were the norm.

“And I was there, the only female — let alone Black female — trying to maneuver within my career,” she said.

As a Philly native and Drexel University grad, Janga spent her early career feeling like her home could be more welcoming for Black people in tech. She worked at area companies PHH Mortgage, Comcast and JPMorgan Chase, and has noted improvements and more interest in building a more diverse workforce over the last decade. She’s also worked internally on JPMorgan Chase’s DEI efforts in recent years.

But when she realized last year that international organization Blacks in Technology didn’t have a Philly chapter, Janga felt it was time to get her city the representation it needed. It was early 2021, when a lot of events and opportunities were still shut down because of the pandemic, when Janga reached out to the org’s executive director. She has since connected with Germantown’s P4 Hub for Advancing Racial Equity and Excellence, and found a sponsor in King of Prussia-based Qlik to launch the org, which has about 40 US and 15 international chapters.

Janga officially launched the chapter in 2022, with the goal of closing the divide of Black people in the tech sector by leveling the playing ground with training, scholarships for certifications, career fairs, job postings and networking opportunities. The org had its first event last month, at P4 Hub — a panel and networking night focused on how to become a tech leader with or without a having a tech background.

“It was over and people didn’t want to leave, they stayed talking past the event time,” Janga said. She took that as a sign the chapter was a sorely needed resource.

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The plan for the chapter’s growth includes a partnership with P4 Hub for at least quarterly events, as well as some virtual webinars in between, plus happy hours and other events (like this virtual career fair on June 17). She’s also looking to work with companies that would like to sponsor future events or resources, and said each chapter lead can run their org the way they see fit.

Inside the new P4 Hub for Advancing Racial Equity and Excellence. (Courtesy photo)

Getting extra embedded in Philly’s tech scene over the last year has changed Janga’s perspective of the industry a bit, she said. Though she’s spent the majority of her career working for companies in the region, they were usually based in the suburbs or in neighboring states New Jersey or Delaware, like where she works now for JPMorgan Chase. The tech scene and the number of jobs available within city limits has changed a lot in the past decade.

“I didn’t realize how big the startup community had gotten until recently,” Janga said. “There’s growth. It’s growing and I’d like to be a part of that growth.”

The work the Blacks in Technology chapter does aims to highlight the growing opportunities at companies small and large. The org casts a wide net — K-12 students, post-secondary students, existing technologists and those looking to transition into the industry.

And while its main focus is uplifting Black technologists, the org highlights the intersectionality needed in diverse teams. A diverse team isn’t just having technologists of color in entry-level careers or having just two types of people represented. It means including people who reflect society in every level of decision making.

“The point of diversity is making sure you have every person on different spectrums, including people who are trans, gay — everyone,” Janga said. “Take the time and look at diversity and layers of people’s careers and make sure we have true diversity. That’ll affect whatever product your team supports.”

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