Women of Wednesday: Keisha Howard on Diversity in Tech and Being a Geek of All Trades

WOMEN OF WEDNESDAY is a weekly micro-interview series featuring women of color in various industries and walks of life, focused on highlighting their pursuits and making it easy for readers to support their endeavors. If you would like to be featured, please submit your answers to the below five questions here.

Keisha Howard, 32, Founder of Sugar Gamers and The BlazeBreakers (Chicago)

1. Tell us about the work you’re doing and why it’s important.

As an entrepreneur I tend to be working on several projects at any given time, but the world of tech is where all the magic happens for me. I work in the digital space creating communities around empowerment, authenticity, and technology. Sugar Gamers is all about Gamification and Geek Culture, and having representation in those areas. And my company The BlazeBreakers focuses on showing brands how to market themselves to people who don’t wanna be marketed to… Yeah. I’m a geek of all trades. Tech companies are experiencing pressure to diversify their workforce which is predominantly white, Asian, and male. We can of course attempt to solve the problem by educating more women and minorities — and we can also challenge hiring practices. But the underlying issue that must be addressed to solve this problem is the hidden and often overt discrimination that still prevails in the tech industry. But don’t worry: Sugar Gamers is here to help change that culture. We don’t want to just talk about the problems — we’re solution-oriented. We are gathering people that want to see change and innovation in this space and it’s been a challenging and amazing experience.

2. What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in pursuing the work that’s important to you?

It seems like every time I turn around there’s a new technology, social media algorithm, app, etc. And as much as I love this industry, let’s just be honest…trying to keep up with it can be overwhelming! Once you have finally mastered one thing, there’s something new to learn. But that’s actually what I love about this industry. You are constantly learning. It’s challenging to be an expert, it’s always competitive, and (best of all) it’s never boring. That’s part of the reason why we started The BlazeBreakers. I’m always on a quest to find forward-thinking people who have innovative ideas about how to take existing companies to the next level. It’s amazing and exhausting. Yet somehow I manage to have a fun, interesting life while having no social life at all.

3. What do you need to continue your work in the way you envision?

I’m the type who doesn’t wait for opportunity to knock, I kick in the door and make myself at home. I have always had a tendency to be hyper independent and not ask for the support that I need. But you know what? I’m over it. Help me. Give me ALL the help. This is why I’m going to start a crowdfunding campaign very soon where people can see exactly what it is that we do, how to contribute, and how their contribution can help create change within the worlds of tech, gaming, and geek culture. Sugar Gamers promotes diversity and innovation in tech, and that’s why we are currently developing a class for Chicago Public Schools to encourage kids to learn more about the opportunities available to them. I’m proud to be able to say that Sugar Gamers is finding solutions to many issues that these industries currently face.

4. Where and how can we support you to make #3 happen?

We need people to join us in our mission. Come to our events, like our page, use our services… Pretty much just immerse yourself in our world. You’ll like it here. We have fun and games. And best of all, you get to help other people just by sharing ideas and being you. We believe that a group of people with diverse individual expertise, ethnicities, orientations, genders etc. would be much better at finding lasting solutions to complex problems. Interacting with individuals who are different forces us to prepare better, to anticipate alternative viewpoints and really create something amazing. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and connect with us on LinkedIn! That way you can be ready to help support our crowdfunding campaign when it goes live.

5. What is your favorite quote?

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” — Calvin Coolidge