August 28, 2019, by Sekinah Brodie
Episode #36 of Shades of Success features the autodidact and founder of FlyTechnista, TeLisa Daughtry. FlyTechnista has been on my radar for a while, and the wait was worth it. TeLisa’s ardent advocacy in empowering women and girls in the tech space by making resources and opportunities available is impressive. In our in-depth interview, she talks about how she started having zero knowledge in coding when she was 15 to learning six programming languages and navigating the tech industry. Listen to her journey here.
TeLisa Daughtry began her journey in 1998. Despite the lack of resources online and offline, TeLisa was able to learn six programming languages within one and ½ years. Her thirst for knowledge began in high school, and she was determined to learn how to code. Not having the money to buy books, she stayed in bookstores after school and stayed until the owners kicked her out.
Now, she is an Award-Winning Diversity & Technology Advocate, Serial Social Entrepreneur, Multi-Disciplined Creative, Tech Futurist, and Investor. She is also the Founder and CTO of FlyTechnista and STEEAMnista, initiatives that empower women and girls in tech. She is the author of the eBook, “Learn, Lead, Launch: A FlyTechnista’s Guide to Tech FLY & Hustle FLY.”
She also has various awards in her belt. She was named 50 Most Influential Women Entrepreneurs in New York City, received the ACT4 Award, named Top 50 Visionary Women in Tech to Watch in 2017, and deemed as a “Changemaker” by the United State of Women.
TeLisa launched FlyTechnista in 2015. It’s a mobile app that provides women access to curated education, employment, and entrepreneurship resources and opportunities in the tech space. All you have to do is sign up and find more than 800 partners in the tech ecosystem from the United States, Canada, Africa, Europe, and more.
Once you download this mobile app, you’ll discover your path and find your tribe. Also, FlyTechnista centers around these three goals:
[00:06:17] — How did you have the determination and the foresight to know how big the internet encoding and tech would be at that time? How did you stay so focused at 15?
I didn’t have the foresight. It took me a while to figure out that this was an essential skill, that this was viable, that I could do something with it professionally. I really just thought it was a hobby and I’d seen it as an extension of my creativity. So I didn’t differentiate code as being a technical thing or a science thing or a nerd thing. I’d just seen it as “Oh wow I can create in another space with something else,” and that’s pretty much what kept me going. Because as I learned more languages, I learned to manipulate webpages and make all kinds of creative expression just to code and that’s pretty much what kept me going.
[00:07:38] — How did you adjust to breaking into that industry and can you give advice for other women who are now breaking into male-dominated industries?
I actually entered into my tech career via design because again as a classically trained visual artist, I figured the safe way which would be going through graphic design. So pretty much that was the program and how I navigated through my journey. I started in design. I started in graphics, from graphics I went to digital design, from digital I went to web, from web I went to multimedia, from multimedia I navigated through interactive to UX, now it’s software.
I had an amazing career journey and path and it was very nontraditional. Being in a space where it’s heavily male-dominated you can really feel insecure and not confident when you don’t see people who look like you. And I won’t even say it was male-dominated, it was white male-dominated.
It’s really hard to navigate at the time when I did but you have to find mentorship where you can find it. And for me, I was so fortunate early in my career to have mentorship from males who did not look like me, who were older than me, who were older white men. So I allowed them to mentor me and pour into me so I can continuously grow throughout my career. And as the women in tech circles continue to grow, I just looked for mentorship. That’s the biggest advice I can give. Your journey is not going to be dedicated to one mentor, I’ve had so many mentors at different parts of my life.
[00:14:16] — You talked about, early on, there weren’t a lot of people that looked like you in that space, can you talk about why inclusion and equity is a responsibility for all businesses and why we should employ those tactics?
Again, not seeing people who look like you, it can drastically affect your confidence and your ability to see yourself in that space. We already know that, the statistics around it. But the bigger reason why inclusion and equity really matters in this space is that we have all these initiatives that are designed to support POC in these spaces. But if you’re not giving them access to these opportunities to really flourish and grow and to be included in organizations, it makes no sense to have these initiatives. The only way to really be inclusive is to be inclusive.
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