Every Tuesday we #PasstheMic to those with enriching perspectives to share their views and goals. Today, Paige Weldon - our Senior Technical Consultant shares her lived experiences and learnings with us.
Pass the Mic
Who am I when I come to work? I am a Black female developer. Or Black female tech lead or a Black female architect, depending on the day. As far as I know, I’m the only Black woman in our engineering practice, at least in the Americas, and have been for almost the entirety of my 5 years with Kin + Carta.
I can say from experience that representation matters. I often wonder who I can look to at this company who has lived the journey I’m setting out on. How many people here can really relate to my experience as a Black engineer? Unfortunately, the answer is not many.
It’s incredibly powerful to see yourself in your role models. At a bare minimum, it can help give you the confidence to believe that your goals are achievable. I feel lucky that I had the opportunity to learn how to be a tech lead from the only Black architect at Solstice (now part of Kin + Carta) at the time. After he left nearly 3 years ago, he was never replaced. In the Americas, we still don’t have any Black technical principals.
All of this is to say that it is something that I think about. When I walk into the office, I instinctively count Black people. It is a privilege to not notice who does or doesn’t look like you in your workplace. A few years ago, I spoke at a quarterly meeting and mentioned that I was the only Black female engineer. It almost seems unreal how many people told me they had no idea. Meanwhile, I am constantly aware of that fact. I even got a lot of comments like “I didn’t even know you were an engineer”.
That leads to one of the most important things I can say here. Micro-agressions are real. They sound like “You don’t look like an engineer” or “I would have never guessed you are an engineer” or “You don’t have the personality of an engineer”. These are all actual things that have been said to me on multiple occasions by coworkers.
Anyone who’s ever said anything like that should ask themselves why that’s their reaction. Why is it so commonplace to imagine that the default software engineer is a socially inept white man? And why are so many talented people in our industry ostracized and treated as less-than when they don’t fit into that box?
Here’s my request of everyone reading this, especially engineers: First, ask yourselves what you can do to make your workplace/your team more inclusive. And if you have the opportunity, what can you do to make it more diverse. Second, be a mentor, and not just when you are given a mentorship assignment. Most importantly, make sure the people you choose to build up and support don’t all have the same background as you.
It’s up to all of us to help close the gap. I hope that very soon, no one at Kin + Carta or any other company can say they are the only anything.