The tech workforce in the US is not growing at an optimal pace. The number of schools offering computer science is not enough which is impacting the access of computer science to young women and students from marginalized communities.
This is because only 47% of public high schools in the US offer computer science which deeply impacts its access to young women and students from marginalized communities.
To address this pressing issue, we have launched #MyStartInTech, a campaign dedicated to drawing attention to this cause and in turn, help widen access to computer science in schools.
As part of this campaign, we present the #MyStartInTech interview series where some of the esteemed tech entrepreneurs and professionals in the industry share details about their journey in tech. With this, we hope to draw attention to the infinite opportunities that will lay open if young women and students are given the opportunity to study computer science.
In this interview, Elle Johnson, Co-Founder & CEO of The District Capital Marketing Group talks about how she got her start in the tech world.
Elle is a passionate creative problem solver uniquely gifted in Mathematics and she found an outlet for her unique expression of talent while pursuing a degree in Information Management from the University of Missouri and a Master’s in Information Management from Washington University in St. Louis. She began her career as an IT professional at The Boeing Company and went on to lead IT divisions within NASA and DC Government.
As Co-Founder & CEO of The District Capital Marketing Group, Elle is responsible for driving strategic direction, protecting the agency’s long-term sustainability, and coaching the next generation of digital marketing agents and influencers.
Let’s find out what she has to say!
When was your first interaction with Computer Science?
My first interaction with Computer Science came during the second semester of 4th grade when “computer class” was introduced as an afternoon elective. From the moment that my teacher handed me an 8-inch floppy disk labeled with my name, I was hooked! I was completely fascinated by this emerging technology known as the “personal computer.”
Fast-forward to my senior year in high school. It was the year 2000, the dawn of the new millennium, and the airways were flooded with speculation about Y2K. Every major sector of our modern society, banking, local governments, utility companies, and power plants were all concerned about what would happen to our infrastructure on the fateful evening of December 31, 1999.
Once the Y2K crisis was averted, the following year we saw the .com bubble come crashing down. The speculative nature of the .com era saw unprecedented wealth being made in internet-based companies and sent the stock markets into a feeding frenzy.
It was the most fascinating series of historical events, and while I did not quite understand everything that was happening in the world around me at that time, I knew that somehow, someway I was going to be a part of this emerging technological sphere.
What nudged you into taking up a career in technology?
I ultimately “stumbled” upon a career in technology, when I attended a career fair with a friend my senior year in high school. I was told that it was a complete waste of my time to attend, as most of the employers were there to offer summer internships and co-ops to rising and graduating college Seniors. But, once I am told that I can’t “do” or “achieve” something, that is when I make it my mission to prove the naysayers wrong.
As I engaged the representatives at each of the booths, I learned that the l worlds’ largest aerospace company and leading manufacturer of commercial jetliners were in attendance and looking for interns. I approached the booth and as I was waiting my turn to speak to one of the HR representatives, I noticed that they were putting stars by the names of prospects who were interested in Engineering. When it was my opportunity to speak to a representative, I proudly exclaimed that I was fascinated with technology and that I would be pursuing a degree in computer engineering at my local university in the fall. She smiled and put a star by my name and the rest was history.
I started my career studying technology while interning for that company every summer until I graduated with my Bachelor of Science degree. Once I graduated I accepted a full-time position and had the pleasure of being surrounded by some of the sharpest minds in the field of computer science.
What are your earliest memories of using a computer in school?
My earliest memories of using a computer in school go back to my 4th-grade computer class. Being introduced to technology early on ignited a passion that would eventually shape and form my personal life and career. It provided a creative outlet and the opportunity to explore a whole new machine-based world with this whole new machine-based language.
What is the importance of technology to you now and how does it impact your life?
As the owner of a Digital Marketing Company, technology dramatically impacts my life, it is my literal livelihood. Technology is the invisible undercurrent of the world that we know today, it is quite literally the driving force behind our future. Every single segment of our everyday lives is dependent upon or influenced by technology.
Because of technology, we have been thrust into a global interconnected community with unprecedented access and insight into opportunities that have yet to be imagined. We literally have the world right at our fingertips.
For example, my company is based out of Washington, DC, but technology allows me to create websites for Italian start-ups looking to launch their products in the US, discuss market positioning strategies with a world-renowned surgeon for the grand opening of their new Medical Center of Excellence in Maryland, launch an investment real estate ad campaign for Ohio based clients, all without having to book a flight.
How important is it to increase access to computer science and technology to underrepresented communities and young women today?
Because technology has thrust us into this interconnected global community, we have a responsibility to each other to ensure all communities have equitable access to technological platforms. This need has become more apparent as we work to emerge from this pandemic. Without warning, the landscape of our lives shifted, and we were all forced into this virtual and remote posture. Computer science and technology was the sole infrastructure that was churning behind the scenes to keep our world and economy afloat.
Underrepresented communities fared far worse in this pandemic due to a lack of access. By closing the gap and ensuring historically underrepresented communities have access, we are opening ourselves to a wealth of untapped talent and potential.
Why do you think access to computer literacy in school is important?
In my opinion, computer literacy must expand into digital literacy. Digital literacy has to become synonymous with traditional literacy.
Just as schools teach students to read and write, they have to lay the groundwork to ensure students are able to understand the technology and translate that understanding into something tangible, beneficial, and useful.
Technology is here, it is our present, it is our future. Therefore, we have to ensure that future generations have sound technological acumen.
What do you think about .Tech Domains taking up this cause?
.Tech Domains is doing excellent work by championing the cause to bring awareness to the lack of equal access to technology in school, for young women and students from marginalized communities.
Marginalized communities face significant challenges. There are severe gaps in equity in terms of opportunity and economic prosperity and lack of access to technology has widened and reinforced this disparity.
Ironically, technology can also be used to overcome this disproportionate discrepancy. Bringing voice to this issue will serve to do just that!