The advancement of technology continues at the speed of light, accelerating time and the creation of social and mobile solutions beyond our wildest dreams. As fast as technology evolves, however, it is imperative that it includes the thought and brilliant solutions of those traditionally underrepresented in the industry.
With Tech Like Me, Ford Fund celebrates African Americans who have blazed trails in the tech industry with fearlessness and flair; and provided insight and information about careers in the tech industries.
Who Am I
Vice President for Global Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
My name is Marlin Williams and I am currently serving as the vice president for Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for StockX, which is a global company headquartered in Detroit. I am also the founder of an organization called Sisters Code.
What I do
At Sister’s Code, our mission is to awaken the mature geek. We empower women ages 25 and older to explore the world of coding and technology. Essentially, we are motiving them to get out of their own way and try something new.
I think a lot of people sometimes they think, “Well, I'm too old.” My thing is, you're never too old to learn something new or acquire a new skill. Some people don't find what it is that they're truly great at until they are older. You could be a senior and find your passion. I had a student and she was 62 at the time. And I think she might have been forced into early retirement. But she came through our class and kept coming and coming. And then she would go off and do other things. But eventually, she opened a small business where she created websites for churches. She just recreated her life.
What Tech means to me
I would say my definition of tech is that it is a game/life changer. And it is a great equalizer. The reason I say that is because there are so many rooms that I know that I would not have been in if couldn't speak the language of technology.
Getting into the field of technology changed everything. It changed the way I was able to travel from place to place. I became one of the main speakers from Microsoft Corporation on a global level. They were flying me all over the world to talk about tech. I wouldn't have been able to do those things if it were not for tech being a game changer . . . a life changer.
What advice do I have for someone who is interested in my career or field
I would say it's a hybrid. It's not cookie cutter, let me say that. Some people are going to go to college and get a degree in technology - that's definitely a way to do it. There are some people who went to college like me and got a degree but not in technology. And there are a number of people who I know and icons that we look at who never went to college. So I would say, you want to find what's best for you. Go and see if you even like it. There are online platforms that you can go in right now and just start learning to code for free; programs like mine or so many others. And especially in the midst of COVID, you can go online now and do just about everything.
I always tell people go in try it out first.
Also, having a mentor or someone to guide you and your career is something that would be of value. If you’re just starting out and don’t know exactly where you want go, mentorship is important. But it's not just for people starting out. I have a mentor now.
What Skills are needed to succeed in my field
The skills needed depends. I know some people who think, “I don't want to go into technology because I'm an extrovert. I don't want to sit behind a desk.” And I'm like, “Do you understand that you could be a project manager?” But being a project manager, you also need to know the technology you’re going to talk about.
You can actually teach technology. How awesome is that! Then, there are some people who definitely want to sit behind a desk and crunch the data. So their skill set is going to be different. They need to be more analytical. That's the thing about technology – It is so expansive.
I wouldn't say that there's one thing that anyone needs from a personality perspective. I know for me, if I had to sit on a desk all day, I would probably roll on the floor. That's not going to work me.
This is where you own your career. There are programs that are always looking for people to teach or be a teaching assistant or mentor. That's the way you can use your skills outside of your job. Don't just think it has to be within your job. There are other things that you can do to hone some of those skills.