Kubrick consultant Natalie Munda reflects on her journey into tech, the importance of role models, and how she has come to understand and celebrate Black History Month.
Tell us a little about your story – your background, your identity, and your journey to Kubrick.
I first trained as a Data Product consultant at Kubrick, part of the first ever Kubrick Cohort in the US, and I’ve been upskilling in more technical Data Engineering tools. I graduated from NYU with a bachelor’s degree in Math, a minor in Music, and no idea how to branch into the world of tech, let alone what I wanted to pursue in that field. I also felt an extra challenge as a Black woman interested in tech. What made Kubrick stand out to me was their continuous efforts to lead diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and their impressive percentage of women in STEM. It made me feel welcomed and deserving of a place here.
What does Black History Month mean to you? How has your understanding of it evolved throughout school, college, and now as a professional?
As someone who was born and raised in Kenya and moved to America only 5 years ago, Black History is still very new to me. There is a lot of overlap between the effects of colonialism and slavery, so I had some familiarity with the magnitude of the latter when I first moved here. However, as I learned more and more about Black History in college and socially, I realised there was so much more to Black History in America than what it is portrayed as - a history of suffering. I learned about Black people’s contributions to music, to art, to just about everything. And now as a professional, as a Black woman in STEM, I see our contribution to tech. Black History Month, to me, means acknowledging the challenges we have faced and continue to face, while still celebrating all of our successes, and our very important contributions to the world.
According to McKinsey, Black people make up 12% of the US workforce but only 8% of employees in tech jobs. The gap is likely to widen as tech roles are expected to grow 14% by 2032, but Black tech talent in those roles is expected to grow only 8%.
From your perspective/experience, what would you like to see tech companies do better to help close the gap in Black representation in tech?
Making Black people feel welcome in roles that traditionally exclude them is so important. It’s hard enough to fight the imposter syndrome that comes with constantly being viewed as less than. Having initiatives that uplift Black people (all races and ethnicities really), having diversity training initiatives, frequent check-ins and opportunities for reflection, and giving Black people the space and platform to speak up for themselves are a few of the things that help make these spaces safer and more welcoming for Black people.
It can be misconstrued as favouring a certain race/ethnic group, but we have to remember that Black people start at a disadvantage, with a lot of prejudices against them and a lot of self-doubt from years of discrimination, and this is simply levelling the playing field. I would also love to see barriers to entry lifted in the tech field, such as more outreach to HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). For example, JPMorgan recently reviewed and made changes to their application process to eliminate possible biases. Things like that make great strides in increasing Black tech talent.
Do you have any Black tech role models? What are your aspirations for your career in tech?
This is probably not surprising to anyone, but the three Black women from the movie Hidden Figures really inspired me. Especially Dorothy Johnson, who fought so hard against overt racism and in the end changed space history with her calculations in the 1962 orbital mission. It reminds me how we belong here just as much as everyone else. My aspirations are to learn as much as I can, go as far and high up as possible, and open doors for so many more like me.
What are you looking forward to this Black History Month?
We at Kubrick have a lot in store for you! I am most excited for our live panel organised by Kubrick’s new Head of DEI, Dana James Edwards. The panel will tackle some of the most nuanced questions about race on Reddit’s AITA thread to ask, ‘Am I the issue?’. It will give great exposure to a variety of scenarios that will hopefully inspire open and honest conversations that I think should be had in the workplace. Dana did a great job of picking out some really thought- provoking scenarios that I can’t wait for everyone to hear. I will be attending as one of the panellists, so I hope to see you all there on the 16th of February! I am also looking forward to the final week of February, when we are planning to provide some goodies from Black-owned restaurant/establishment at our New York office. I’m excited to help put some new food spots on the map for my colleagues and support some Black owned businesses while we’re at it.
You can join Natalie on our live intergroup discussion panel – Am I the issue? – on February 16th (5PM GMT/12PM EST) where we’ll be unpacking some of the most thought-provoking scenarios surrounding race and identity from Reddit’s infamous AITA thread. You can register for a place here.