Professional Development
Ceos / Mentorship / Q&As / Startups

How I Got Here: Qyana M. Stewart believes being a Black woman in tech is not a challenge, it’s a superpower

The GlobalForce Tech Consulting CEO reflected on her early family-driven entrepreneurial roots and embracing her Black womanhood in a male-dominated industry.

Qyana M. Stewart. (Courtesy Qyana M. Stewart)

This is How I Got Here, a series where we chart the career journeys of technologists. Want to tell your story? Get in touch.

Correction: This article has been updated since its initial publication to correct several misquotes and information about her work history before entering the tech field. It has also been changed to update Qyana M. Stewart's middle initial, headshot and information about her doctoral program at Howard University. (10/19/2023, 4:24 p.m.)
Qyana M. Stewart built her early entrepreneurial foundations on lessons learned from her grandfather while in the Park Heights neighborhood of Baltimore.

After he retired from working at a local racetrack, he used his car to offer transportation services to people in the community. Some folks in Baltimore call that hacking.

But he did it with a passion for mentorship. And what started as helping a few people turned into a business.

But it wasn’t just her grandfather who influenced her. Stewart, the Prince George’s County-based CEO of GlobalForce Tech Consulting and a 2022 DC RealLIST Connector, told Technical.ly in a phone interview that entrepreneurship runs in her family.

“I come from a long line of entrepreneurs, but we didn’t use that word, right?” she said. “We had side [hustles]. … So once I really understood what entrepreneurship is, then it was really easy for me to say, yeah, like this is what we do in the Black community.”

In recent years, words like “hustle” have been co-opted. But it also has a history of representing systemic oppression and the need to overcome odds for Black people in America. Stewart understands that in Black families, it’s a necessity.

“You know, in Black families, this is ingrained in who we are because of how we had to survive in really sort of disgusting times, right?” she said. “But now, we have language for it. And we can, we can use that language to actually create things that are scalable and that can generate wealth for ourselves and for our families.”

Stewart, who is in her 40s, specifically advocated for the adoption of startup language and principles within the Black community.

“So yeah, building a startup or having a small business or whatever language you want to use around that,” she said. “That part is difficult, but it’s also a lot of fun. And it’s also a learning, huge learning experience.”

The tech consultancy CEO became interested in the field while working in the nonprofit sector and seeing the importance of technology for organizations. After earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Howard University in 2003, in 2012, she decided to pursue a master’s degree in IT from the University of Maryland University College (now University of Maryland Global Campus) to gain a better understanding of the tech industry.

Now, she’s proud to be able to support others interested in this journey — not only as the CEO of GlobalForce but in her positions as a mentor-in-residence at George Washington University and an entrepreneur-in-residence at the University of Maryland, College Park. In addition, she aims to advocate for Black entrepreneurs via her research as a Ph.D. student in Howard’s Higher Education Leadership and Policy Studies program.

“I’m grateful and honored that I’ve been able to do this, and now I’m able to give that back to other people who might be curious about it, who might want to do it for themselves,” she said.

In all these capacities, her primary goal is to make a meaningful difference in the lives of women and marginalized communities by providing technological support.

Stewart highlighted her daily responsibilities, pre-tech experiences and advice for aspiring technologists throughout her interview with Technical.ly. Here’s what she said, edited for length and clarity.

What are your day-to-day tasks as GlobalForce’s CEO?

They vary. I’m responsible for engaging with our clients. I have a small team that I collaborate with. From the technical aspects of our client portfolio — so that might be a mobile app built out, it might be a consultation. I’m also a certified project and product manager, so it might require my consultation on a project around, like, project management of a software application or the development of a new product for an external company. So, the day-to-day varies depending on where we are with our specific clients and their project timelines.

What about in your capacities as mentor-in-residence at George Washington University and entrepreneur-in-residence at the University of Maryland?

In my mentorship capacity, it also varies. It depends on how many students I have on the schedule for that day that are requesting or requiring mentorship, or what we call office hours. There’s usually an uptick as each institution is sort of advancing toward, like, a competition. … [But with all of my roles, the work] could vary from the very technical, to being on really technical calls with development teams, with other product managers and project managers, to really just having open conversations with students about their ideas and providing guidance and support as you’re trying to build their innovations or their startups.

What was your first job in tech?

I worked as an implementation project manager for, at the time, a small software company in Virginia. And it’s now since grown and acquired other companies, but the organization that I worked for before I went to work for that company was an association that was licensing that software. And so I sort of taught myself the back end of the software. … That tinkering, you know, [was] what sort of allowed me to make the transition into that software company and I stayed at that company for two years, transitioned, went to another company, and then another company and then finally said, I think I’m done with this transition. And so, then, my company was born.

How do you navigate your positionality as a Black woman in tech, knowing how dominated it is by men and non-Black people?

Being a Black woman is not a challenge, right? I feel like it is a superpower. It is a strength that we possess. It is the thing that makes us great and wonderful. And it is the thing that makes us the most feared. … We know, systemically and structurally, racism exists. We know sexism exists. We know hate [and] patriarchy exists. We know that there are challenges with just womanhood, right? And then you compound that with race or the construct of race, and it gets even more complicated. So to say that as a Black woman in a very male-dominated industry, that that has not been a challenge, would be a lie. It definitely has been a challenge. There are things that I have to do that men don’t have to think about. Right.

However, I do believe that, as I mentioned earlier, knowing who you are and being confident in what you know, and what your capabilities are, does make the journey less cumbersome over time. Because when you walk into a room you are walking in with knowledge and expertise, and self-assuredness that, you know, you can come this way if you want to, but you might not be excited about what you’re gonna get on the other end.

What advice do you have for other aspiring technologists?

I am a firm believer in you identify a problem, then you do everything that you can to understand the problem at its foundation and at its core, and then you figure out how you can be [the] solution to that problem, right? So at every stage throughout my educational journey, my professional journey, personal, etc., it’s just, like, the secret sauce is really knowing who I am and being very much in tune with what’s happening around me.

And then, for those areas where I feel like I have gaps, then naturally, going to education, right? I mean, that’s what I know and that’s what I was taught. I come from a family of educators and also come from a long line of HBCU graduates. So I use my curiosity to help me make decisions about what problems I see and what I want to do about being a part of a solution.

Companies: Howard University / University System of Maryland / University of Maryland Global Campus
Series: How I Got Here

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