I'm Pariss Chandler, but I go by Pariss Athena. Creator of the hashtag, movement, and global community#BlackTechTwitter, Founder and CEO of Black Tech Pipeline.
Some context: I'm an actress, turned Wax Specialist, turned Software Engineer. I learned to code and got my first job as a Software Engineer in 2017. In 2018, I was laid off from that job and on the hunt to find a new role. I decided to get onto Twitter to tweet about my journey finding a job in tech, and vent about the trials and tribulations of what it's like to be the only Black person at a company. A couple of months in, I discovered that there was a very small community of Black technologists, which was shocking because up until that point, I honestly believed there were just no Black people in tech. I never worked with someone who looked like me, and I rarely saw many Black people at conferences or meetups I'd attend. Out of shock and curiousity, I put out a tweet asking, 'What does Black Twitter in tech look like?'. I didn't expect anything to come from that tweet since I was so new to the Twitter platform and barely had a following, but the complete opposite happened. My phone began vibrating non-stop with responses to my tweet. Black technologists from all over the world were responding to the tweet, which created a super long thread of their selfies with captions of what they do in the industry. It was surreal, but that's the power of social media!
Over night, we formed a movement, community and hashtag now known as #BlackTechTwitter. During this wild experience, employers, conference organizers, and opportunity extenders of all sorts were reaching out to me through Twitter to collaborate and recruit candidates out of the new #BlackTechTwitter community. Mind you, I had no recruiting experience, and this whole formation of a new community wasn't my intention, but I knew the impact it would have on our community to begin recruiting job seekers into these open opportunities, so I said 'yes' to everyone! I also did it for free. For the past year and a half, I've been conducting business straight out of my Twitter DM's. I've had the opportunity to recruit job candidates into many different companies, and passed along all sorts of opportunities to our community. While that sounds super cool and successful, there were still inclusivity and retention problems amongst some of the employers I was recruiting for, so I decided to build a business model that centered around the happiness of the candidates, and providing employers transparent feedback to create a better culture and improve retention.
On every engineering team I've worked on, and at every company I've worked for, I wasn't just the only woman or Black person on the team, but the only Black person in the entire company. Before entering tech, I had jobs where I was always surrounded by co-workers who looked like me. Thinking about race, and being a 'culture fit' wasn't something that ever crossed my mind, nor was it brought up in interview processes. Once I entered tech, it consumed me. I dealt with exclusion, racism, bias, and being treated differently overall. I'd look around and see that my co-workers could easily build relationships with those who they felt they had things in common with, and appearance was a big commonality.
The Black Tech Pipeline business model was inspired by the needs of our community members who are usually the minority in predominantly white work spaces. Any time someone is recruited and hired oiut of Black Tech Pipeline, I virtually stay on the job with them for the first 90 days. I do bi-weekly check-ins with BTP hires to get feedback on their experience thus far, and make sure they're in an environment that is setting them up for success. I relay that feedback to their manager and work with them on what that specific candidate needs to thrive in their role, and move up the ladder in the company. I also help these employers with their diversity, equity, and inclusion intiatives.
Doing DEI work needs to be a priority at the foundation of every company, and in every industry, but especially tech. We're living in a digitally driven era, and the tech industry is where underserved communities are going to be left behind- mainly Black and Brown. Thankfully, #BlackTechTwitter helped debunk the excuse that there is a "pipeline problem." There isn't. There are skilled and qualified Black people already thriving in the tech industry.
Wrapping up, I've had the privilege of running Black Tech Pipeline the way I see fit- with transparency and authenticity. My priority is the safety of our community members, being able to offer honest feedback to our partners, and holding this industry accountable.