Honoring Native American Heritage Month 2018 — Amber’s Story

Amber Hampton

This week, join GDI as we celebrate Native American Heritage Month by highlighting a member of our diverse community!

Meet Amber Hampton, Freelance Web Developer and member of GDI’s Boston chapter. We interviewed Amber to learn about her journey in tech as a Native American woman.

What brought you to tech?

It has been a bumpy road. I grew up in a trailer park in a family that worked typically in factories, fields, and mills. I was the first one in my family to graduate high school and I still have a living relative who is illiterate. So, education and other opportunities were not the highest priority.

Fast forward to my college days, I shared with my advisor I was interested in computer science as a major. My advisor said the following, ‘Amber I cannot imagine you working in front of a computer all day.’

Haha, being young and naive I believed what my advisor said since nobody in my family had ever done this before. Little did I know at the time, pretty much every job I would work in would require that exact situation and I would love it. My passion would return to me over the course of moving out of my hometown and realizing how much the digital divide has affected my community. I would take online classes and eventually join codesquad.org in their first cohort and learn the necessary skills to create something similar programs for my community.

How did you first learn about Girl Develop It? How has your experience been?

I learned about GDI through Meetup.com, but I never REALLY realized their impact in including the non-binary community until I participated in their recent Hackathon. It was a really positive experience. People were really supportive and engaging throughout the entire event. I was able to meet other women and non-binary folks from various backgrounds with a lot of passion to learn. The Hackathon brought a whirlwind of emotions and gave my dream of inDigi: Indigenous Digital the jump start it needed to start growing.

Hackathon selfies are key!

Where do you work and what is your role?

Currently for paid work, I am doing freelance web design and development (and other various relevant contracts). For work that is volunteer, I’ve been creating the Indigenous Peoples’ Code Camp (IPCC) and working towards making inDigi. That is probably what is the most time consuming.

Creating a nearly 6-month curriculum from scratch that incorporates web development that is centered on Native cultural competency is no easy task. Especially since there are nearly 600 federally and state recognized Tribal Nations in what is currently known as the USA. But there are some mutual understandings and shared experiences in the Native community so having something like this is so important. Especially since cultural preservation and the digital divide affects most of us.

What does supporting the Native American community look like to you?

There are many ways to support communities and this includes the Native community.

Actively seek out and hire Natives and be sure to have an opportunity to mentor Natives to get us engaged in the tech industry.

In Boston, there is a fairly large and active Native American community. (Some of us still go by American Indian or just Indian since Columbus confused us with people from India and the US created policies with using Indians as an assigned name for our community.) People can also reach out to me and I am happy to connect folks.

Do you have any resources you’d like to share with fellow Native American people in tech?

A lot of resources I know and have are always posted on the Indigenous Peoples’ Code Camp Facebook page. So, I would recommend that. Also, if anyone reads this and is concerned on whether or not they are “enough” Native to get the support or be part of IPCC, you are. We do not require any tribal affiliations documentation. Especially since there are still Tribal communities that do not have recognition and paper genocide and other policies have affected our community greatly in regards to documentation of any sort. We also accept any other groups not represented in the tech industry and encourage folks from the diaspora to apply! Also, folks can reach out to me or any of the local Native groups here in Boston.

What’s a recent accomplishment you’re proud of?

It is tough to say, there have been many challenges and obstacles that have led me to this very moment. I strongly believe perseverance is something to acknowledge. I guess really a “proud” moment is finally getting the momentum to making inDigi and IPCC something more concrete and helpful for not just my community, but something that will grow to benefit other Indigenous communities and allies across the globe.

Where can people find you and your work on the internet?

Haha, I will sound repetitive but the ICPP Facebook page for starters, my LinkedIn, I do have a blog out there with my projects but I feel too shy to share that right now. Eventually Github will have more, but some of what I work on is very private so I cannot share that publicly just yet.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

There are so many other great Natives working on amazing projects. I highly recommend reading some articles from Indian Country Today as well as many others! Also, check out Sioux Chef if anyone is interested in learning about Native American Cuisine. You might be surprised on where many of the American dishes originated from! Especially in regards to November holiday meals. :-)

Lastly, Natives are really diverse since the colonization of this continent. You can find us looking Black, White, Latinx, Asian and beyond. Come in with an open mind and see our community beyond society’s expectations of what it means to be Native and a blood quantum.

Girl Develop It (GDI) creates welcoming, supportive opportunities for women and non-binary adults to learn software development skills.

Through classes, projects, and events, GDI students develop code, confidence, and community.

We envision a world where all people are included and empowered in developing the future of technology. Visit our website to learn more.