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Transcript of My #NPRBlacksinTech Twitter Interview

posted Jan 14, 2014, 4:23 PM by Anjuan Simmons   [ updated Jan 14, 2014, 5:03 PM ]

Courtesy: NPR

I was honored to be one of a select group of Black technologists that NPR's Tell Me More show asked to tweet during the month of December in a series called "A Day in the Life". Along with Sian Morson (@xianamoy), I tweeted (@anjuan) my daily activties ranging from picking up cupcakes for my daughter's birthday celebration at her kindergarten class to running the various scrum meetings I do every day.

Part of the series included answering questions from Howard University Middle School students, and this was the part of the series that most excited me! I looked forward to sharing advice with the next generation of technologists of color. Therefore, I wanted to share my transcript of the interview portion of this series. For NPR's Storify of our exchanges, click here.

The original Twitter chat had alphanumeric designations for the questions such as Q1, Q2, etc., but I removed them so that it reads more like an interview. I also removed the hashtag (#NPRBlacksinTech) except where it was needed to convey the meaning of the tweet. Finally, I rearranged the order of a few tweets to logically group them. Besides those edits, I have left the questions and responses as they were posted.

@TellMeMoreNPR, host: Good morning[.] Let’s begin with reflections on the legacy of #NelsonMandelafrom Texas @anjuan Atlanta @xianamoy take it away

@xianamoy: I drove past the MLK Center here in Atlanta. We are all reminded that we stand on the shoulders of giants.

@anjuan: Mandela taught me that, even in hopeless situations, it is possible to believe in Hope and triumph.Mandela was a warrior who learned that the greatest weapon in any arsenal is peace. Mandela also taught me that if I am not prepared to die for a cause, then that proves that I do not truly believe in it. And finally, given the racial divide over Mandela, both in life and in death, his push for peace must live on in us.

@TellMeMoreNPR: What is #Mandela's legacy in the field of science and technology?

@anjuan: Mandela was well known as a champion of education. That included an education in STEM. Blacks were prevented from pursuing STEM careers, and Mandela knew those were the keys to the future. Mandela championed the creation [of] science and engineering universities. He pushed for STEM careers for young Africans.

@xianamoy: Its about leadership. And thats about life. Technology is more personal to me. Leadership transcends individual fields.

@TellMeMoreNPR: In Middle School and High School what did you do to put yourself ahead of others?

@anjuan: I'd like to challenge the premise of the question. It's not useful to think of success as getting ahead of others. Don't measure yourself against other people. That places unnecessary value on the achievements of other people. Your greatest competitor should always be . . . you. No one should push you or inspire you more than yourself.

@xianamoy: In HS, I spent a significant amount of my time thinking about how life after high school would be.#Forwardthinking.

@anjuan: Don't focus on putting yourself ahead of others. Focus on upgrading yourself: your skills, experiences, & friendships. Upgrade your skills by always learning new things. Develop an insatiable curiosity about the world and your role in it. Seek out unique experiences. Travel. Take risks. Do what others avoid because that's where value can be found. Finally, upgrade your associations. If you're the smartest person in your circle of friends . . .you need new friends.

@xianamoy: Agree with this. But the educational system is set up this way. I believe in collaborative learning

@anjuan: True, but I don't that think collaboration necessarily equals competition.

@xianamoy: [I] Agree.

@NPRTellMeMore: How did you get started in tech?

@xianamoy: I went to film school but the lure of tech was too great. When I connected to the Internet it changed everything 4 me.

@anjuan: I got started in tech in the fifth grade when I went to a flea market and purchased a used Commodore 64. I took it home and hooked it up to a black and white TV in my bedroom. Yes, a black and white (no color) TV. :-) Most of my friends had an Atari, but I wanted something that could do more than play games. I wanted to learn BASIC.

@xianamoy: I love it! We have the #Commodore64 in common!

@anjuan: Great minds! :-)

@xianamoy: I am used to blank stares when I say Commodore...LOL! Good to have some company here.

@anjuan: Indeed! I thought I was the business when my parents [later] brought home a Commodore 128!

@anjuan: In high school, a teacher named Mr. Reed launched a program to get people of color into engineering. I took part in it. I had already shown math & science aptitude, but taking part in that program reaffirmed my desire to be an engineer. I also have to mention the importance of diversity in sci-fi. The character of Geordie LeForge was key to me. As a black teenager, seeing a black man (@levarburton) as the Chief Engineer of the USS Enterprise was mind blowing. So, with computing, mentorship, and Star Trek in mind, I enrolled in the electrical engineering program at@UTAustin. 4 years later I graduated with a bachelor of science in electrical engineering and then things REALLY got interesting.

@xianamoy: we have so much in common! How serendipitous that we get to share our stories on the same day!

@anjuan: Yep, one thing I love about social media is finding people I have so much in common with! Serendipity, indeed!

@NPRTellMeMoreNPR: love it connecting Houston & Atlanta tech via #NPRBlacksinTech. What tech tools do you use for developing your projects?

@anjuan: I use a multitude of tools for developing my projects. Since no one tool can do everything, it's key to have many. For waterfall project mgmt, I still bring out Microsoft Project. However, I've recently started using@Smartsheet. For agile projects, I love @Trello. It's a lean and easy to use tool that is great for collobaration.

@xianamoy: I start all my mobile wires the old fashioned way. Pencil and paper. Then onto tools like Balsamiq or Omnigraffle. At @kollectivemobil ,my #mobile agency, we develop mostly natively for #Android and #iOS.

@anjuan: And don't sleep on Microsoft Excel. I've done some amazing project planning and execution with Excel. For low cost, nothing beats Google Docs spreadsheets. I also do very small project planning with Google Keep. But, don't delay a project looking for the right tool. Choose one and get started! The best tool is progress.

@TellMeMoreNPR: There are so many tech-oriented jobs out there, your advice for those in mid-career who want to transition to tech?

@anjuan: If you have passion for tech, then it will be easier. If not - then reconsider moving into tech. Build up an area of expertise. Whether it's databases, programming, or front end design, you need a calling card. Also, find and develop mentors. You'll need advocates to help you get into tech and succeed. I answered a similar question on my @MinorityTech site:

@xianamoy: I think that becoming a domain expert is critical. Find out as much about your desired field as possible. Finding a mentor is a good idea, too. I can't stress that enough. I'm an autodidact so I've taught myself a lot. If your are so inclined, there are lots of resources. Esp in technology.

@TellMeMoreNPR: Why Isn't Open Source A Gateway For Coders Of Color?

@anjuan: I think open source isn't a gateway for coders of color because of the lag factor. Although open source software has been around for a while, it is still a relatively new phenomena in tech. For a variety of reasons (social, economic, education, etc.) people of color are often slow to adopt new tech trends.

@xianamoy: Some of the coders of color that I speak with don't know about many of the open source projects. Others don't have time.

@anjuan: This is especially true for people of color who want to be developers or form tech startups. Unknown=Unreliable. But, this absolutely has to change. Open source software is an extremely powerful force for leveling the playing field. Young coders of color, you need to be drinking the open source kool aid. Powerful tools like Linux/WildFly/JQuery exist. Coders of color need to master open source languages, platforms, and frameworks. We also need to submit to @Github. Since people of color often lack big name experience, having a body of work on @GitHub shows skill and self-motivation.

@xianamoy: At @kollectivemobil we always ask potential devs if they have work on Git or have any open source projects.

@TellMeMoreNPR: Michel Martin here, love that imagery - Kool Aid is our drank.

@anjuan: Hi, Michel! Indeed it is!

@TellMeMoreNPR: We are planning a radio program around #CivicTech. What should we know? How are you using it in your community?

@xianamoy: #Civictech is a great way to get gov't, tech and citizens on the same page for the common good. I also recently read Citizenville by @GavinNewsom abt how tech can enable gov't to solve problems.

@anjuan: I'm excited about #CivicTech! I think it is especially relevant to communities of color. One example is@iGotemApp which provides its users with the ability to use their phones to report crimes. #CivicTechsolutions like @iGotemApp empower people. And communities of color all too often lack power.

@anjuan: Doughboy said it best: "Either they don't know, don't show, or don't care about what's going on in the hood". With #CivicTech like @iGotemApp, they have to care because we can show them and remove the excuse of "I didn't know". So, I'm bullish on #CivicTech. I think it's empowering, especially for communities of color.

@TellMeMoreNPR: Do we need a #Mandela for the tech have nots? Or is there one already? Or more?

@anjuan: We do need a #Mandela for the tech have nots. There is not one now. I think you get a #Mandelaonce a lifetime. Maybe. But, the beauty of #Mandela is his heroic humanity. I hope everyone can integrate a little bit of him in all of us. #Mandela, #Martin, #Gandhi. They were human. They just didn't let humanity get in their way. We can all do the same. But, we have to get over ourselves and give back to the people from whom we came. It's not enough to get a tech job, a house in the burbs, and a BMW. We need to lift the have-nots into our havingness.

@xianamoy: We definitely need a #Mandela for tech! I find that tech has created a kind of classism. We need to fix that, STAT. But, I reject the notion that this is ONE person's job. We all have to be the #Mandela of tech in our own way. A few of my #Mandela s of tech: @tiffani @LisaNicoleBell @YolandaMDavis @corvida@lynneluvah They can be women, too! :) I forgot @fakerapper! Another #Mandela of tech who is doing amazing things in the LGBT community!

@TellMeMoreNPR: How can we in the media reach out to young people of color via mobile platforms to share news and information?

@anjuan: I think that this Twitter series is a great start to reaching young people of color via mobile platforms like Twitter. According to Pew, young people of color use Twitter in disproportionately high numbers: Other studies have shown similar high rates of mobile device usage by people of color. So, find young people of color who are already influencers/entrepreneurs on mobile platforms and feature them. Put them on the radio, have Twitter chats with them, feature them on traditional media web sites and social media.Create a "25 under 25" list of people of color who are doing notable things in tech and entrepreneurship. By cultivating relationships with these influencers, you build a group that will share news and information. And take virtual relationships into physical space. Meet with young tech influencers of color in person.

@xianamoy: #Mobile is a gr8 way to make initial contact but it needs to be complimented with more content on other platforms.

@TellMeMoreNPR: Day 5 of #NPRBlacksinTech stories coming to an end @anjuan @xianamoy so grateful for spending your work day with us More stories on Monday!

@anjuan: Thank you! This was a great experience and a ton of fun! /cc @xianamoy