This episode's guest on #MWL is Susanne Tedrick. We talk about issues keeping women of color out of tech, how people can be allies to women of color, and how to grow and develop your network.

We also discuss her journey to authorship and her mission to encourage girls and women of color to enter the STEM fields through her book, "Women of Color in Tech."

Where to watch live:

Guest Socials - Susanne Tedrick
Get The Full Episode Transcription


what's up

how's it going everybody out there

another episode of Marcus Whitney live

happy Thursday

really excited about this conversation

this is a new friend of mine who was

introduced to me by a mutual friend

Betsy so Betsy thank you for making this

connection Suzanne

Tedrick is the author of women in color

in tech and she was nice enough to give

me a copy of the book I'm about

two-thirds of the way through it's a

fantastic read the book really just

doesn't just cover the statistics

because as she points out early in the

book we've had so many reports and so

many analysis on this topic we

understand that this is really about the

deeper underlying systemic issues and

it's also a bit of a road map of how to

navigate and how to be strategic about

this and why she's able to do that it's

because she's had her own successful

career and many of these things she's

kind of encountered herself so this is a

topic as a man of color in tech it is

not quite as bad as it is for women in

color in tech but it's still it's still

bad so it was a topic I really wanted to

cover so please welcome Suzanne to the




Marcus thank you so much



yeah Suzanne this is this is great um I

definitely want to start by tapping into

your personal story how you got into

technology you know my career started in

technology I have a passion for it I

feel like it's an incredible an

incredible lever for economic

advancement I actually dropped out of

college so it afforded me a path that I

would not have normally had quite

frankly so I'd love to hear about your

story in tech 




for me I've always loved technology when

when my dad would come home he'd bring

all kinds of computer

electronic components and so I'd always

stay up till like midnight one o'clock

playing around with them and then making

it worth of like I'd opened them up to

see how they were and you know obviously

he wasn't thrilled about that but you

know I've always just had the you know

fascination with just like you know

computers and technology and

unfortunately I didn't really get that

opportunity to you know kind of pursue

it immediately there were a number of

personal circumstances and you know

quite frankly I I didn't think that you

know I was meant for technology that was

for smarter people that was for people

that you know that gets heed and math

that wasn't necessarily for me so it

wasn't until I guess many years later

when yet I I had been working in

financial services and you know great at

my job I hated my job

after a while it was just like I can't I

cannot possibly keep doing this and you

know I just kept revisiting in my mind

well why not why not give this a shot so

I decided okay I'm going to go back to

school I'm gonna you know do internships

and bootcamp hackathons volunteer work I

mean you name it and I just really held

myself accountable for my success and I

was lucky enough to land an internship

at IBM as a you know Technical Sales

Engineer and I did a really good job and

they ended up hiring me full-time so so

that's right where I am now so my

journey took a lot longer but you know

I'm really glad that I did it as you

said it's really opened a lot of

opportunities for me I've had the you

know true pleasure of helping other

people which is really important to me

and giving people the tools so that they

can be successful and realized like

economic success so I don't regret

making that decision 



can you talk a

little in a little bit more detail about

the path that that really weird

uncharted path of hackathons and user

groups and you know conferences and

how you navigated that effectively to

that internship that resulted in your

your official career change 



yeah so I

don't want to make it out to be that

every experience yielded great things

that weren't moments where I was

frustrated like it's definitely daunting

you know walking into a hackathon you

have basic understanding of Python and

then you have all of these people who

are like SuperDuper coders and you're

like whoa I'm not I'm not on your level

but you know at the same time it's that

willingness to be uncomfortable and to

grow from it like the common thing is

growth and comfort don't exist together

and that's definitely true like you you

have to kind of put yourself out there

you may not always be successful but you

will definitely learn from you know each

you know conference each hackathon boot

camp you will learn and grow from it

that's and that's the important part and

so as I was going from experience to

experience to experience I always kept

that in my in the back of my head and

that is the thing there wasn't the

obligatory happy hour when things you

know one sideways but you know you just

don't stay in that place for long like

you just keep moving and keep holding

yourself to that goal 



can we rewind back

to the the young kid who was getting C's

in math I wanted I want to talk about

that a little bit because I think 



 got two sons -one’s 21 and ones

 19- the 19 year old loves technology.

 He's currently at University of

 Tennessee Knoxville getting a computer

 engineering degree. And in high school

 here in Nashville, he was in a program, it was

 an IT Academy. And it was a track

 that you could go on to like really

 focus on programming, and networking, and

 all these great things, which was really

 really good

 just incorporated into his high

 school curriculum. And I think watching

 him go through that process really

 eliminated for me a lot about the 

 difficulties that women -that young girls,

 I shouldn't say women- that young girls


 when trying to engage in STEM. In

 school, like there is this weird

 expectation around who really is cut out

 for a career in the STEM fields, and

 you know, we're adults. You know so we

 went to school and in a previous era

 where I can only assume it was worse.

 As a boy, nobody ever told me that I

 couldn't you know be in technology when

 I was younger. What was that like for you?

 I mean... I sort of feel like

 the C’s in math may not have only been

 based on what your

 strengths were, but may have even had

 some social implications.



Yeah there's

 definitely a lot of social implications.

 So one of the things that a lot of

 researchers cite is that for girls to

 successfully, you know go through school

 and into STEM careers, a lot of what

 helps is when they have role models who

 look like them and you know have gone

 through shared experiences. If you're

 really not interacting with people like

 that, you know like if you're not seeing

 it actively, if most of the people -you

 know women- that you encounter are in

 different professions, or quite frankly

 just they're like, “why on earth which you

 want to pursue STEM?” You're probably

 not going to be very likely to kind of cultivate that spark

 within you. You're kind of just going to

 go with the flow.

 So there's definitely that social

 element and you know I

 talk a little bit about the academic

 part that unfortunately there are some

 teachers that do hold bias against girls

 -and to some extent people of color- and

 it sometimes manifests itself in

 classroom participation, and you know in

 a number of other ways. But sometimes

 either people in our own you know back

 yard, or people in our own you know

 communities, don't actively like promote


 And I think part -there there are two

 parts of it- I think part of it is you

 know they themselves may not know, you

 know, about you know like the diversity

 of careers, and you know that women do

 belong here, and women of color belong

 here. But I also think that for some

 people they're like, “oh that's a boys...

 that boy stuff.” And if you are

 interested in it, you're a tomboy and

 you'll eventually grow out of it. Which

 is like obviously not true.



right right

right so so now fast-forward you know

you had this you had this environmental

impact that you weren't aware of because

you were a child but it wasn't acting

your decisions and you you went the path

of you know a finance career you were

good at it

you didn't like it you decided to sort

of return to something you naturally

loved this this thing that you learned

from you know your engagements with your

dad when you go back into this space

you're gonna I know what the answer is

here you're gonna see that there's not a

lot of people who look like you right

there's not a lot of black people

there's not a lot of women there as

you're going into these hackathons into

these conferences how did how did that

make you feel did you use that as as

fuel to say wow this is really important

that you know clearly this is an

opportunity and and I probably didn't

know about it before because there

weren't those role models you know

available to me or was it intimidating

like how did you feel just personally



yeah so I mean surprised I didn't notice

it at first I think I had my own tears

and trepidations about this thing that I

was about to do for like just trying to

get my my internal house in order to

kind of like navigate all of this I

think was like kind of ruling my brain

but then as I started to give way to

some of that you know fear and anxiety

and I really started looking at like oh

wow there really are not any women of

color here like and not just in classes

but conferences and you know workplaces

like I was like starving

to notice and I remember someone said oh

it's just because you know women of

color aren't interested and that's and

that's why we're seeing such such low

numbers and I said I refuse to accept

that that can't be that can't be right

and as I you know was kind of going

through my own education learning about

organizations like black girlcode you

know learning about you know the

different types of organizations for

people of color in technology it started

to become more and more clear that you

know this is obviously an ongoing you

know issue this is something that we all

like need to address and I and I say we

need to address it because it really is

a business imperative and a society

imperative to have more diversity in

technology like when you think about

artificial intelligence you know you

don't want people you know who think the

same and have only had a very limited

set of experiences you know programming

your loan application your mortgage

application I don't you have serious

effects that can continue to marginalize

communities and so for me you know it's

beyond my own comfort it's just more of

an issue like this needs to happen 




I mean it definitely feels like in in

this moment we are consistently talking

about the systemic racism you know and

the systemic biases that exist

throughout the country and and you're

right you know what's really really

scary and I think it's actually been

accelerated by covert 19 is we are

moving into a world of automation we've

already been doing it for consumer

things but it's it's starting to make

real decisions that are gonna have real

long lasting impact as you as you

mentioned financial decisions right

people's ability to get access to to to

financing hiring decisions right you

know a lot of hiring systems people

don't know this but

hiring systems are shifting to you know

an automatic data-driven analysis before

they even arrive at at an individual to

review it and a lot of things could be

baked into those algorithms so I think

you're right there there is an

imperative to make sure we're not

codifying biases that we're not even

aware of and the only way you can do

that is to have a diverse set of people

at the table that when you're working on

the algorithm someone says ah you may

not know this but you know 



yep exactly




So what moved you to to write a

 book? That is a big -I know, it's a... I'm

 sort of on the other side of it right

 now and getting ready to launch mine- it

 is a huge endeavor to write a book. You

 know, what moved you from having

 this journey and getting this career at

 IBM to feeling like wow you know, “(A) I can

 be an authority on this and (B) you know,

 clearly you felt called to to do this, to

 do this work. What sort of

 drove you there?



Yeah and I just want

 to say congratulations on your upcoming

 book, really I’ve been excited for that.

 My journey you know becoming an author

 of this book, it was definitely not

 planned. I was offered the opportunity

 to the publisher, and you know they got

 to know me, and asked, you know “have you

 ever thought about you know writing a

 book to help other women of color based

 largely on your experiences... you know

 making this transition?” And you know I

 will be honest, it was a very like, “I

 don't know if I'm necessarily ready for

 this.” I mean you know... the most I had

 written was like academic papers, and I

 can barely write an email, but now you

 people want me to write this very

 monumental, you know this is very big and

 important thing. And you know it took a

 little bit of soul-searching, but I said,

 “you know if I can make life better for

 someone else, if I can save them some of

 degrees, so if I can talk candidly

 about some of the issues that they can


 so that they can not only, you know,

 survive in a tech career, but you know

 thrive, and be happy, and exceed me, then I’d

 be foolish not to take that opportunity.”

 So you know I worked with the

 writing team, you know I worked -you know

 we developed the plan together- and you

 know over a year's time -on top of

 working full-time- you know I just wrote wherever I could.




know that hustle I know that life man

well you know thank you thank you for

doing it I it is it is such an important


have you had companies reaching out to

you now realizing they don't know enough

about this topic they don't know enough

about how to engage properly with women

of color in terms of helping to support

them to be successful in their career

and you know hopefully buying copies of

the book for themselves but also like

reaching out to you for you know deeper

levels of engagement 



yeah so when the

book was you know originally published

in April you know there was definitely

people you know kind of reaching out

given the magnitude of what's going on

in society today with you know the

protest and you know killing of George

Floyd you've seen this kind of ratchet

up considerably in terms of people

saying oh there's a lot I don't know

there's a lot I don't get and I need to

have these conversations so it I mean

it's been it's been gratifying for me

you know as a professional to be able to

you know have these dialogues and to you

know be in this conversation and try to

move this needle along but yeah there's

definitely a lot more activity and so

it's always like a good problem to have

in that okay everyone gets it now let's

let's do something concrete and let's

keep things moving forward 



yeah so so

can we talk about like some of the

things in the tech world that have been

happening so as as a programmer

you know the the nomenclature of master

and slave is baked into web technology

like you know there are some things that

you just if you're if you're a black

person and you get into tech you know

specifically you get into the code side

of it you just have to kind of go okay I

guess that's what we're doing here right

you know because they're just in there

in there they're baked in and you know

quite frankly technology is not a place

that has a history of being culturally

sensitive right I mean I think that is

something as we've diversified the space

more and more there's more and more

advocacy for it but recently as code has

kind of converged around github as like

the online community and platform for

coders everywhere they recently made a

really big change to their nomenclature

specifically around master slave do you

want to like talk about that a little




yeah so I I remember seeing the

headline this past weekend that they you

know for the for the master repository

they were going to change that to Maine

and change several other places where we

talked about master and slave

nomenclature and yeah I appreciate that

I do and like I do think that that's an

important thing to kind of talk about

how we you know from the small things

that we've done you know to kind of you

know make people of color feel small

make them feel less important make them

feel you know not that they're not safe

so you know on the one hand I do applaud

that effort I will be very honest with

you in that I'm like if you really want

to drive this discussion about bringing

or you know black people people color

into technology and specifically github

you need to hire more black people and

people of color into github you area but

it's on the surface is a very thoughtful

thing to do but that in itself is not

going to move

the needle for the thing that needs to

happen like we need more concrete action

we you know we need to be mindful of

like what we're doing in terms of

recruiting practices taking the bias out

of these you know practices and we need

to have the hard conversations about why

people may not be you know feel safe or

they're leaving either I mean these are

the things that need to happen on a very

basic level so I couldn't help but give

that a little bit of shade when I can I

read it yeah but yeah it's important

that we follow it up 


yeah I think that's

right I mean and I think and I think you

are right that the nomenclature changes

the the removal of particular brands

that are just inherently offensive these

are you know to their credit these are

sort of the quick wins that make all the

sense in the world and you want to see

those things done and when they're done

it's like that's awesome right I think

that what what I'm starting to have

conversations about it you know I

mentioned to you that I've been having a

very similar conversation not the same

one but a very similar conversation in

the healthcare industry for the last

week and a half and right you know the

the real conversation is about do we

understand what we mean when we say

systemic racism like do do we do we

understand what that means do we

understand like how baked in it is into

the system and how pervasive it is and

how significantly it disadvantages

people of color you know especially

black people because as ISO for example

like I've been starting to do some

anecdotal research in the venture

capital space which is you know sort of

an offshoot of the tech space quite

frankly right and it's like there are

people of color there but they're not

black people so it's like

you know this is where certain terms you

know it where it is getting to this port

where we're like we got it like to talk

about black people for a second you know

what I mean

because because I'm actually seeing you

know a good contingent of people of

Asian heritage is you know represented

in technology and in venture capital in

in leadership positions in in really

strong positions which is which is great

but really the big deficit is are out

black people it's um you know it's it's

it's pretty significant there

specifically so can we talk a little bit

about organizations like you know black

girls code and and other organizations

that you want to mention and because

because I think what is great about

those organizations is they are founded

with an understanding of the systems and

how deep they are and like how much work

has to go into resolving them right and

how a quick win can't really resolve

them it's just not possible right and

and even like education can't really

resolve them when you talk about

changing hiring that's a monumental

thing and then beyond that how do you

ensure that person is successful in a

system where even once they're hired

they are going to be disadvantaged right


what what what organizations can you

point people to because a lot of what

we're we're seeing people look for right

now is resource it's like okay I get it

I understand oh right that I don't know

how bad it is but I'm starting to get a

sense of I don't know how bad it is

point you know I know I need to read

things I know I need to watch movies I

don't need to watch 13th right you know

people know they do but 


in the tech

world what are the organizations you

would point people to to say look you

know these are organizations you can

start to support you can sponsor you can

engage you know that will really help

you to figure out how to navigate your

organization to a more inclusive place

ya know that's that's a that's a great

question and something that you know you

you know as as business leaders and and

other you know managers is something you

want to keep in mind one organization

that I've I had the pleasure of getting

to know the last couple of months is is


that's and like Nancy and the word power

so they're based in Brooklyn New York

but they have chapters in different

states and what they do on top of

offering technology courses to women of

color and to military veterans they also

offer research and white paper to the

broader tech companies about these are

things that you want to be thinking

about if you want to have you know women

of color excel you know in technical

careers at your organization in fact I

think people may release those report

today kind of outlining the strategies

that employers can use to really be

partners and help women of color succeed

so so that's a great organization to

reach out to I know that AI for all also

has kind of the same type of model where

they you know provide education to get a

marginalized groups but they also have

that education T you know they help with

diversity and inclusion program so that

you're making more you know robust ones

as well

chick tech is also another one that I'm

familiar with and I do volunteer work

for again they provide three meeting you

know resources but also to help

practitioners and companies as well as

others who are interested in

diversifying their pool to really you

know get that done rather than have it

be just this high-level must be nice you

know type of type of pipe dream like to

make it a reality

got it 



got it 


I want to end the

 conversation with you

 -not necessarily paraphrasing- but maybe

 speaking to women of color who are

 thinking about tech, or already have

 decided this is what they want to do but

 are very early in their journey, you know.

 What are some of the key principles,

 points of advice, that you would

 offer to those women?



Yeah so the thing that I always stress

 is the importance of developing a good

 network. And I think that was one of the

 things that I struggled with initially

 because -you know I'm not a

 social butterfly, I don't know how I got

 into sales- it takes me some time to

 you know warm up to people. And so when I

 first started, I kind of thought about it

 as, “oh I all I need to do is just focus

 on my skills, I don't need to focus on

 anything else.” And I found out pretty

 quickly how wrong I was.

 Like you need other people. So when I say

 network, I mean your mentors, your

 sponsors, you know people that you have

 informational interviews with, your

 friends. I mean these are the people that

 are not only going to help you you know

 get into tech, but they're gonna really

 help you when you're facing challenges

 in your, you know, career. And so you're

 going to need them you know now more

 than ever. The second -and you know just

 briefly- is the careers are diverse. You

 know there's so many things that you can

 do within the technology industry, and

 the thing that I try to dispel

 -especially when I when I talk to people

 coming in- it's not just

 software engineering and software

 development, it's not just cybersecurity,

 but there's you know product development,

 there's user experience design, there's

 what I do -consulting-. I mean the sky is

 you know limitless in terms of what you

 can pursue, and you know the places that

 you can go to do these careers are

 everywhere. So rather than thinking about

 the Facebook's and the Amazon’s, you know

 technology touches everything. So you

 know, think a little bit more broadly.

 Like it blew my mind that Bank of America

 was like a top technology recruiter. I

 was like, “oh I had no idea.” But yeah it's

 like it's the places that you wouldn't

 think that these types of jobs exist.

 And finally just a continuous learning

 mindset. It’s

 never going to be “one and done,” and so

 just embrace that all the time.



oh who said it all

right there that is the perfect thing to

end on is continuous learning forever

like really as long as you're gonna be

in it if you're going to be relevant if

you're gonna add value you have to have

a consistent beginner's mind and you

have to carve out time and and I think

you have to like it

like you have to like the continuity of

the learning experience otherwise you'll

get bailed out because there is no learn

I'm done and then leverage that for the

rest of my career that's just not what

technology is about not at all not at

all you're absolutely right awesome well

Suzanne I'm so glad we got to do this

show and I'm so excited for your book

and for hopefully all the companies it's

going to help to get better at this this

is going to make companies better having

a more diverse workforce that is

included at the highest levels and that

means you have to make space you have to

develop that talent you have to adjust

your culture because part of the reason

why these cultures have not been

cultures where diverse people can thrive

is because unknowingly they've been

uncomfortable cultures for for diverse

people to to to thrive in so there's a

lot of work to do here but your work is

is part of the the collective body of

work that's gonna help us all be

successful so thank you so much for

doing it well and everybody out there

you need to follow Suzanne and Susanna

Tetrick for on Instagram as Suzanne

Tetrick on on Twitter we belong in tech

comm go check out the website go buy her

book today on Amazon women of color and

tech it's a great read I'm two-thirds of

the way through it which is saying a lot

because I have no time to do anything

right now between this show and

everything else I'm working on a big

part of that is because I have my own

book coming out in less than two weeks

creating orchestrate coming to you live

on June 30th looking for people to buy

it on that day on Amazon we're trying to

get a best-seller so please help me make

that happen

as always please subscribe to my podcast

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that is it we will be back tomorrow on

Juneteenth I'm taking the day off but I

am doing a show with my good friend Lana

Nell Matthews who's one of the co-chairs

of the Nashville chapter of my brother's

keeper we're gonna talk about just the

significance of this moment the the

growth of the awareness and the support

and the embrace of Juneteenth and you

know what what people can do to to

continue to keep this movement going so

until tomorrow thank you so much for

tuning in and let's build a new normal

y'all peace

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