Next named exclusive Trail Blazer in NEW 2024 Radicati DLP Market Quadrant Report Read the Report
Updated: Oct 25, 2023   |  

Advice to Young Black Programmers from a Programmer Who is Young and Black

Go back

Advice for Young Black Programmers from a Programmer who is Young and Black

Growing up, I was lucky enough to be safe from explicit barriers stopping me from entering the tech space and the wider STEM field. I was studious, able to work hard to get high grades and to attend a good university. By the time I started my undergraduate, however, I didn’t realize how much of myself I would lose in pursuit of my place in the professional world. 
Slowly, over time, small changes chipped away at my core self. I paid careful attention to code switching: I knew that my speech patterns must align with my peers to both have my voice listened to and heard. The people I looked up to seemed to be doing the same, playing the same game, fitting in like everyone else. Those who refused to play slowly fell away: all the friends of my fellow ethnicity dropped in number ‘til I became one of two black people studying in the Computer Science department at Uni.

Black personalities became black only in pigment and so I followed. And even those changes didn’t stop me from being a point of discussion and ridicule. People gawked at my hair and all its changes, likening my changing styles to an animal shedding. My traditional meals were scoffed at due to their “exotic” qualities. Once, someone deemed how pounded yam is eaten, using our hands, as adding to Africa’s problem with diseases. The few differences I couldn’t change about myself became more visible as I hid my upbringing and personality more. I kept these incidents to myself so as to not “rock the boat,” concerned that making a complaint of insensitivity or racist bias would make me seem too sensitive or unapproachable. I wanted to keep my employment easy going, sacrificing my own comfort for that of those around me. 

"My advice: take up space. Act like your true self and allow yourself to affect others in it"

Black History Month is a great time to both reflect on how I’ve acted as a Nigerian and what I would say to a new generation of black engineers coming to the field. My advice: take up space. Act like your true self and allow yourself to affect others in it. Bring out your pounded yam and stew for lunch without stressing about your co-workers. And when the inevitable comments and “jokes” come through, report them - there and then. Your comfort is as important as those of your colleagues. Your company should take these forms of bullying seriously and if they don’t, it’s not a company that deserves your talent.  


See how Next protects your employees and prevents data loss