Celebrating Black History: Technologists that Continue to Inspire, Motivate Today’s Leaders

Members of CompTIA’s Advancing Tech Talent and Diversity Community were asked to profile famous black technologists that have encouraged and motivated them during their careers. Their choices ranged from inspiring NASA pioneers to some of today's tech leaders.

Initiatives to help tech businesses be more diverse, equitable and inclusive (DEI) are starting to make inroads for traditionally underrepresented groups to find more opportunity within the IT industry.

Many companies believe DEI programs are the right thing to do and/or are good for business, according to a 2021 CompTIA survey—but there’s still a lot of work to do. One way to raise awareness of DEI benefits is to recognize Black tech pioneers who have opened doors and blazed new trails—inspiring others with both their innovations and their courage for overcoming barriers in their way. We asked members of CompTIA’s Advancing Tech Talent and Diversity Community to submit names of famous black technologists that have encouraged and motivated them during their careers. Here is who they nominated to highlight:

Dr. Tarika Barrett, CEO, Girls Who Code

Dr Tarika Barrett-180“Dr. Tarika Barrett is the current CEO of Girls Who Code, a nonprofit that aims to close the gender gap in technology which has served more than 450,000 students across the globe. A quick look at Dr. Barrett’s career will show that she is a servant leader who has been dedicated to addressing inequities faced by underrepresented groups in education and the workforce.

“In her time at Girls Who Code, Dr. Barrett has supported the non-profit’s global expansion and has led the free Summer Immersion and After-School Clubs Program which has reached hundreds of thousands of girls worldwide, more than half of whom are Black, Latinx or from low-income backgrounds. 

Through her work and leadership, she is helping young girls realize that careers in technology and programming are possible and in doing so, building up the tech pipeline of the future.

“To me, Dr. Barrett inspires commitment to community and the power of mentorship. She also reminds us collectively to be Brave and challenge the status quo.” – Ashley Martinez, digital experience supervisor, TD SYNNEX

Tia Hopkins, founder of Empow(H)er Cybersecurity

Tia Hopkins-180Tia Hopkins is a visionary. I became acquainted with her during my personal quest to upskill in cybersecurity. It was difficult to successful find Black women leading in the field as a thought leader and a mutual colleague shared her profile with me. She immediately stood out to me. Tia is the Founder of Empow(H)er Cybersecurity, an “organization focused on providing a safe space for women of color interested in or currently working in the field of cybersecurity.” I have attended several training sessions with the group, and the environment has always been motivating, supportive and kind- features not easily found in the entry-level cybersecurity space. Tia is warm, funny, and down-to-earth, personality traits becoming of a mentor and a coach.

“Tia also leads in the boardroom and the classroom. She is a Cybersecurity executive at eSentire and is also an adjunct professor of Cybersecurity at Yeshiva University. She is paving the way for junior technologists to enter the field of cybersecurity, to upskill, and to pursue roles that will launch their career. Her dedication to the community is boundless and her belief in the potential of women is evidenced by the frequent motivational messages and job leads she shares with the women in Empower(H)er. She has shared her failures, her moments of clarity, encourages neurodiverse women to find their niche and not to give up, and she is creating ripples of success in tech for women of color everywhere.

“Tia has shown me that having grit, being driven, and loving what you do is important to achieving success. What is more important however, is the lesson she teaches by continuously extending her hand to bring other women into the field. Her example has inspired me to be my best and to ensure that my personal vision includes one of service to others.

“On the Empower(H)er site, Tia shares, “I want others to feel empowered by my successes, my failures, and my lessons learned. When young girls and women of color hear my story or witness my journey and the things I’ve overcome, I want them to see where I am today and know for themselves with an extremely high degree of confidence that they can do it as well.

“Mission Accomplished Tia, well done.” – Kassandra Pierre, Senior Associate, Regulatory Compliance, PwC

Kimberly Bryant, Founder, Black Girls Code

Kimberly Bryant-180“I’d really like to highlight Kimberly Bryant, the founder of Black Girls Code. Ms. Bryant founded BGC in 2011 to make technology education accessible to young Black women, who have been historically underrepresented in STEM professions.

“Her work has provided meaningful support to many young Black women and has helped them to realize that they are needed and wanted in the tech industry. Her work has not only served as an inspiration for my book and my DEI work but made me feel that I too could have a career in tech and that I mattered.” – Susanne Tedrick, Senior Specialist, Azure/Microsoft

Kerrie Holley, Software Innovator

Kerrie Holley-180“Being from the inner city there were so many reasons for a young African American male to go in many different directions. You could do something bad and end up incarcerated or deceased. Or you could do something good and have a chance to survive, go to college and have a great career and live a great life in spite of where you came from. I can relate to Kerrie Holley because we have similar upbringings. We were both from an inner city, raised by a strong woman surrounded by poverty and gang influences.

“Kerrie Holley is a software architect that has influenced the industry with his contributions to software engineering. He is the co-patent owner for the one of the first SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) methods and maturity models, which is one of the dominant software programming techniques in use today across all industries internationally and worldwide.

“He also is known as an expert in Artificial Intelligence and his influence on the technology industry has forever changed how we implement software programming and how AI will shape our future.

“Mr. Holley has shown me that despite your circumstances you can achieve anything you work hard at, and that you can change the world. I have adopted this mindset and it guides me in my daily life as a man, father, CEO, and mentor to everyone I encounter. Seeing what he has been able to achieve makes me want to be the best and make the biggest impact in whatever I do, no matter what.” – Corey Kirkendoll, CEO, 5K Technical Services

Katherine Johnson, NASA Mathematician

Katherine-Johnson-180“After watching the movie Hidden Figures, I have just been in awe of Katherine Johnson—a mathematician with skills beyond any computer of her time. Her work at NASA was critical to the success of America’s first launch into space, she worked on the Space Shuttle program and the Earth Resources Technology Satellite as well as authored or coauthored 26 research reports. I was elated that she was still alive at the time that she became a household name. The CompTIA Advancing Tech Talent and Diversity Community honored her for her accomplishments at ChannelCon 2019.

“Katherine Johnson is an example to all women of color in tech, sending a clear message that you can not only survive but thrive in the industry when you have the skills and passion to make a difference. I have been touched by the respect, trust, and adoration she received from colleagues in spite of systemic and institutional racism. Her skills rose above all of it. She must have been one strong and courageous individual. For me, she is truly an example that knowledge is power and opens doors when you know how to apply it.” – Yvette Steele, senior director member communities, CompTIA

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