This blog was written by Program Manager, Azure Fastrack, iAsia Brown as part of the Amplifying Black Voices blog series. iAsia reflects on Juneteenth and how it correlates to her efforts to introduce and usher people into the field of technology.
On Wednesday, 16 June 2021, the Senate passed a bill to establish Juneteenth as a national holiday, and with mixed emotions, I celebrated. I celebrated the final acknowledgment that there was a period when slaves, black people, were deliberately kept in the dark for three years that they were free. Imagine gatekeeping a person's ability to be more than property, live their lives on their terms, and find adequate employment.
After 16 years in the military, I remember when I first got my DD-214, my discharge papers, the papers that say I've completed serving the Marine Corps. I was free to live this life as a civilian and do whatever it was civilians do. I had been in the military since I was 17. It was my first and only real job. I didn't know what I wanted to do. I remember me declaring, " I will get out of the military and go work at Microsoft." Once I got here, my immediate reaction was, "now that I have access, who else can I bring along?"
On Day 2 of my new life, I posted a LinkedIn message about my new employment and willingness to help anyone looking for help pivoting into tech. I can say that within two years, I've helped over 102 different humans across the US find meaningful work at various tech companies to include, but not limited to, Microsoft and other big tech companies. Anyone who asked, I was happy to help. I was more than creating seats at hidden tables. Some tables are hidden by design, others due to lack of access to someone with the knowledge, active with access in these spaces, and willing to help them on their journey there.
If Juneteenth has taught me anything in this lifetime, it's that not everyone will pass along the information to allow you access to new opportunities. When you find someone willing to help, take it and then pay it forward. I want to help be a catalyst to the change I want to see in tech. I want to see more women, more BIPOC, more LQBTQIA+, more veterans, more people who may be disabled but able and wanting to do these jobs. I want everyone to win.
Technology is the equalizer. It doesn't matter your race, religion, sexual orientation, or height. None of it has a discriminatory place here, yet all of the beautiful things that make people different are needed here. Let's continue to be the representation the generation coming behind us can see; let's continue to make space at tables that we are discovering and uncovering for those we are bringing along. As we continue to pay it forward and reflect on this holiday, I will challenge myself to continue to provide access to communities who were raised believing that it was not available.