Strategies that prepared me for being a successful Black woman in tech

I grew up in a single-family house in a largely underprivileged, rural group in southern Louisiana. That brief description alone encompasses many challenges and preconceived concepts of what my life might grow to be. I’ve by no means let that narrative outline me or what I might do.

Many individuals would say it was a less-than-ideal background, however I solely noticed and skilled unconditional love and limitless potentialities. Our house was stuffed with pleasure, spirituality, fellowship, willpower, and a robust work ethic to have a lifetime of which means and objective.

My grandmother performed a massive half in caring for us. She labored the farm, made certain we had homegrown greens to eat year-round and took care of the chickens and pigs that fed us. My mom was a math trainer. It was an unusual job for a woman in that time and place, particularly a Black woman. Trying again, although we didn’t have cash, I can’t think about a higher basis for me. Life was easy. I might deal with necessary issues like training and self-determination.


Early on, I acknowledged that being a woman meant one thing completely different than being a man. I watched and took observe as I noticed clever girls holding their tongues or noticed males dismissing their opinions for a purpose I couldn’t perceive. However I used to be blessed to develop up with robust girls main me. My grandmother would inform us, “Closed mouths don’t get fed.” Translation: you’ll by no means get what you need if you happen to don’t ask for it.

Not solely did I see my mom ask for what she needed, however I watched her exit and get it. Three nights a week, she would depart work and make the two-hour commute to and from the school the place she ultimately earned her Bachelor’s, and subsequently, Grasp’s levels. Most of these days, I’d experience alongside and sit in class along with her, listening to lectures proper beside her. Later, we’d do our homework collectively on the desk. To this present day, I prefer to joke that I’ve 4 levels—two of my very own on prime of my mom’s two.

I didn’t develop up round computer systems and even have a lot data about what they might do, however not being a pc scientist hasn’t stopped me from constructing a robust resume of spectacular accomplishments. I credit score that partly to being a quick learner and partly to my willingness to embrace challenges. I’m a lifelong learner, and I consider that is the one solution to succeed in the world.

In spite of everything, I did develop up round my grandmother’s hard-earned insights and my mom’s extraordinary willpower, which confirmed me to take advantage of each alternative I bought.

4 issues I realized particularly stand out.

Be curious

My mom’s drive to grow to be educated and my grandmother’s penchant for timeless knowledge originated from being curious people. Partly, it was a pure curiosity, however a part of it was realized. Nobody was trying for Black girls in the South at hand out data to, so conserving up to the mark meant staying inquisitive. Observe, concentrate, and ask questions. I picked up these habits early from the ladies in my life, and I can’t depend all of the methods they’ve helped me forge a successful profession.


Be persistent

“All the time observe up” is a good rule for enterprise, nevertheless it’s additionally a good rule for life. The people who find themselves diligent about it construct a status of trustworthiness. I can’t keep in mind a single factor my mom promised me that didn’t occur. A part of what I realized from my grandmother’s unending arduous work and my mom’s academic pursuits is that this: if you happen to don’t care about seeing one thing by, then don’t begin it — however if you happen to do care about it, don’t cease till it’s finished.

Be grateful

There’s not a lot to say about gratitude that hasn’t already been stated. One factor I’m grateful for is that I wasn’t simply raised to say “thanks,” however to know why it issues. Even a small gesture, like somebody opening a door for you, is a present value honoring. Numerous occasions in my life and profession, expressing gratitude or taking over a grateful perspective has made the distinction in turning one thing detrimental or insignificant into a constructive, significant expertise.


Even being curious and chronic and grateful generally isn’t sufficient. For me, there have been occasions when it felt like the one factor pushing me onwards and upwards was blind religion that nothing was unachievable. I’m advantageous with issues being inconceivable, however the phrase inconceivable simply doesn’t really feel at house in my vocabulary. I do know it’s not simply me. Lots of the most successful folks I’ve recognized (together with my mom and grandmother) continually exhibit a constructive, can-do perspective. After which they put in the work to again that perspective up with actual motion.

So, because it turned out, an upbringing rooted in values like empathy, kindness, integrity, and arduous work ended up as the proper springboard for a profession in the fast-paced tech world. I work alongside many individuals that I contemplate smarter and extra artistic than I’m, however I’ll put all of these traits plus my work ethic and willpower up towards anybody else’s. The privilege of being an government might disappear at any time, however I’ll have my accomplishments—and the qualities I credit score them with—all the time.

Sharon Harris is the CMO of Jellyfish.