Meet Khalia Braswell: A Social Entrepreneur Who Is Driving Change Through Technology
By Rosa Otieno | Contributor, Black Tech Women
Khalia Braswell is an established engineer and entrepreneur. She fell in love with computers in the fourth grade and decided to pursue a career in technology.
She interned at top companies including Wells Fargo, Deloitte, Fidelity Investments, Bank of America, and Apple. She last worked full time as a UX Engineer, creating the experiences of the Apple products we know and love.
Throughout her career, she noticed black women were not accurately represented. Khalia founded the INTech Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization to inform and inspire girls to innovate in the technology industry. To date, INTech has reached over 600 minority girls across North and South Carolina, through hosting one-day camps, mini-camps, and summer camps.
Learn how Khalia is leading innovation in the non-profit space and inspiring the next generation of scholars.
Black Tech Women: When did you decide to move into full-time entrepreneurship?
Khalia Braswell: Entrepreneurship has always been something that excited me, even when I was a kid. I sold candy, CDs, and many other things in high school. I admired people like Queen Latifah, too. She was an actress, rapper, and production company founder.
I made the decision around October 2017. I was trying to figure out my next career steps and had the option of running INTech full-time. I was really passionate about the work but not completely sure if that was the right move.
I traveled to Charlotte for a few meetings and asked the community, “am I adding value to the programming here already?” The answer was a resounding, “Yes!” After that, I waited for my lease to expire in Oakland and moved back to North Carolina for INTech in January. The signs were all there and God literally spoke to me through a former mentor. It was a really surreal experience.
Black Tech Women: What would you say are some of the key elements for your success?
Khalia Braswell: You have to have a spirit of hustle and go after what you want. The door may close and you may not get the response you want, but if you have this spirit of hustle, you can push forward and find the right solution.
Another key element is discipline. I’m not the best at sticking to my schedule but I’m learning. You have to stay focused when you’re working for yourself. You might have to skip a vacation with friends and use that time to work on your business.
Lastly — know yourself. I flourish as a visionary, and I’m great at building relationships. I’m a detail-oriented person but struggle when it comes to operations and logistics. I’ve learned to delegate the work I am not as strong at. It’s ok to let someone else execute if necessary.
Black Tech Women: What should our readers know about your journey?
Khalia Braswell: I am meant to be here. I was good at math and science but there were a few fundamentals missing that could have hindered me when I got to my computer science program at North Carolina State.
I had a professor who noticed that I was struggling with algebra and questioned my ability to succeed in my engineering program (instead of offering his help). I knew that despite those struggles and my own professor doubting me, I would succeed and be able to obtain my degree.
If you look at my journey from interning as a high school student at Wachovia (now Wells Fargo) to working full time at Apple, it’s pretty evident that I’m meant to be in tech. I’m blessed to be here.
Black Tech Women: What would you say is the greatest lesson you’ve learned in your career?
Khalia Braswell: I’ve learned a lot. As a high school student, I used to hear your network is your net worth. Now as an entrepreneur, I’m realizing how TRUE that is. Your network does not necessarily need to provide monetary value; sometimes you need help and support from your peers.
For example, I depend on my friends and my family a lot. If I’m trying to get a proposal out and I need help with the budget, I call on a friend who is good at budgeting.
A strong network will really help you succeed.
“Your network does not necessarily need to provide monetary value; sometimes you need help and support from your peers.” — Khalila Braswell
Black Tech Women: How do you spend most of your time as an executive director?
Khalia Braswell: I spend most of my time in meetings, although I try to keep them to a minimum.
We have a lot of different stakeholders — universities, parents, students, schools, etc. I’m always in schools, and I’m on a few advisory boards for a few high schools in Charlotte. As you can imagine this means I have quite a few people who I need to connect with regularly.
I only schedule meetings on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday between 12pm and 5pm. I may flex outside of those bounds, but I’ve found always being on calls or in meetings isn’t really a good use of my time.
Black Tech Women: How has INTech grown or changed since it was created?
Khalia Braswell: INTech started off as a one-day camp and now operates as a five-day summer camp. We did our first summer camp in Charlotte, then we served Charlotte and Raleigh the next year. We’ve been pretty consistent in Charlotte and Raleigh the past two years.
In October, we’ll be launching a high school pilot program with a core group of high school girls. We want to match each participant with a summer internship. If the program is successful, we’ll expand it to Raleigh as well.
Black Tech Women: What are some of your long-term goals for the non-profit?
Khalia Braswell: Ideally, INTech will give young girls the skills they need to enter the workforce or start their own companies.
We also love when our older students come back and volunteer to help the younger ones. For example, our high school girls are teaching a curriculum for the middle school girls. Our students help us build a student pipeline and establish strong relationships.
Black Tech Women: What keeps you motivated about the work?
Khalia Braswell: The scholars keep me motivated. There are just so many narratives — I had a scholar entering 8th grade and she said, “Ms. Khalia, I’ll be too old for camp next year, but I want to come back. What are we going to do about that?” I said, “Okay, got it! I’m glad you want to stay involved.” It’s really helpful to receive this feedback from the scholars.
Also two of my mentees started working with us in the 6th grade. They are now in the 9th at my old high school and plan to study technology. I continue doing the work because the scholars are depending on it. They’re looking to us.