NPR Tell Me More Program with Michel Martin has been hosting an on-going conversation about the state of African-American participation in technology, as well as science and engineering field. It began with an on air radio program on November 27, 2013: A Day In The Life: Blacks At The Cutting Edge Of Innovation (Podcast of the program at this link). Each week day in December, @TellMeMoreNPR has hosted 2-3 emerging leaders in tech & science innovation.
Last Friday, December 13, I joined @TellMeMoreNPR (NPR Tell Me More Program with Michel Martin) tweeting about my regular work day at #NPRBlacksinTech along with Jaime Broadnax (@BlackGirlNerds) and Greg Greenlee (@blkintechnology). We answered questions proposed by students from Howard University Middle School asked several great questions of panelists: NPR Blacks In Tech questions.
There were 5 key questions that students wanted to know from each panelist from the 3 week conversation about Blacks in Technology. Here are my full answers
- In middle school and high school what did you do to put yourself ahead of your other counterparts?
Truth is, I didn't stand out in junior high and high school. I attended college prep schools which were very competitive academic environments. I worked hard, but I never broke the curve in ANY of my science or math classes. I struggled SO much. You don't have to be a kid genius to be successful in STEM. We need to spread that word to youth, so that they don't count themselves out of the game early
- Did anyone doubt you?
In middle and high school - no. Not that I could tell. But when I got to college that was a different story. I experienced not-very-welcoming reactions from some classmates and a few college professors in some of my science classes about my abilities and whether I deserved to be in the classroom or not. I talked in detail about some of this 'doubt' with Story Collider not that long ago, My Story Collider Story – Working Twice as Hard.
- Do you have a portfolio in the stock market?
No, I do not. I am still learning many, many things about financial tools. Through my employment as a researcher at a state university I set money aside into a retirement account. However, I will admit that I have not been as aggressive with understanding investment tools and stock market investing as many would recommend. It's on my to-do list.
- What progress do you think African Americans have had since the Civil Rights Movement?
Our attitudes about post-high school college education has definitely increased. More and more young people reflexively announce that they will attend college after high school graduation. Although I do worry about students being ready for the rigors of college, especially in this poor economic environment. Now is not the time to play around at college if you're not certain or ready for study. As it pertains to STEM then we have done much - but keep in mind we were starting from the ground floor. Civil rights laws and legislation opened up educational and work opportunities (mostly in the government and health care) for African-Americans that had been previously denied to them. We still have ground to cover, but I'm feeling good about our participation.
- At this time who do you think is a good role model for children growing up? It's important to look up to many people. There is no single prototype of success. My heros include Dr. Mae Jemison, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, Dr. Chris Emdin, and Dr. Ayanna Nelson. But let's not forget the everyday role models in your family and community. Those people who model positive behaviors and study habits, those who encourage you to try and try again.
The conversation isn't over. On Tuesday, December 17, 2013 2:00 -2:30 pm EST, I will join Michel Martin (host of NPR Tell Me More), Dr. Walter Kimbrough (President of Dillard University), Mark Luckie (Manager of Journalism and Media at Twitter), Lauryn Hale (Facebook), and Christine Johnson (Founder of DiversiTech) for a Google + On Air Hangout. Details here.