Huge Career Mistakes Some Young, Smart African-Americans Make and How to Correct Them

As another graduation season comes to an end, scores of young, smart African-American graduates will become fresh recruits into the Foreign Service known as Corporate America, seeking fame, glory and the spoils that come along with it. Unfortunately, many of these recruits will not find fame nor glory, but only dissolution, disappointment and the slow, painful death of their dreams of executive titles and fancy corner offices.

As these dreams die, vibrancy is often replaced with lethargy, and optimism often becomes pessimism as the recruits take their place in the invisible brigade, becoming nameless, faceless members of the African-American professional class, whose sole purpose seems to be meat for the proverbial “corporate grinder.”

While there are real challenges that stand between African-Americans and the corner office that must be overcome, many challenges encountered today are self-manufactured and can be avoided altogether with a bit of forethought and external awareness.

Below are the five biggest mistakes young African-Americans make that often lead to the “grinder.”  Avoid these and while corporate success is never guaranteed, odds of achieving the corner office will exponentially increase.

• Mistake No. 1 – Assuming All Rules are Spoken (Believing Everything You Hear)

Mistake No. 1 made by most young, smart African-Americans is assuming just because they are told something by someone in authority, that means it’s true. Most rules in corporate life are unwritten. Why? The answer is simple and it’s the first unwritten rule of corporate life: Corporate life is a competition.

Which brings us to the second unwritten rule of corporate life: If you’re in a corporation, you’re a competitor.

Finally, the third and most important unwritten rule of corporate life: When in doubt about rule No. 2, see rule  No. 1.

So what does this have to do with a career mistake?  Young African-Americans have a tendency to take what they are told by superiors, non-African-American peers, and so-called mentors at face value. If you accept the unwritten rules of corporate life, then you also accept the fact that not everyone has your best interest at heart (because it’s a competition and if you’re there you are a competitor).

Thus as smart competitor, you should apply the simple wisdom found in a sign I once saw, “In God we trust, but all others we verify.”

• Mistake  No. 2 – Assuming Corporations are Logical, Rational Entities (Believing Work is Fair)

Mistake No. 2 made by young, smart African-Americans is assuming that organizations, with all of their policies, procedures, mission statements, organizational charts and the whatnot, are logical, rational entities that make decisions based upon observed verifiable facts.

Truth is organizations are: 1) Nothing more than a collection of people. 2) People are the furthest thing from logical and rational (don’t believe me, pay attention the next time you are in a grocery store).  3) People for the most part are governed by emotions, and emotions are typically the result of thoughts and personal experiences.

This is why two different people in a meeting can say the exact same thing, and 7 times out of 10 it will be received in completely different ways, as the recipients are usually responding from an emotional place versus anything logical, let along its older and wiser sibling known as rational.

So next time you wonder why your boss and/or peers seem to like your ideas when someone else says them, before you take it personally remember the Serenity Prayer, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

• Mistake No. 3 – Assuming All People are Created Equal (Believing You Can Do What They Do)

Mistake No.3 made by young, smart African-Americans is assuming that just because they went to the same universities, got similar internships, went through the same interview process, and received the same offers as their non-African-American peers, they can do and say the same things on the job as their non-African-American colleagues.

If we recall what we learned in Mistake No. 2, then we will remember that organizations are full of people and people are primarily an emotional bunch. So it makes perfect sense why John is seen as inquisitive when he speaks up in a meeting, while Jerome is seen as aggressive and lacking communication ability. Or Susan is simply having a bad day when she doesn’t say “Good Morning,” while Shonda is seen as an angry person with poor social skills.

So assuming you’ve accepted the unwritten rules of corporate life and you’ve memorized the Serenity Prayer, be mindful of the real and perceived differences between you and those around you, because as Alonzo (aka Denzel Washington) said in the movie Training Day,  “This s**t is chess, it ain’t checkers.”

• Mistake No. 4 – Assuming Working Hard = Doing Hard Work (Not Understanding What Matters)

Mistake No. 4 made by young, smart African-Americans is unfortunately often a result of Mistake No. 1, which is then enabled by Mistake No. 2 and ultimately compounded by Mistake No. 3, and that is believing that working hard is the same as doing hard work.

What is “hard work” you ask? Hard work is anything that solves a problem, while “working hard” is anything that executes a solution, otherwise known as the result of hard work.

OK, let’s face facts. Most smart African-Americans are told almost from birth that they “have to work at least twice as hard to be seen as just as good” as their non-African American peers. While there is much truth to this, the even bigger truth of the matter is most corporations invest millions of dollars each year in technology to reduce the amount of “working hard” done by their employees so they can focus more on “hard work.”  Unfortunately most African-American families missed the memo about the dawn of the technological age.

So next time you’re faced with a choice between making the presentation more effective (aka doing “hard work”) and making the presentation more attractive (aka “working hard”), follow the lead of Booker T. Washington and you too might have building named after you. Washington said, “Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work.”

• Mistake No. 5 – Assuming There is a Yellow Brick Road ( Not Having a Career Plan)

The last and greatest mistake made by young, smart African-Americans is believing that like school, there is a defined curriculum, course outline, degree plan, or as I like to call it a “yellow brick road” that spells out exactly what one has to do to go from “here” to the fabled corner office.

If you are one of those people (see Mistake No. 2 for definition of which people), let me be the first to tell you, no such path exists.

There are thousands of articles and books that claim to hold the formula for success in corporate America, but if you’ve been paying attention then you already know that you can’t believe everything you hear or read, as not everyone has your best interest at heart — especially an author who wants to sell books (Lesson No. 1).

As corporations are full of irrational and illogical people (Lesson No. 2), and since everyone is not the same, what worked for someone else — in this case the author– won’t necessarily work for you (Lesson No.3).  You already know anything worth having requires hard work (Lesson No. 4), so I leave you, young recruit, with one final thought from the greatest guide to corporate life ever assembled, The Art of War by Sun Tzu: “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”

Before you start the next battle in your tour of duty, take some time to really plan how you are going to win, that is, reach those career goals. And remember the words of the good Archbishop of Canterbury Geoffrey Fisher, “Good plans shape good decisions. That’s why good planning helps to make elusive dreams come true.”

 Tre Green is a 25yr veteran of the IT industry who specializes in solving “mission impossible” for Fortune 500 organizations. When not adding to his frequent flier miles and preferred guest status Tre can be often be found at home relaxing with his motely crew of pets.

‘Cosmos’ and ‘Wormhole’: Black Men Taking Over Pop Culture Science

We are reminded repeatedly that to inspire children to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics, they need to see people who look like them in those fields. Every kid needs a role model and until very recently, there weren’t many images of famous Black Americans in STEM. How many teenagers these days know who Geordi LaForge is, much less Mae Jemison? But they need those images if they’ll ever believe that they can become great scientists too.

Enter: Pop Culture.

Fox network and the Science Channel have done what no one else has: they’ve put Black men at the forefront of America’s new scientific curiosity. With the documentary series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey and Through the Wormhole,  television is doing for science what Reading Rainbow did for reading: it’s showing children (and adults) that scientific exploration is not just a white man’s game.

Who are these Black men, you ask? Well, you probably didn’t ask because they’re everywhere. But just in case you don’t own a television, a radio, aren’t on Twitter, have never heard of the Internet and don’t listen to podcasts- the host of Cosmos is satirist Jon Stewart’s favorite astrophysicist- Neil deGrasse Tyson. And the host of Wormhole? Academy-Award winning actor Morgan Freeman. Because the story of the universe should pretty much only be narrated by Morgan Freeman.

If you’ve never seen these shows (they’re on Hulu and Netflix so there’s really no excuse), Cosmos is a revival of the popular 1980s show hosted by Carl Sagan. Now hosted by Tyson, Cosmos explores the workings of the universe and the people who discovered exactly what’s going on in this world of ours. Cosmos is beautifully produced, engaging, and the fact that Tyson is so very in love with science encourages the viewer to fall in love with it too. Nominated for 12 Emmys, Cosmos’ global warming episode tied The Bachelorette in ratings. A show about science tying a reality show? Incredible.

Also Emmy nominated, Through the Wormhole covers everything from whether zombies really exist (spoiler alert: yes), to whether or not time travel is possible (non-spoiler alert: I really, really, really hope so). Freeman is completely engaging in this show, not just because of who he is – Morgan Freeman –  but because of what he’s not, a scientist.

Like our children, he’s just a guy who thinks the world is awesome and wants to find out more about it. Now in its fifth season, Through the Wormhole answers the questions we’ve always wondered about and confirms some things we were pretty sure about – see zombie comment above.

It’s an extraordinary thing to have two Black men hosting the two most popular science TV shows of our time, and even more extraordinary that one is a scientist, and the other is one of the most famous actors of the century. Such different men prove that no matter what our children become, or where they come from, nothing is more important than an education.

As Tyson said in Mother Jones earlier this year, “Science is trending in our culture, and if science is trending, that can only be good for the health, the wealth, and the security of our species, of our civilization.” And if a more diverse cast of characters are leading the trend? That can only be good for the hearts and minds of our children.

In hip-hop artist Talib Kweli’s best song (don’t argue, that’s scientific), he says:

“The TV got us reaching for stars

Not the ones between Venus and Mars

The ones that be reading for parts.”

After all of these years, “the TV” is showing us a wide universe of possibility. Are your children watching?

Kat Calvin is a social entrepreneur, writer and advocate for the empowerment of women, entrepreneurs and the black community. She is the founder of Michelle in Training, a mentoring and educational organization. You can follow her at @KatCalvinDC.

13 Top STEM Fields Every Black Student Should Consider And Why

Science and technology hold the key to development and poverty reduction within Black communities worldwide. The U.S. workforce could employ as many as 140,000 additional African-American and Latino college graduates in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields annually, if the gap in college completion in these fields by Blacks and Latinos closed to roughly match that of the white and Asian-American graduation rates, according to a new report released by the Washington-based Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies think tank.

Black parents who work tirelessly to expose and encourage their offspring into STEM fields increase the likelihood that those children will escape generational suffering caused by joblessness and poverty.

“STEM education gives people the wherewithal for employment in jobs that pay well,” concludes the report. In that regard, here are 13 of the top STEM fields that Black students should consider.

Drilling Engineer/Petroleum Engineer

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Median Annual Salary: $130,280

Projected Job Growth by 2022: 26%

STEM discipline: Engineering

Drilling engineers design and implement procedures to drill oil wells as safely and economically as possible. They are often educated  as petroleum engineers, although they may come from other technical disciplines (e.g., mechanical engineering or geology) and subsequently trained by an oil and gas company.

Employment of petroleum engineers is projected to grow 26 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. Oil prices will be a major determinant of employment growth, as higher prices lead to increasing complexity of oil companies’ operations, which requires more engineers for each drilling operation.


U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Median Annual Salary: $101,360

Projected Job Growth by 2022: 23%

STEM discipline: Math

Math is experiencing something of a renaissance period, sparking careers that are diverse and rewarding. Analytics is a driving force, with mathematical analyses of trends now used to gauge many activities, ranging from Internet-user tendencies to airport traffic control.

Mathematicians rank among the more well-compensated in the’s 2014 Jobs Rated report. The field also has a positive outlook for continued future growth.


U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Median Annual Salary: $93,680

Projected Job Growth by 2022: 26%

STEM discipline: Math

A job-seeker skilled in mathematics and statistical analysis can find a rewarding opportunity as an actuary. Actuaries use mathematics, statistics, and financial theory to assess the risk that an event will occur, and they help businesses and clients develop policies that minimize the cost of that risk. Their work is essential to the insurance industry. The career is challenging, and becoming an actuary requires passing a series of exams.

The expansion of health care coverage to more Americans leads the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to project a very favorable hiring market for actuaries in the years to come.

Software Engineer

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Median Annual Salary: $93,350

Projected Job Growth by 2022: 22%

STEM discipline: Computer Science, Engineering

Computer technology is always changing and becoming more sophisticated, and software engineers are the creative minds behind programs that drive the technology. Some software engineers develop the applications that allow people to perform specific tasks on a computer or mobile device. The latest wave in the field is cloud computing, and companies need software engineers able to meet this and other adaptations in the most fundamental facet of 21st century business.

Computer Systems Analyst/Technology Analyst

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Median Annual Salary: $79,680

Projected Job Growth by 2022: 25%

STEM discipline: Computer Science, Engineering

A computer systems analyst examines an organization’s current computer systems and procedures and designs information systems solutions to help the company operate more efficiently and effectively.

The analyst is a critical component of business practice, and growth in cloud computing, cyber-security, mobile networks, and conversion of hard copy files into digital formats will increase the importance of this specialty in the future.


U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Median Annual Salary: $75,560

Projected Job Growth by 2022: 27%

STEM discipline: Math

Statisticians use statistical methods to collect and analyze data to help solve real-world problems in business, engineering, the sciences, or other fields. Statistical analysis is of growing importance to a wide spectrum of industries, thus professional statisticians are in high demand.

Mining Engineer/Geological Engineers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Median Annual Salary: $84,320

Projected Job Growth by 2022: 12%

STEM discipline: Engineering

Mining and geological engineers design mines for the safe and efficient removal of minerals, such as coal and metals for manufacturing and utilities. Geological engineers use their knowledge of  the earth’s physical structure to search for mineral deposits and evaluate possible sites.

Employment of mining and geological engineers is projected to grow 12 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all American occupations.

Why African-Americans Are Choosing Entrepreneurship Over Corporate America

African-Americans have been working hard for many years to shape the landscape of our country, yet we are still far from reaching full representation in many of the nation’s leading industries. Several years removed from the civil rights movement, our level of representation in many fields, including consulting, falls short.

Although there is a challenge for equal representation, especially among the leadership ranks, there are many firms that are taking the diversity initiative very seriously. Their efforts can lead to a turnaround for underrepresented minorities, especially African-Americans. But to improve recruitment numbers and more importantly, retention numbers, first we need to understand the crux of the matter to adequately address it.

The African-American community is rooted in family and often the sacrifices necessary to excel and achieve are not readily received and supported by the family. This can be a difficult challenge to overcome by many of those in pursuit of leadership positions within their industries.

In addition,to excel in consulting, as with other industries, it is all about networking and mentorship. African-Americans do not have the ready-made network and inroads that surround the majority population. This puts the starting point for African-Americans at a deficit when it comes to breaking through in these fields, which makes it much more challenging to succeed.

So, are African Americans doomed to lack of success?

Far from it. African-American entrepreneurship has long had a profound effect on our nation’s culture. Consider the number of Black Americans who have traded the pursuit of the executive suite for entrepreneurship, and it will give you a sense of the disdain that may exist over the lack of representation in these ranks.

It sends a clear message that more African-Americans are saying, ” I don’t want to wait years for a promotion or someone else to validate my career. Let me create my own success and build my enterprise and do things my way.”

 Understanding the Absence of African Americans in Consulting. A brief overview by Daryl Watkins, a 19 year professional with a background in consulting and corporate ranks.

The Best Apps You Need to Know Designed By Black Developers

We all love the apps on our phone or mobile tablet and there are tons of them that make our lives simpler. What’s even better is that many apps were created by Black developers.

Take a look at 10 great apps that were created by us and for us.

HBCU Buddy

Founders: Jonecia Keels and Jazmine Miller

Purpose: Provides prospective and current students with information about historically Black colleges and universities on aspects of student life, admissions, alumni, standardized test scores and faculty research. The app also has virtual campus tours and integrates social networking with Twitter and Facebook.

Why You Need It: Founders Keels and Miller are Spelman College alum and used their love of technology and HBCU culture to create HBCU Buddy, which won the 2010 AT&T Mobile Campus Challenge with a $10, 000 prize.

In addition to the feel-good story, this app is perfect for any young person considering attending an HBCU, or for alumni who want to keep up with their alma mater. 


Founder: Chinedu Echeruo

Purpose: HopStop gives those who live in metropolitan areas simple and easy directions on how to navigate by public transit, walking, taking a cab or biking.

Why You Need It: Developed by a Nigerian who’s a former Wall Street analyst, Time magazine included the app on its list of 50 Best iPhone Apps of 2011. If you live in a major city or plan to visit one and will be using public transportation, HopStop is perfect to avoid getting lost.

Around the Way

Founder: Clearly Innovative

Purpose: Around the Way is an app that is meant to support Black-owned businesses. The app can locate 17,000 black-owned businesses in 50 states and will help users find the nearest in their area. The app can find businesses such as ATMs and banks, auto shops, bakery and cafés, beauty parlors and barbershops, clubs and lounges, laundry-dry cleaners, lodgings, restaurants and shopping.

Why You Need It:  Lots of people express the desire to support either small businesses or Black-owned businesses. Now with Around the Way, you can do both. Created by Clearly Innovative, a Black-owned mobile app firm based in Washington, D.C., the goal is to empower Black businesses by giving potential customers a point of purchase.

Bid Whist 

Founder: Jerod Motley

Purpose: Bid Whist is a popular card game that you can now play on your mobile device.

Why You Need It: If you like card games, this app’s for you. Now you can enjoy the game you’ve most likely played plenty of times in an app created by a Black developer.


Founder: Techturized Inc. , co-founders Candace Mitchell, Jessica Watson, Chanel Martin, Joy Boulamwini

Purpose: Myavana is a hair app for African-American women that encourages users to form communities based on hair textures and desired hairstyles. Women can upload hairstyles, share beauty tips about styling products and techniques, and salons. Also, users can follow desired hairstyles by “Girlfriending” other users who post images with that style. Each time a Girlfriend request is accepted, the community can follow that user’s hair journey and learn her hair secrets.

Why You Need It: Founded by Georgia Tech graduates who are all Black women and knowledgeable about the challenges faced when changing hairstyles. This app provides women with a sense of community and can offer tips on haircare.

Black History Milestones

Founder: Blue Sodium Corp. , (co-founders Nnanna Obuba and  Chidi Oparah).

Purpose: Black History Milestones is an app that presents a collection of important milestones in African-American history that aim to educate and inspire you.

Why You Need It: If you enjoy history, specifically Black history, you’ll like that this app will serve as a daily reminder of the rich history of African-Americans.

Iman Cosmetics 

Founder: Iman

Purpose: Renowned supermodel Iman is the founder and CEO of Iman Cosmetics, which are designed for African-American, Latina and Asian women. The Iman cosmetics app provides a “one-stop shop” for all your beauty needs using patented color-matching technology.

Why You Need It: This is perfect for a woman who loves makeup or has a hard time finding her shade. It’s easy to just upload your picture to the app and get customized Iman product recommendations that match your complexion and style.

Bill Organizer- Manage & Track Your Bills

Founder: Blue Sodium Corp. (co-founders Nnanna Obuba and Chidi Oparah)

Purpose: This app can organize, track and manage your bills, as well as notify you when bills are due. It can sync among devices and its other features include reminders when bills are due, monthly money reports, and a full history of all bills ever created.

Why You Need It: You can never go wrong with an app that helps you keep the bills paid, and it is great for people who like to actually see where their money is going.

A Song for Miles

Founder: Diverse Mobile, LLC

Purpose: Children learn the meaning of determination, kindness and love through soul music from the likes of singing sensations Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Earth, Wind & Fire. It nurtures a child’s inquisitive nature and love for music and sounds, while teaching the importance of good character.

Why You Need It: This is first storybook application that uses Black soul music artists who influenced the songs we listen to today. Developed by a Black-owned development company in Atlanta, A Song for Miles includes features such as digital links that pop off the screen, and interactive links to iTunes to purchase featured music. This is an ideal digital book for parents to read to children, especially if they enjoy music.

Ashti Meets Birdman Al

Founder: Diverse Mobile, LLC

Purpose: This storybook featuring music by jazz singer Al Jarreau is about a little girl named Ashti, who, while at the park with her mother, meets Birdman Al, an elderly man who is concerned about saving the jazz program at his former elementary school. His dilemma leads Ashti to her big idea. Children learn traits such as compassion, respect and responsibility while being exposed to jazz artists such as Billie Holliday, Thelonius Monk, Dizzy Gillespie and Cab Calloway.

Why You Need It: Another digital storybook that exposes children to music while teaching them how to be good people will keep the little one in your life entertained not only through reading but also with classic music.

9 Blerd Celebrities Who Are Taking Over Pop Culture

blerd tyson Neil deGrasse Tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson is an astrophysicist, author and advocate of science literacy. He is currently the Frederick P. Rose director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space, and a research associate in the Department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

From 2006 to 2011, Tyson hosted the educational science television show NOVA ScienceNow on PBS, and he has been a frequent guest on other TV shows, including The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and Real Time with Bill Maher. Since 2009, he has hosted the weekly radio show StarTalk.

In 2014, Tyson began hosting a TV science documentary series, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, an update of late astrophysicist Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, a 1980s television series.

Tyson has also appeared on television episodes of sitcom The Big Bang Theory and sci-fi series  Stargate Atlantis.

blerd rhimes

Shonda Rhimes

Shonda Rhimes is a screenwriter, director, and producer, who is best known as creator, head writer, and executive producer of the medical drama television series Grey’s Anatomy, its spin-off Private Practice, and the political thriller series, Scandal.

In May 2007, the popular Hollywood writer was named one of Time magazine’s 100 people who help shape the world.  Rhimes has a new legal series on ABC, How to Get Away with Murder, which will air in the 2014-15 season.

Rhimes, who describes her self as a “nerd” says one of her favorite activities is to watch the Scripps National Spelling Bee and to “nerd out” while blogging about the competition.

“I’ve been watching the bee forever. Way back, when it was first on ESPN is when I first started watching. I’ve been watching forever. I’m a nerd that way, but I was very into it and a bee nerd in school,” she said.

Rhimes attended Dartmouth College, where she earned a bachelor’s degree, and the University of Southern California where she received a Master of Fine Arts from the School of Cinema-Television.

blerd glover

Donald Glover

Donald Glover is an actor, comedian, rapper, writer and proud Black nerd, who first became popular for his work with the Internet comedy sketch group, Derrick Comedy.

From 2006 to 2009, he was a writer for the NBC comedy series 30 Rock. He was also cast in the role of Troy Barnes in the television series Community, and in 2010, he starred in a stand-up special on Comedy Central network.

Glover released his debut album as a hip-hop artist the next year,  followed by a second release in 2013. The young star graduated from New York University with a degree in dramatic writing.

Melissa Harris-Perry

Melissa Harris-Perry is a professor at Tulane University, television host and political commentator with a focus on African-American politics. Harris-Perry hosts a weekend news and opinion television show on MSNBC.

Before working for MSNBC,  she taught at Princeton University and the University of Chicago. Harris-Perry is also a regular columnist for the magazine The Nation, the author of Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America, and founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Project on Gender, Race, and Politics in the South.

Harris-Perry attended Wake Forest University where she received a bachelor’s degree in English, and Duke University where she earned a doctorate in political science.

Blerds and Technology’s 2 Percent Diversity Problem

Three giants in the technology sector recently released their diversity reports. Google, Yahoo, and Facebook proved what we have long suspected: Diversity in technology is almost non-existent.

As a Black person, I was very interested in the representation of Blacks at these companies. While the number was the lowest of the four non-white ethnicties (Asian, Hispanic, Black, and multiracial), I was surprised to find that the number was the same at all four companies: 2 percent.

No other ethnic group had such uniformly low level of representation. My surprise increased when I saw the wide variation in the most represented groups, whites and Asians. There was an 11 point difference between the highest representation of whites (61 percent at Google) and the lowest (50 percent at Yahoo).

There was a nine point difference between the highest representation of Asians (39 percent at Yahoo) and the lowest (30 percent at Google). How can there be such a wide point-spread among whites and Asians, but the exact same percentage for Blacks? Can it be an accident that Blacks are at 2 percent across all four companies? Is it by chance that Blacks are the least represented minority group?

Contrast the extremely low representation of Blacks in technology with areas where Blacks are over-represented. I can think of two: sports and the prison system. We clearly see an excess of Black athletes and Black prisoners. I think this is because Blacks are valued for our athletic skills, but we also have to cope with a criminal justice system that unequally targets and imprisons us.

Is it possible that we can increase the representation of Blacks in technology by combining the forces of skill appreciation (used in sports) and systematic recruitment (used in the criminal justice system)? I think that not only is this possible, but it’s the only way to solve the 2 percent diversity problem in technology.

Improving the appreciation of the technology skills of Blacks and setting up a system for aggressively recruiting them into tech careers will require a change in how Blacks are viewed by employers. This can be done by implementing three kinds of visibility improvements: media, entrepreneurship, mentorship. Blerds are instrumental to making these improvements.

Visibility in Media

The media is a powerful force for changing perceptions. That’s why media companies are multibillion dollar operations. If we can get more Blerds involved in both traditional and new media, then we can help connect Blacks to the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. That’s why having astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson as host of  the television series Cosmos was such an important accomplishment. We need more Blerds hosting science and technology shows as well as working behind the camera to write and produce these types of series.

Visibility in Entrepreneurship

The technology world is filled with the romance of the startup. We thrive on replicating the success of  Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and  Mark Zuckerberg. Although most startups fail, we worship those who fight for and achieve multiple rounds of venture capital funding. Of course, the vast majority of those seeking funding and providing funding are white males.

If we can get more people of color — like Tristan Walker, the founder of Bevel — positioned as startup founders and providers of capital, then we can establish Blacks with a seat at the table. I’m convinced that there are Blerds across the country who can make the leap into entrepreneurship. We just need to encourage them to do so.

Visibility in Mentorship

Most successful people can point to someone who invested in their success. These mentors took time to share their expertise and experiences to provide that boost that everyone needs to make progress. Most Blerds are introverts, but that introversion needs to be removed as an impediment to investing in other people (especially other Blerds).

I try to dedicate a few hours a week to mentoring of people of color in technology. I often do this through informal calls, emails, and lunches. Blerds can’t wait for others to ask us for mentorship. We need to proactively identify people we can help and start providing them the help that they need.

Improving the 2 percent representation of Blacks in technology will take an investment of time and resources. However, Blerds can work in the realms of media, entrepreneurship, and mentorship to improve the appreciation of the technology skills of Blacks and set up a system for getting ourselves recruited into tech companies. By doing this, we will steadily see results. After all, it has worked well in sports and our criminal justice system, and we can reposition that effectiveness for positive change.

Anjuan Simmons has worked in the technology industry for over two decades. He is also the author of “Minority Tech: Journaling Through Blackness and Technology” ( You can find out more about him at

7 Things to Do Before Becoming An Entrepreneur

So, you want to be an entrepreneur? Well, like most things in life, it’s not for everybody. There’s a quote that says, “Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life the way most people won’t, so you can spend the rest of your life living the way most people can’t,” and for the most part that’s true.

Since entrepreneurship is not for the weak or the weary,  we give you seven things to consider before you decide to make the plunge.

Be Passionate About Your Product

For some, it may be easy to work a 9 to 5 job that you aren’t passionate about, but if you’re an entrepreneur launching a product or service, how do you expect consumers or investors to be excited about your product if you aren’t?

As your own boss, you become the chief salesperson and your enthusiasm has to make others believe in you. Another reason you must believe in your product or service is because entrepreneurship has many peaks and valleys and you’re going to need determination to get you through unpredictable times.

Cleanse Your Social Media Profiles

Prospective employees are often told to clean up their social media profiles, but entrepreneurs must do the same especially when they are taking meetings with potential investors.

Sometimes it’s not enough to dress the part, you also have to take into account that people will check your Linked In profile, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. You have to be mindful of the photos you post since they could be misinterpreted.

Have a 12-Month Plan

If you’re not organized or don’t like to plan, then entrepreneurship may not be for you.

Be prepared to write your business plan more than once and it will need to be looked over by professionals and trusted colleagues. Your 12-month plan should include your personal and business budget.

In the calendar section of your business plan, you need to include vacation, medical appointments and important events.

Know Your Finances

Finances are a large part of being an entrepreneur and you’ll need to take care of any outstanding debt before pursuing your goals.

Downsizing and creating a monthly budget are effective ways to pay off debt. As an entrepreneur you may not get your first paycheck for months, so you will need to have 12 months of savings to pay your bills.

Know That You Can’t Stop At Just One Product

An entrepreneur is essentially an innovator, and as an innovator, you have to keep, well, innovating.

This basically means that after you launch a product or service, you have to keep up the momentum and stay ahead of the innovation curve. To consistently develop products means that you’ll have to spend money. Companies rarely, if ever, survive with just one product.

Be Good at Making Decisions

If you’re indecisive or can’t make decisions without the input of others, you might want to rethink becoming an entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurs are responsible for the successes and failures of their businesses. They have to make decisions about working from home or leasing office space, hiring employees, targeting high-end clients or selling to the masses, advertising, borrowing money, using savings and more.

The decisions become more complex after employees are hired and the company starts succeeding.

Maintain Balance 

Entrepreneurs don’t take days off and working nonstop often means neglecting your life outside of work, which can cause burnout and a subsequent decline in business.

While maintaining a personal life with family, friends and hobbies, you must also know how to limit distractions from entrepreneurial pursuits.

Balance is all about maintaining good health and mental welfare, while still working toward your goals.