Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

This technologist and radio DJ is calling for ‘bold leaders and a different mindset’ to boost diversity in Milwaukee tech

88Nine Radio Milwaukee's program director sat down with Technical.ly reporter Sorrina Beecher to talk access and collaboration in the Midwest city. Watch the conversation here.

Tarik Moody.

(Photo by Erin Bagatta)

Representation matters, in tech and media alike. Milwaukee’s Tarik Moody is working on diversity in both.

Long before Amazon and Facebook became household names, Moody was pondering the possibilities of tech. Growing up in Atlanta in the ’80s, he says he dabbled with HTML for fun and attended a computer programming camp when many of his peers were only just discovering the Oregon Trail. That early exploration laid the groundwork for future careers in architecture and radio.

“I’ve always had love” for technology, Moody told Technical.ly. “Because of that, it gave me opportunities I maybe wouldn’t have had. It became part of my core.”

Somewhere along his journey, Moody realized he wanted to share that passion with others. While building his career as an architect in Minneapolis, he began working as a radio DJ on the side. When 88Nine Radio Milwaukee caught wind of his talent, they presented him with an opportunity to combine his passion for technology, radio and community stories as the station’s first digital director and musical host.

That was 15 years ago. Today, Moody serves as program director and content producer for the alternative radio beacon, which aims to be a “catalyst for creating a better, more inclusive and engaged Milwaukee.” Among the many hats he wears there, Moody also co-hosts Rhythm Lab Radio; This Bites, one of Milwaukee’s longest-running podcasts; and Diverse Disruptors, which discusses on the underrepresentation of people of color and women in tech, startup, innovation and entrepreneurial spaces.

“It wasn’t just that ‘We’re a radio station,'” Moody said of his tenure at the station. “It was about impact. It was about reaching an audience that looked like me.”

Tarik Moody. (Photo by Erin Bagatta)

Moody will be reaching an even bigger audience when he launches a brand new, still unnamed urban alternative channel this summer. The channel will offer “an eclectic radio experience, celebrating the full spectrum of Black music and the power of public radio,” according to the fall announcement. The new channel is slated to launch on Juneteenth, the holiday commemorating the emancipation of enslaved people.

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Moody said the channel was the perfect opportunity to step outside of his comfort zone to lead and build something new — but it’s also a call to action for the Milwaukee region to do the same. A longtime advocate for the area’s emerging tech scene, Moody said it’s high time for Milwaukee to move beyond the status quo.

In his eyes, Milwaukeeans are too timid to invest in big ideas, and too conservative when it comes to investing capital. If an entrepreneur had presented an idea like Uber or Clubhouse, for example, he isn’t confident the pitch would fly here.

Moody believes bringing in fresh faces and ideas will help Cream City not only compete with emerging startup cities with a growing concentration of venture capital, such as Baltimore, Atlanta or Minneapolis, but also across the global economy. But that work would require loosening the reins on legacy industries like manufacturing and embracing risk. (“The first word in ‘venture capital’ is ‘venture’ after all,” he said.)

“We’re losing talent to other cities — we gotta face that,” Moody added. “Things are really moving fast and we’re sitting on the sidelines. There’s a lot that’s missing. We need bold leaders who are not ‘legacy leaders’ and a different mindset.”

Technical.ly sat down with the Atlanta transplant to hear how he thinks Milwaukee can do better to attract and retain diverse talent, why representation matters, and his solutions for creating a thriving startup economy. To hear the full conversation, watch the video recap below:

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