Founder of Black Tech Mecca Talks Transforming Chicago Technology Scene
Technology

Founder of ‘Black Tech Mecca’ Talks Transforming Chicago Technology Scene

Fabian Elliott, founder of Black Tech Mecca (Source: careers.uncc.edu)

Since launching Black Tech Mecca, what do you believe is your greatest achievement?
We only launched less than three months ago, so our most significant achievements are still ahead. This may sound sappy, but I would say our biggest achievement to date would just be the people, the community, and the city daring to believe in such a bold goal. The excitement of our volunteers and partners has been uplifting. We have not just started an organization, but we have started a movement.

In a couple of months, we will be launching a technology platform to strengthen connections and synergies within Chicago’s black tech community, so that will be exciting.

Describe the challenges you faced during start-up. How have you overcome them?

Challenges are what drive us as a team and a movement. We faced some of the usual suspects encountered by entrepreneur[ship], including finances, selecting a corporate structure, and prioritizing a barrage of tasks.

To overcome them, we have had to focus on our core competencies and swallow our pride to seek guidance for everything else. We know how to build a tech ecosystem, but can always use guidance on back-end operation and remaining in good standings. We like to leverage local resources and incubators in the city.

What do you wish you had known then, that you know now?
I would recommend the focus on surrounding yourself with very strong financial and project management talent as early on as possible. Operations are key, and your money can never be funny. If you already have those skill-sets yourself, I would recommend finding ways to fill other key holes quickly.

What qualities have helped you succeed thus far?
Belief. I know that Chicago will become the ‘Global Black Tech Mecca.’ In my mind, it is already a reality. I think this comes out when I interact with people. Collaboration has also been key. It is one of our core values as an organization as well. We want to create the environment that blacks need to thrive in tech. If this is related to your organization’s mission, we want to partner and help you be successful in executing that mission.

Considering the lack of diversity within the industry, how do you stay motivated?
The lack of diversity is exactly what motivates me. I do not see an obstacle, I see an opportunity. It won’t be a breeze to change, but nothing worth obtaining comes easy. I am also motivated by the incredible progress our youth are making in the tech space. Chicago is progressive in computer science education, especially with the flagship program CS4All, which teaches intro to computer science courses in hundreds of schools in the city for all grades.

What is your best piece of career advice for a young person pursuing a career in technology?
Even though it may not be widely visible, there are plenty of blacks ‘killing it’ in the tech game. John Thompson is the chairman of the board at Microsoft, Ursula Burns is the chairman and CEO of Xerox, Trystan Walker helped turn FourSquare into a powerhouse. Our vision is to transform the city into the ‘Global Black Tech Mecca’ through the development of a thriving black tech ecosystem. We believe this will require programming synergy, an adequate impact tracking mechanism, and a comprehensive narrative. Thus, we will tackle from a holistic scope by implementing a ‘Connect & Direct’ strategy, defining a universal metric system, and executing a supportive branding initiative.



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