Originally published -- The Franklin Voice - Technology Tutor - February 1997
Added to the blog -- June 9, 2007
Well its February, Black History month. This is the month in which millions of Americans celebrate the contributions of African Americans to our society. African Americans have made contributions in all areas, Science and Technology, Leadership, Business Development, Education, Literature, the Arts and Sports. Today, millions of African American men and women are continuing the legacy of outstanding achievement and significant contributions to their fields of expertise.
This month I would like to encourage our young people to prepare themselves to continue the legacy of Black achievement into the 21st century. Despite the high profile incidents of racism in the business world, and the downsizing of corporate America, new opportunities for success continue to be created each day. This is particularly true in the area of technology.
Today, computers and information technology are changing the way many industries do business. Because of this, technology, particularly computer technology, is touching every industry that exists. This has created a wide variety of interesting jobs and business opportunities for those with technical skills. The tremendous growth in this area has created a high demand for qualified resources. Companies are moving aggressively to attract qualified people. The likelihood of discrimination is being reduced because losing a good candidate means losing profits.
African Americans are no strangers to science and technology. Who can forget George Washington Carver, Dr. Charles Drew or Elijah McCoy. It has been my experience as an African American in technology that highly qualified individuals, particularly those in high growth fields, are appropriately rewarded most of the time. Although everything may not be perfect, the good news is, if you end up in a bad situation, you will not have a problem finding a more suitable one.
If you are interested in science, engineering, or any other field for that matter, talk to someone who works in that field. Ask your parents if they know a relative who works in the field that you are interested in. Your teachers may know someone; your pastor may know someone. Some of your close friends may have relatives that can help you. Most people are only to happy to tell you what they do at work. Be sure to get a perspective from a number of people from different backgrounds. Find out what the educational requirements are for the field that you are interested in and find out what the employment outlook is like.
With the foundation of a proper education in the field of your choosing, you can begin to build your career and your reputation. By consistently delivering high quality results and networking with others in your field you will develop your career and gain influence. Influence will put you in a position help others who are trying to enter your field.
Finally, as you mature in your career, you may be in a position of leadership. Leadership does not always mean that you will be the CEO or even manage people directly. Leadership can mean that you are a highly sought after, (and compensated) expert in your field. It may mean that you are the founder of a successful start up company introducing a new product or service and opportunities for others.
We have come a long way and made many strides towards equality, but we still have a long way to go. There are no simple answers, but there is work to be done in many areas. One key piece to bringing up the collective standard of living among African Americans is a presence in positions of leadership in business. When a growth industry exists, opportunity exists. I encourage those who are interested in technology to seize the opportunity. You can excel and be one who continues the legacy.