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Q&A with Black Tech Women

Alexandrea Alphonso tells us about her role model growing up; the importance of recognition; and her advice for a career in tech
Women in tech Q&A
6 Dec 2019
Alexandrea Alphonso tells us about her role model growing up; the importance of recognition; and her advice for a career in tech

What is the history of Black Tech Women? How did the organization come about?

I am so grateful for my good friend, colleague, and founder of Black Tech Women, Anndrea Moore. Black Tech Women started with her vision in 2017 and I am very fortunate to have been leading our partnership strategy early on. The organization was created on the premise that an engaged and supported community is the key to retaining and advancing black women in the technology ecosystem. Over the last two years, we’ve grown to a global member base of +3000 professionals driving impact at large technology companies, startups, and venture capital firms. Our impact is supported by sponsors and partners who believe in our vision of serving as the destination for black women in tech. We've executed scaled training with Google, created intimate spaces for members to connect with senior leaders like the CEO and CTO of Box, and have sent members to invite only conferences like F8, Facebook's Developer Conference.

Who was your role model growing up and why? What is the significance of having more diverse role models in tech?

I would definitely give credit to my mom for being one of my role models. She was in the technology space at Sun Microsystems and I witnessed firsthand the hard work that goes into creating a lane in tech as a black woman. On the flipside, I saw the rewards and excitement behind the opportunity to lead innovative strategies. That really sparked my interest in the industry early on. As I chart my own career path, I have found a lot of inspiration in the career journeys of Nzinga Shaw, now Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Starbucks, Erin Teague Head of Product at YouTube Sports, and Lisa Gelobter CEO & Co-Founder of tEQuitable. It’s critical to see leaders that look like me occupy positions at the highest levels in tech because it serves as a visual representation of what’s possible. It stresses the notion that “seeing is believing”. As I work, connect, and build community with black women in tech there’s this shared understanding of experiences, challenges, and perspectives unique to our stories and paths. On top of that, seeing black women and women of color navigate to a senior roles helps bring a level of transparency that’s necessary when we are chartering our own career journey. I find stories of my role models so powerful because it helps me imagine myself making an impact on a global scale.

How important do you feel recognition is for the advancement and encouragement of women in tech?

From my personal experience in an often challenging workplace setting, being acknowledged and recognized is added confirmation of the value of your work and an appreciation of your creativity and thought leadership. As I was reflecting on this question I came across a study in the Harvard Business Review that discussed these very tenants and the balance of providing both in the workplace. I also believe that there is an opportunity for black women and women of color to explore authentic avenues for self-promotion and advocacy without waiting on others. Minda Harts, author of What Women of Color Need to Know to Secure a Seat at the Table, shares some absolute gems on how to reclaim your self-worth in the workplace.

Recognition is a powerful mechanism that can drive impact in so many ways.

What advice would you give to young women who have aspirations towards a career in technology?

For any black woman and woman of color with career aspirations in the tech space, I would strongly encourage us to reflect and identify what skills/skill sets we excel in and really lean into those. Reflect on those skills and determine how we can use them to solve critical business problems and opportunities in creative ways. More importantly, I want to let black women and women of color know that our voices, perspectives, and ideas are critical and absolutely needed in tech. We drive innovation and it is necessary for us to occupy tech spaces, whether in a corporate, entrepreneurial, or startup setting. Lean into the stories of black women and women of color that you find inspiring and use those as a motivational tool to create your own (tech) legacy

Alexandrea Alphonso is currently a senior program manager at Google, responsible for helping teams craft, design and implement support and care experiences for users across all of Google’s consumer products. In this role, she uniquely drives collaboration and partnerships on high-impact design sprints, and leads teams through the design sprint methodology to arrive at more user-centric support experiences. She also combines her passion for technology and community in her role as Head of Partnerships for Black Tech Women.