How Uchechi Kalu Jacobson, New Orleans-Based UX Designer and Startup Entrepreneur Is Shaping Global Technology
The Friday leading up to Labor Day, I connected with Uchechi Kalu Jacobson, UX Designer & Entrepreneur, at her home which was in close proximity to the central business district of New Orleans — the thriving entrepreneurship hub of the South.
With wine glasses in hand, we sat on Uchechi Kalu’s porch discussing digital entrepreneurship, how much the Internet has created global access and what this means for the future. Our conversation led to a deeper conversation about Uchechi’s path and why diversity and inclusion is so important to her.
In the beginning.
Uchechi Kalu started her career as a creative writer, enrolled in the Poetry for the People program at UC-Berkeley, under the direction of June Jordan, Caribbean-American poet and activist. Jordan continuously poured into Uchechi Kalu the practice of achieving maximum impact with minimum words.
“As a poet, you are creating an experience on the page. With user experience design, I’m taking that to web and mobile platforms. How do I distill what’s most important to the user? How do I solve pain points? How do I create great products through the language being used?” — Uchechi Kalu Jacobson.
A trained background in poetry, led Uchechi Kalu to become a content-focus UX designer where language and linguistics stood at the foundation of the online experiences she would be creating.
From the start of her career, birthed out of creative writing, to now, Uchechi Kalu has been working within the tech space for 10 years. Throughout the span of those years, our world became more diverse and the Internet created more global access. But have companies and new technology become reflective of the diversity of the world around us?
While companies like Google have created forward movement with hiring more diverse employees, Uchechi Kalu notes that there’s still a gap in tech entrepreneurship. The issues that arise include the lack of knowledge within diverse markets, opportunities and inclusion within investment funding, and how they trickle down the pipeline.
“We’re creating products for the young woman in the small village in Nigeria, as well as the bi-lingual Latino who just immigrated to the U.S., as well as the businessman who’s in a cab on a way to a meeting in Midtown, New York City. We’re creating for all of these people and our creative teams need to reflect the world we live in.” — Uchechi Kalu Jacobson.
You see the global pipeline doesn’t reflect homogeneity, but rather the aforementioned difference Uchechi Kalu spells out — and that difference spans between geography, access, language, communal size and ethnicity.
In keeping the discussion of these differences relevant, Uchechi Kalu hosts the #YesWeCode Twitter chat, a bi-weekly community chat that stemmed from the Yes We Code initiative. Both her and her husband, veteran coder Peter Jacobson, served as mentors for Yes We Code during the 2014 Essence Festival.
The Years Ahead
For Uchechi Kalu, a New Orleans-based entrepreneur, looking ahead means assessing how diversity and inclusion will change within this growing Southern hub, and on a larger scale. A few weeks back, marked the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. While devastation struck the city, a new story of hope and innovation emerged. A surge of entrepreneurs and techies fled to the city of New Orleans, Uchechi included, to rebuild and restore.
With the city being a population of 63% African-American and now a hub for innovation, she eloquently notes that now is the time to focus on “what we want the city to represent.” And beyond this Southern city, she explores how can we engage the right communities to take the industry to the next level.
Uchechi Kalu beautifully quotes Anais Nin, “life expands or contracts in proportion to one’s courage.” This operation of courage, the courage to cultivate inclusion and create anew, is the mirror of how the future of entrepreneurship and technology will play out.
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