Pencil skirts, blazers, work 9-5, and receiving 2 weeks vacation, not for you? Nap pods, unlimited snacks, retreats to Mexico, and “unlimited vacation” sounds like so much fun you want to know where to apply right now? Hold on, there are many things to consider as a black woman who wants to join a startup. Hopefully not just for the reasons mentioned above. A job at a startup is an express lane to career growth and experience. Every role sets a new direction to success and landing a role at a startup can be a smart move! We put together some pros, cons, advice, and tips if you are thinking about joining the startup scene as a black woman in a tech.

 

Pros

 

  • Startups are usually a fast track to management goals. Commonly, doors will open to a promotion in less than a year.
  • Knowledge, experience, and a proven track record can get you far quick, even when you don’t have a degree.
  • Entry level pay is usually higher than corporate. For example, a corporate desktop support would make $40k/yr and 3 years later you are doing the same role, not growing, and only $4k increase. At a startup, you may start as desktop support at $40k/yr, and in less than 1 year move into level 2 support or system administrator at $55k/yr.
  • Most tech environments within startups lack development, workflows, standards, and policies. Lack of proper onboarding to the development and stage environments are common. This is your chance to experiment, try new things, make improvements, suggestions within your team, and put your mark on accomplishments.
  • Become the new wave of representation. The more of us that join startups, climb the ladder, and start our own businesses the easier it will become for the next black woman behind us – retaining in the tech industry.

 

Cons

 

  • Usually be the only black person or black woman.
  • Dealing with a sometimes toxic culture as the startup reaches maturity and begins to diversify.
  • Pressure to not be yourself, wear natural hairstyles, the pressure to dress better than your peers, etc.
  • Reluctant to open up about who you are your background, upbringing, hobbies, music, etc.
  • Perceived stereotypes and discrimination.
  • Cultural differences and misunderstandings.
  • We can go on and on, about 10 more points… but we will leave it to these starters.

 

Advice

 

  • If you will be the only black person, there will be seldom occasions when you may feel the compelled to defend yourself, your background, and your culture. If this is how you will most likely spend a small percentage of your work week. Don’t do it. You are at work to learn, to grow, and to get 💰 to support yourself.
  • You can not defend your entire race alone and you should not. Doing so in the workplace can contribute to unnecessary stress and anxiety. When you work with others who don’t share a similar background, you may be compelled to answer questions.
  • Consoling in someone about an issue or need advice. This may be difficult to do if one doesn’t understand your background, experiences as a woman in tech, or simply a black woman in tech.
  • Always feel free to be who you are, be proud of your upbringing, heritage, background, hair, skin, dress and grooming. If you work at a place that you will feel pressured to conform to a norm, this will have a long-term tear on your mental and physical well being.
  • Never talk about race or politics in the workplace, even to those who say “no but I’m interested I want to be better and understand your culture”. No sis, you’re not as work to change anyone mind and views. Set a good example, be strong, and be a good person to work with.
  • When you encounter bias, address it right away. Become familiar with your HR person and your direct manager. Document and screen capture and questionable conversations or interactions immediately. This will be helpful in the long run in the event you encounter a rather serious matter.

 

Tips

 

  1. Research the company! Company’s Linkedin, Crunchbase, Glassdoor, etc. Take a look if you see a diverse amount of employees on the LinkedIn company page, click on the number of employees and search through profiles for folks that look like you.
  2. If you do find a company that appears diverse online, reach out to one or two employees on Linkedin simply mentioning you are interested in a role at the company and want a take on their experiences. This assures you of the type of environment you are walking into.
  3. Pre-Screen interview, don’t be afraid after you slayed all your technical questions and the technical recruiter says “do you have any more questions for me, anything about the company, the culture, the role?”. THIS IS YOUR CHANCE. Ask about the level of diversity, initiatives, retention rates.

Are you a black woman in tech that has worked in a startup? Share your experiences, tips, and tricks that have kept you strong and going.

 

Featured Image Photo cred – wocintechchat

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