Kishawna Peck, Founder Toronto Womxn in Data Science

 

Throughout #BlackHistoryMonth, our BE in Tech series highlights some of the experiences of Black women in the Canadian tech industry.

Share your own experiences using the hashtag #BeInTech and tag us @joinmovethedial!

Next, we have Kishawna Peck, Founder of Toronto Womxn in Data Science



As a black woman in tech, what has been your biggest obstacle/challenge to date?

Throughout my career, I’ve found myself in situations and rooms where I hear from others, either explicitly or not, that I’m not supposed to be there. I’ve had to find it within myself to be prepared, show up and not just fill a seat but contribute my ideas, knowledge, and expertise confidently knowing I’m of value. Sometimes it seems so much easier to shrink myself but I know that type of thinking doesn’t benefit anyone involved- especially me. Luckily I’ve benefitted from the advice and help from mentors and sponsors who highlight the work I’m doing, suggest me for projects, and coach me on how to navigate difficult situations.

If you could change one thing during your experience in tech and in the workplace what would it be?

I would take a good look at the moment when I counted myself out of STEM. I had a high school teacher who told me not to enroll in any more math courses. I believed them. I dealt with having minimal choices when applying for university and transferred to Economics after my first year. I had to teach myself advanced functions and calculus. I wouldn’t necessarily change this experience, I learned a lot from it but seeing people who looked like me in data or tech would have changed everything. I believe now its easier to see myself in tech with movements and communities like Toronto Womxn in Data Science, BPTN, and #movethedial who focus on showcasing diverse representation in tech.

Moving the dial is an ongoing mission we strive to do, is there someone or something that has inspired you to #movethedial in your journey?

My main goal in anything I do is to add value to the spaces I’m in. I’m inspired to #movethedial in my journey by the need to educate, inspire, and support the future of data science. Everyone wins by having diverse thought and talent at the table. A wider representation of people working in data science will allow a more expansive range of thought and as a result better solutions. By inspiring those who do not traditionally see themselves in data, there’s a pipeline being built for more diversity in the space.

What does being Black In Tech mean to you?

There are so many possibilities for me that my ancestors never could have imagined. To be mediocre isn’t even an option for me. I’m not moving through this industry for myself. As I nudge doors to open little by little more people of colour can find their way to the other side. I’m becoming the representation I wish I had growing up. My parents raised me with the mindset that I can be anything, there aren’t any barriers for me, and I’m a human first. Although this advice is full of love, I’ve seen the barriers up close. I’m only learning now how to manage the emotional tax being black in tech carries. I denied it for years. I’m conditioned to work hard and consistently overdeliver. I’m conditioned to overprepare. As a young professional, I’m continually learning how to make myself heard and find a balance that is not labelled as meek or aggressive. These are all apart of my human experience and I’m learning from it. It’s so ingrained in me, I can’t even see it any other way.

How can the industry move the dial for black women in tech? (either at an individual level or company-wide)

The industry can begin to move the dial by being intentional about how to level the playing field. Watch your words and actions, something simple can be a red flag for someone who wants to participate but does not feel welcomed or valued. Check your initiatives to see if you’re being intentional about having all voices represented. Audit who you’re including and who feels heard. Most times this will mean more work for you and your teams to work with us to understand frustrations and ideate solutions but it is both necessary and appreciated. 


 
Move the Dial