Issa "pipeline problem"

The booming industry of automation and progression yet cannot solve the D&I of Black and Brown people

Allow me to introduce myself.

My name is Pariss Chandler but known as Pariss Athena.

Call me Pariss Athena.

I created the hashtag and movement #BlackTechTwitter, and am Founder of the #BlackTechPipeline platform. Also writer, editor and chief of this here newsletter. Nice to meet you! I’m a Front End Developer in Boston, which is where I’m from. Prior to becoming a developer, I was an actress and wax specialist. Literally waxing body hair off of humans full-time while attempting to break into Hollywood.

If you’d like a more in depth version of my journey into tech, click here.

Let’s get to the nitty gritty

I’ve been a waitress, a hostess, an assistant teacher and a wax specialist. In each of these lower paying jobs, I was surrounded by plenty of black and brown people. Feeling excluded or dealing with confrontation revolving race was very rare for me in these environments. From coworkers to managers, we were truly diverse! From the color of our skin to culture, religion, orientation, etc. Physically looking different from one another wasn’t as apparent because it was the norm, and our dynamic was flavorful!

I quit my job back in 2017 after being accepted into a bootcamp ran by a non-profit organization called Resilient Coders, which teaches people from underserved communities to code. I spent 5 months being taught front end web development by a teacher of color and learning alongside a diverse cohort that had commonalities in backgrounds and cultures. There was a strong sense of understanding, love, respect, and freedom to be ourselves without concern or question. Very much the same dynamic as when I worked at my previous jobs.

Two years have passed since then. After an internship, two jobs, meeting tons of people at tech conferences, meetups and events, I no longer feel the same. That freedom and acceptance I used to feel has dissipated.

Since graduating bootcamp and entering the workforce in the tech industry, simply walking through a room has become uncomfortable. Twice now, I’ve been the only black person in my entire company.

Every day in these all white environments, I got looks and stares as if I was some rare animal on exhibit. I’m sure that it’s shocking to see someone who looks different when you’re used to being surrounded by people who look the same but if you ever want to make a Black person feel Black, that’s how to do it. With the odd glances and awkward body language, I’d wonder:

Are they embarrassed to talk to me? Are they scared? Are they avoiding me? Is it the way I look? Is it because they assume I’m unfamiliar with their lifestyle? Is it because I am very apparently different? Is it because I’m black? Are they racist?

Those questions are produced by seemingly tiny incidences, which actually have a name- ‘micro-aggressions’ and news flash, they’re something black people have to endure every day. Every time we notice that we’re being treated differently, whether it’s through tone of voice, a brief look or more, our stress levels rise and emotions go into a negative spiral. We quickly become curious as to why we were treated differently than the next person or the person before us.

Issa “pipeline problem”

In my experience, people with the ability to make change and help hire for real diversity have always been white. When I approach them with the question, “Where are the black and brown employees?” their responses are always the same- “They don’t come through our pipeline.” I knew they’d give me that response before I even asked. Potential Black candidates aren’t applying to these companies so without black candidates coming through their pipeline, they continue to onboard everyone else. Another fact that I do know but they dare not to say is that some companies purposely pass on applications candidates with different sounding names or after looking up their LinkedIn profile. Hence, the “pipeline problem.”

We’ll be digging deeper into this issue in later newsletters.

This is why #BlackTechTwitter and #BlackTechPipeline are imperative. The majority of a workplace mainly brings attention and opportunity to the majority they are surrounded by and familiar with. That is where their concern lies. #BlackTechPipeline is a platform created to bring exposure, opportunity and empower the Black community in the technology industry. We’re here to make sure that we each progress with the knowledge, mentorship and resources that we need.

We’re not fixing the pipeline, we’re building our own.

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