At the Inaugural Blacks in Technology Conference, in St. Paul, MN, last week, attendees could make contacts and get career tips during a five-hour job fair and panel series. During the last panel of the day, attendees learned how to build their brand.
Moderator Bill Roddy, co-founder and executive director, Osiris Organization, said, “Your reputation is priceless. Put your energy into building and protecting your own brand. You have an unlimited mind and can control how other people see you.”
He urged attendees to make something well-known and well thought of to establish your brand. “Lead by example, know your stuff and take pride in it. Then others will support you,” added Roddy. “Learn how to become part of a team and be responsible.”
Najma Jeylani, a software analyst at Maximum Solutions, advised, “Be reliable. Be someone other teams will come to. Try to figure out a problem before you ask for help; depend on yourself but be a team player.” She also told attendees to develop their soft skills.
Robert Jones, associate technical user support analyst, Medtronic, uses humor to make situations less stressful and develops relationships with his co-workers so that they can lean on each other. He said, “Be willing to always learn.” Jones also swears by OneNote to keep his technical notes organized, so that he can stay on top of his projects and new technology.
Both Jeylani and Jones came through Creating IT Futures’ IT-Ready career program to launch their tech careers. Jeylani had a career in healthcare and Jones had a career in education before they looked for a life change.
Roddy was working in the finance world before he was roped into volunteering to build a computer lab for a school. He and his wife later started the Osiris Organization which offers tech classes to help guide young people into new careers.
All three of them came into tech from non-traditional career paths. Instead they earned certifications and most importantly looked for small opportunities to showcase their skills.
“Don’t overlook the power of volunteering,” said Roddy. Volunteering gets you the experience and the references you need to get into IT and/or move up the career ladder.
The attendees also promoted networking. Jeylani volunteers with a local Somalian tech group which mentors kids. Jones said Medtronics’ has its own networking group, plus he attends local tech meetups. Attendees also can join the Blacks in Tech group on Slack.
Jones urged attendees to get face time, saying, “Humans get hired, not resumes.”
Roddy added, “Demand for tech skills is so strong, that if you can demonstrate your work, you won’t get held back.”