It’s no secret that Black workers are underrepresented in almost every industry. But the figures coming out of the tech industry are especially disappointing. As CNBC reported, a recent study revealed that Black workers make up just over 7 percent of the workers in tech. Black women account for less than 2 percent.
But Caroline Hill, Recruitment Manager at Presence Product Group, thinks now is the time for Black workers to consider pursuing careers in tech. According to Monster, the median salary for Web Developers is $93,000 and $102,ooo for Software Developers. We spoke with Hill about why she thinks this growing industry is the place for us to be, regardless of our education or previous work experience.
According to Hill, the tech industry is wide open for African Americans right now, and not just for new college grads. “People are leaving all sorts of industries because there is a space for everyone in tech,” she says. “If you’re an introvert, there’s something for you. If you’re an extrovert, there’s something for you. The various technical ecosystems are growing quickly, and they need proper representation.”
But if you’re worried that your liberal arts degree won’t even get you in the door, Hill says, you can relax. “Degrees are not a big deal these days. It’s really about the type of experience and the portfolio you’ve built for yourself.” Hill encourages tech newcomers to look at certification programs rather than racking up student loan debt for another degree. But she warns people to do their homework before investing time or money, including looking for free or low-cost programs sponsored by the city you live in. “Reach out to people you may know in the industry so we can look into [the program]. There are some big-time fakes out there who charge a lot of money,” she says. “You do not want to go into debt for a certification program or boot camp.”
Although there are many different job titles to pursue in the tech industry, Hill says IT roles in product management, project management, and UX/UI design can be a great place to start. And she adds that industry newcomers should seriously consider starting in support and help desk roles. “You will learn so much in a hospital support desk, and you can move your way up. The trajectory is crazy,” she says.
Hill, who found her way into tech recruiting by accident, says she’s been pleasantly surprised by her own experience in the industry. “I’ve had so many twists and turns in my career. I’ve taught in the alternative school system, I have worked in sales and I’ve waited tables. I’ve been all over the place, but I have found the greatest fulfillment in the tech space. And I am not a tech person,” she says. “I still like beautiful dresses and still want to grow up to be Beyonce,” she laughs.
And for Black people who are able to break into tech, Hill advises them to do their part to pay it forward. “Now is the time to pivot into tech. There are a lot of companies and organizations that will help you get your foot in the door, but you have to be dedicated,” she says. “The money and the opportunities are there. And if you get in, pull someone in behind you. Bring the next brother or sister in.”