Black History Month is a time of sharing at Made Tech

This month, we celebrate Black history, and to mark Black History Month at Made Tech, we’ve decided to put together a few team interviews to get a better insight to what Black history and culture means to our team members and Made Tech as a whole. We invited people to discuss topics around what it’s like being Black in the tech industry as well as our efforts to make sure that, as a company, we promote a diverse and inclusive culture where our colleagues are empowered to celebrate their culture and bring a positive change to those around them.

To kick us off, Delivery Manager Kayleigh Derricutt talks to Software Engineer Onyela Ogah about her thoughts and perspectives about Black History Month and being a Black woman in the tech industry. You can read a few highlights or watch the full interview below. We also spoke to Yasemin Ercan, our Head of People here at Made Tech, our CTO, Luke Morton, and CEO, Rory MacDonald, who were all keen to share their thoughts on Black History Month and what it meant to them individually, and to the company as we continue to grow. 

Onyela Ogah, Software Engineer

Why is Black History Month important to you?

So often the contributions and achievements of Black People have been ignored and the presence of Black people have been denied for so long. I think it’s important that we take the time to look back and reflect on these achievements and we honour those people.

History isn’t something we can just reflect on, and we also should think about how it can impact our lives today and how it can impact future generations.

Tell us something about your journey into tech and whether that’s been impacted by being a Black woman

I studied biology at university, and after I did a Masters and in between I worked in a tech scale-up, and I thought that was really interesting. During both my degrees I did some coding and I quite liked it. So it kind of stemmed from that – wanting to be in the exciting atmosphere of the tech world and also wanting to carry on learning and develop my skills in that way. So that’s how I fell into software. 

In terms of my experience as a Black woman in tech, I think it’s always really hard when you don’t have much representation. So when you can’t see yourself in the industry, or you can’t see yourself in higher positions. When you have no one in leadership roles that looks like you, I think that’s really tough. And that’s something that meant I probably didn’t consider tech as an option until later on. I didn’t consider it in school. 

It seemed to me that everyone in tech was that stereotypical white man, and I didn’t see myself in that industry. It took me a while to realise that there are lots of other people in the tech field. And while there’s less of us, there’s still a presence there. And my presence in the tech field could also mean that people could be encouraged to join – so black people or Black women or women of colour could be encouraged to join as well, which I think is really important.

Yasemin Ercan, Head of People

Why is Black History Month important to you?

I’ve never actively thought about this question until you’ve asked me. To me personally, it’s important because my son is half African and I want him to know Black history for many reasons. 

I want him to know about the traditions and culture that are not part of our day to day lives but are part of his heritage and at least half of his family. I want him to know about the little-talked-about achievements by Black people who are positive role models that he can identify with or look up to.

Black history wasn’t part of my upbringing in Germany at all and so I really see the importance now for my son.  We’ve been fortunate enough to have very close friends with African heritage and have experienced at least some of their culture and traditions that way.

What is something you’ve learned about Black history or the Black experience that everyone at Made Tech should know?

I learn something new each time Black History Month is celebrated. Last year I learned about traditional foods, celebrations and lifestyles in Jamaica, Saint Lucia and Ghana from our team. This year, although we just started BHM, I’ve learned that BHM started in 1987 in the UK by Akyaaba Addai Sebo.

A colleague shared the story of why he started it here in the UK and it sounded quite close to home. He had spoken to a colleague of his who was sad about her son feeling that “he’d wished he was white” because there weren’t enough visible positive Black role models.

What more can Made Tech do to support Black team members?

Made Tech can do a lot more and we’ve just set out a strategy. Firstly, creating a supportive environment for Black team members to further their careers into the most senior positions here. We’d like to create mentorship and sponsorship programs that ensure we provide proactive support to Black team members for the progression of their careers at Made Tech. Our senior leadership team must have representation from Black team members.

Luke Morton, Director and CTO

What is something you’ve learned about Black history or the Black experience that everyone at Made Tech should know?

It’s about celebrating achievement. It’s about understanding the positive impact Black people have had on our society, on our culture, on civil rights and changing society for the better. I think that’s a huge reason to celebrate.

It’s important – and everyone’s responsibility – to challenge and change the long-standing systems around us that continue inequality. Whether that’s law and policing, education opportunities, whether it’s company policies that we can influence – I think systems don’t change themselves, people change systems. I think especially those with privilege and power need to take more responsibility.

Here’s the rest of Luke’s interview.

Rory MacDonald, CEO

What is something you’ve learned about Black history or the Black experience that everyone at MT should know?

One of the pieces of content that was shared earlier in the week was about a guy called Mike Dean who was one of the very early employees at IBM. He came up with 3 or 4 of the first 10 patents that IBM had as an organisation and IBM as an organisation has been so influential in the technology sector. Some of these core patents were created by him, he was an individual of Black heritage, and that was something I knew nothing about. He was somebody who’s been as influential and had an impact on everything that we do today, and that was something that I thought was really interesting for me to see and read about.

What’s something you’d like to see people take away from Black History Month this year?

I think the big thing there is about constantly trying to learn more about the contributions people of Black and African heritage have made to the country and investing more time trying to learn about that, and deliberately spending some time doing that. I think education in the UK maybe doesn’t focus on that enough so there’s a lot of things that happened that people won’t know about. So I’d really like to see people invest some time in trying to learn more and trying to interact and spend time looking at some of the content that’s been shared because I think that will have an impact. Small incremental steps will lead up to a big change over time.

Beyond October

Throughout Black History Month, we’ve also been encouraging the team to learn more about Black History by sharing an abundance of resources about iconic and historical Black figures, their achievements and the positive influences they have had on our society across many different industries. From literature, art and music to science, medicine and technology to politics, history and culture. 

Here are a few articles that have been shared here at Made Tech:

In the final week of Black History Month, we’ll be turning our thoughts to the future. Rather than historical figures, we’ll be sharing internal learning on some of the role models we have today such as Munroe Bergdorf (model and transgender activist), Michaela Coel (writer, director, actor and producer) and David Lammy (barrister, lecturer, author and Shadow Chancellor). We’ll also be taking the opportunity to celebrate the idea of continuous learning and encourage each other to recognise the achievements of marginalised groups all year round, not just for Black History Month.

I’d like to wrap up by sharing an episode of our very own Make Tech Better podcast to help celebrate Black History Month. In this episode, we speak with CEO and Founder of Coding Black Females, Charlene Hunter, about providing professional training opportunities that create positive experiences for Black women: Black history month: Diversity and training with Charlene Hunter.

About the Author

Ben Dalton

Ben Dalton, Software Engineer at Made Tech. Enjoys mountain biking, travelling and learning.

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