Greenlee: My name is Greg Greenlee and I am a Systems Engineer with over 13 years of Technology experience. I born and raised and still reside in Cincinnati, Ohio. I have 3 children (1 girl 2 boys) and a wife of 10 years. I am a huge Linux enthusiasts and an avid comic book collector. I love sports, hip hop, tech (of course), learning and teaching others. I've obtained several industry recognized certifications as well as my degree in Computer Network Engineering from Cincinnati State college
BIT was founded out of me wanting to help solve the problem of representation of PoC in tech and our lack of community in this industry. I have always attended a lot of tech conferences, meetups, events and I've always noticed a lack of representation at these events, either as attendees or as speakers. What I also noticed was how close knit that section of the tech community was. For example, the infosec people were very close, the FOSS/Linux people were very close, developers were the same way. They had an enthusiasm and passion for tech and they loved being around others who shared those same qualities.
I wanted to do the same for people of color in the tech community. I wanted a place where people could come and talk tech, seek career advice, engage with one another, share experiences and knowledge, and display that level of passion and enthusiasm for technology that I had seen other groups exhibit.
Q: What is Blacks in Technology and why was it created?
Greenlee: Blacks In Technology is a tech focused community and media organization created to do three things, increase the visibility of people of color in tech, positively change the perception of people of color in tech and increase the engagement and participation of people of color in tech. We do that by highlighting the achievements of people in our community via our blog, our podcasts and our newsletters, organizing community meetups, supporting causes that are akin to our own, as well as supporting individuals in their careers by partnering with organizations that can help take our members to that next level in tech.
Q: In your opinion, what are the top 3 reasons for the low participation of African-Americans in STEM?
Greenlee: I believe the top reasons are embedded in the 3 main pillars of what we are trying to do (Increase visibility, positively change the perceptions, and increase the participation and engagement of people of color in tech..
- Visibility - The main issue with visibility is our lack of it. I have seen quite a few efforts to change this but what it boils down to is if people aren't seeing themselves represented in this industry it's hard to envision themselves becoming a part of this industry.
- Positively change the perception of Poc in Tech - I always like to approach this from both sides of the coin. What I mean is not only changing the way our community views PoC in tech but also people outside our community. We have to protect our "brand", as well as show people we are not a monolith. What I mean by brand is Black techs, engineers, scientists etc. People within our community have a tendency to think of these as "lame" or "square" or "hard to obtain". Our brand is much more than that. We are presidents, pilots, rappers, dancers, artists, athletes. So we have to show that. We have to show that being an engineer doesn't mean giving up everything else you are as a person. It just means augmenting who you are.
From the outside, changing the perception means changing what people think about when they think what an engineer looks like. Seeing us as qualified, competent and equally skilled engineers. I always tell people that my ultimate goal is to not exist as an organization. If we all do our job, we can get to a point to where if I put a picture up of a woman of color, a white man, a white woman and a black man, you wouldn't have this preconceived notion of who the engineer is.
Increasing participation - This ties in well with everything else. Our early lack of exposure, our lack of mentors who look like us, our lack of speakers, our lack of engagement within our own communities are other reasons why we have low participation. This is why BIT looks to help with increasing participation through community. Imagine no longer feeling like the odd person in the room or a student walking into a CS class in college and seeing other black faces and feeling like that's where they should be. Not feeling intimidated. I had a friend once tell me, "it's not the tech stuff that's the problem, I can go toe for toe with anyone, it's other things like sharing common experiences, music tastes, books, etc., that are key when it comes to attending, participating and bonding with people at events.
Q: How can we increase the number of African-Americans in STEM?
Greenlee: There are a number of ways to assist with increasing this number. Early exposure is one way. Expose kids to building and creating technology early on in their lives, and provide continuous guidance throughout their journey. This means providing mentoring, support groups and communities like BIT, Also, we have to begin showing them how tech can help them to solve problems within their own communities.
Another way, which a lot of organizations seem to be helping with, is having PoC in tech as role models and leaders. Imagery is such a big thing and we have to be aware that if we don't start taking control of how we are portrayed then we leave it up to someone else to do it for us, so it's important that people in our community have others they can look to for guidance and support during their journey.