Sunday night, along with thousands of people worldwide, I pulled up to my couch to watch part 4 of the CNN Black in America series. For the past 4 years, CNN and Soledad O’Brien has been exploring different aspects of life in America as an African American. This Sunday they explored “The New Promise Land- Silicon Valley.” This series followed eight black entrepreneurs immersed in Silicon Valley’s startup scene as part of the NewMe Accelerator. Still, the high tech center of the United States is dominated by young males who are mostly white and Asian.
I was under the impression that the series would follow African American people who have changed their careers, moved to Silicon Valley and are now working in software, technology and computer industry…people like me. True, I do not live in Silicon Valley, but my entire career is based online. As a Google and MSN Paid Search Analyst I am in a Male and white dominated world. In my current position I am the only African American who works for the company. Even with being a minority in my company and my field I truly enjoy it, but this is not the direction that I thought my career would take.
As an African American student in high school I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew I wanted to be successful. I remember getting my acceptance letter to Florida A & M University thinking “Oh crap…what am I going to do at this school for 4 years”. The day of Freshman Orientation I decided on the spot I was going to go into journalism. I loved to write, I loved the news and I knew it was something that would get me to my ultimate goal of being successful. I graduated with a degree from FAMU and an impressive under graduate portfolio.
I immediately started applying for jobs and saw that journalism jobs were few and far between. Instead of letting the fear of living at home with my mother for the rest of my life, while I wait for my big break, I decided to broaden the scope of what I was looking for. I was offered a job as a copywriter for a marketing company in Daytona Beach Florida. The job was an eye opener, I started creating print pieces and online materials to promote different products. I wrote scripts for online commercials, copy for websites and even got to review and critique new websites. I made the decision to stay in online field just as the bottom fell out of the economy and I loss my job, but the change was the best decision I could have ever made. As the economy tanked, my career was still going strong and doors flung open. Fast forward 4 years and now my entire career is based online.
I am a paid search analyst by day, I produce an online radio show at night and I freelance as an online marketing consultant for non-profit and for-profit organizations. Of everything that I do, I love the radio show the most. I love that while I am producing I can interact with fans on various social networking platforms. I love my career and look forward to going to work every morning. I talk about what I do to my friends and family and I notice that their faces glaze over in boredom, even though I am bouncing off the walls describing the new products that Google is testing this week, the new Ad Center editor tool or new articles that have come out about new innovations being released to improve marketing a product online. I understand that the online world seems boring and it’s not the first choice for African American’s coming out of high school, especially African American women, but the industry is shifting and the capabilities of technology are growing every second, meaning new career opportunities are opening up constantly.
I would have loved for the Black in America piece to show more African American’s like me who have transitioned into an online tech career and have moved to Silicon Valley and are now working for companies like Intuit, eBay, Salesforce and Google. I would love to see more women like me who have transitioned into the tech world and are flourishing, but maybe next time…
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