Inspiring Success

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February 14, 2018

I’m a Technologist, Too: Meet Shannon Branch, Scholar and Innovator

In previous posts, we defined the term “technologist,” a label that applies to people working in companies of all shapes and sizes across the country along a broad spectrum of industries – not just those that write software and make hardware. We explained that, while technologists have diverse interests and multifaceted personalities, most share five traits:

  1. A technologist thinks strategy first.
  2. A technologist has a passion for solving problems and a general sense of curiosity.
  3. A technologist sees technology in a constructive context.
  4. A technologist believes tech is about humans, not hardware.
  5. A technologist values respect, cooperation and collaboration.

Born to drug-addicted parents in New York, Shannon Branch spent her first seven years in North Carolina foster care before returning to the city, where she struggled through high school. She graduated and tried college, but didn’t have a strategy to deal with the intense workload.

Shannon Branch ATPODIUM

 

Through a friend, she learned about Per Scholas, which offers free technology training to low-income people in six U.S. cities, and then helps those students find jobs.

 

“They offered technology — the future,” Branch told us when interviewed for Charles Eaton’s book How to Launch Your Teen’s Career in Technology: A Parent’s Guide to the T in STEM Education. “I saw this as a chance to finally have my own future, too.”

 

She took a challenging all-women’s class, and her persistence paid off. She now has role models and a new perspective on technology.

 

“One of the best things Per Scholas did was invite four women who work in the field to come and talk to my class,” Branch said. “Three of them were African American and one was Hispanic, and they told us their trials and tribulations.”

 

She was inspired by them, working in an industry where just 3 percent of the professionals are minority women. “They’re making change,” she said, “and they gave us courage and confi­dence, because they’re the proof that we can do it, too!”

 

What interesting places has your tech path taken you? Inspiring Success collects stories about technologists, and then shares them with people considering technology careers. Send your story to Contributing Editor R.C. Dirkes at rcdirkes@rclement.com and inspire someone.