Black Orlando Tech’s ultimate goal is to train and inspire 10,000 minorities and people of color to enter the tech industry by 2025. Its monthly speaking events and the networking opportunities they provide, in addition to the resources the organization offers to its attendees—whether they be tech hopefuls, business owners, or students—are all helping to bolster diversity in the Central Florida area.
Black Orlando Tech began as a question among a group of local entrepreneurs: What could they do to promote collaboration between and creativity among local leaders, tech professionals, and others interested in entering the industry? Answering that question became a discussion, and that discussion evolved into a monthly event where local tech professionals speak on different topics—everything from cybersecurity to cryptocurrency, from the cannabis industry to digital marketing.
Black Orlando Tech Leadership Team members Tiffany Spencer, a Salesforce Consultant and Tech Mentor, and Mike Felix, a serial entrepreneur and Digital Sales Coach, Joshua Walker, a corporate Cloud Consultant and Tech Keynote Speaker, Emily Walker a Digital Marketing Analyst and Community Organizer agree that the power of B.O.T.’s monthly events lies in the connections they see being formed.
“The success stories that come out of it aren’t always, ‘Wow I learned so much,’ but rather: ‘Hey, guess what? I now work with this company. Or, ‘Hey, I finally connected to this person, or this funding source, because I met them at a Black Orlando Tech event,’” Mike says.
The events aren’t just helpful for entrepreneurs, Tiffany explains. “It’s also the students who come to events and say, ‘Wow, I’ve never seen so many people of color in tech! I actually want to be in tech now.’”
It’s no secret that STEM industries are not nearly as diverse as they could be for a country whose Black citizens comprise almost 13% of its population. As recently as 2014, for example, Google’s diversity report revealed that only 2% of its employees were Black. And while barriers to entry in the tech organization are real for many people of color, Black Orlando Tech is challenging the narrative.
“We want to make it so If you didn’t get the job, or you didn’t get the funding, the default answer becomes, ‘I have a little bit of work to do,’ instead of ‘Well, it’s because I’m Black,’” Mike says.
We want to make it so If you didn’t get the job, or you didn’t get the funding, the default answer becomes, ‘I have a little bit of work to do,’ instead of ‘Well, it’s because I’m Black- Mike Felix, Black Orlando Tech
“The city of Orlando has been very supportive of everything we’re doing. There are different pockets of the city where there is a high concentration of people of color and a lot of them do not see the Black engineers, the Black tech entrepreneurs—and a lot their stories, of course, need to be told.”
True to the inclusivity that Orlando’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is known for, other local tech organizations have been supportive of Black Orlando Tech’s mission.
“When we started two and a half years ago, other tech groups in the community noticed organically that our organization had gotten started, and they made sure we had a seat at the table for different tech conferences and events in Orlando,” Tiffany says. “I really like the tech community here, and it’s really growing. A lot of the city leaders see the need that Black Orlando Tech addresses, so they’re really excited about partnering with us to fulfill that mission.”
Black Orlando Tech’s overarching goal is to bring 10,000 people of color into STEM industries by 2025, and it is well on its way, thanks to its community-centered focus. By entering different communities to recruit individuals and hold workshops for them, Black Orlando Tech teaches them both skills and about opportunities in tech. B.O.T. also helps to support Black-owned STEM businesses through networking opportunities and by facilitating resources to help them scale.
Looking toward the future, we want to grow Black Orlando Tech to the point where we can be the one to highlight others’ stories and promote and create a platform for Black tech entrepreneurs—or even aspiring black tech professionals—to have a safe place and feel that they are part of a cool, inclusive environment,” Mike says.
Black Orlando Tech helps people of color to see ways forward they thought were unavailable to them, and the organization’s growth reflects the best of Orlando: identifying a need and working together to fulfill it.
Black Orlando Tech