HashiCorp Voices: How the Blacksmiths ERG Supports the Community

Three members of HashiCorp’s Blacksmiths ERG talk about the outside projects they’re working on to support their communities.

The HashiCorp Blacksmiths Employee Resource Group (ERG) was formed to help boost the representation of people of African descent within HashiCorp. In this post, three Blacksmiths — Senior Product Manager Trevor Powell, Senior UX Researcher Shanae Chapman, and Senior Solutions Engineer Mack Hendricks — share stories about the outside-the-office projects they’re involved in, and offer tips for other people who want to give back to their communities.

From left to right: Mack Hendricks, Shanae Chapman, and Trevor Powell

From left to right: Mack Hendricks, Shanae Chapman, and Trevor Powell

»Mack Hendricks, Senior Solutions Engineer

I earned a Bachelors and a Masters of Science in Computer Science from Oakland University. I have worked for large Silicon Valley-based companies for most of my 20-year career, including 5 years at Sun Microsystems and 10 years at Oracle.

»Community Projects

I co-founded Detroit Black Tech in 2018, sponsoring a photoshoot at the African American Museum in Detroit. The original goal was to distribute these photos to news organizations in Detroit for Black History Month in 2019 — to show that we exist.

But after getting everyone together, I realized that this could be bigger and we could help others see the value of Black tech talent in Detroit and globally. Today, we are a Non-Profit 501c3 organization focused on building a highly valued community of Black individuals in the Detroit tech community.

»The Results

The group has grown to 1,600 folks, and we have extended our reach outside of Detroit by hosting an annual tech conference called Hacking With The Homies Developer Conference. As the first software development conference designed for Black software developers, it has attracted more than 430 attendees last year.

For the past two years, HashiCorp has been a sponsor, and last year provided product certification exam vouchers. I recently got a note from a woman stating that she passed the HashiCorp Certified: Associate Exam thanks to the free voucher. This definitely made me feel like we are making a difference!

»Where to Start

Find something that you are passionate about, and tell people about your idea — most likely other people feel the same way. Then build a community and just start!

»Shanae Chapman, Senior UX Researcher

St. Louis and Boston are special places for me. One is where I grew up, overcoming the odds as a studious Black girl in a low-income neighborhood, and the other is where I grew out of my comfort zone, as a Black woman blazing a trail in tech. In each case, a multicultural community was everything, and it kept me supported and motivated on my journey.

I started my career designing and developing marketing websites while getting a Bachelor of Arts in Communication with a Certificate in African American Studies from Saint Louis University. But I knew I wanted to learn more about building the best apps and systems, so I earned a Master’s degree in Professional Studies in Informatics in Boston at Northeastern University, and joined UXPA Boston, soaking in all the information I could. Today, In addition to being a Senior UX Researcher at HashiCorp, I am a UX Professor at Lesley University and Founder of Nerdy Diva. My decade-long career in tech has included large enterprises like IBM, Boeing, and MATLAB, startups, non-profit organizations, and higher education institutions. Before joining HashiCorp I led UX Research and Design for Swagger and SwaggerHub at SmartBear.

»Community Projects

I’m passionate about empowering UX researchers, designers, and developers with tools to build inclusive products, services, and teams. In 2018, I founded Nerdy Diva to focus on inclusive research and design, social innovation, and angel investing in underrepresented founders by:

  • Empowering tech leaders to create more equitable products, services, and workplaces through workshops and training resources.
  • Providing best-in-class user experience, development, and angel investing for businesses serving women, people of color, and the LGBT community.
  • Providing real-world internships for knowledge building, access, opportunity, and networking for underserved people in tech.

When creating Nerdy Diva, I thought about how rare it was to find other women — other Black women — in technology, and I knew that I wanted my business, and my brand to help demonstrate that women, especially Black women, belong in design and technology, I try to
bring that teacher and growth mindset to HashiCorp and to my clients. It's not just that we’re doing the work, we’re also sharing knowledge with you about why we're doing the work.

»The Results

Since its founding in 2018, Nerdy Diva has hosted more than 40 workshops and talks on diversity in design and technology, including events for API Days, Black Designers Ignite, NSBE Boston, UXPA, Lesbians Who Tech, and STLX Meetup. We completed training with 9 organizations, including the Greater STL Inc. Diverse Business Accelerator and Arlan Hamilton’s Investing as a Catalyst Program. Our perspective has appeared in multiple articles, anthologies, and podcasts, including 97 Things Every UX Practitioner Should Know (O’Reilly Media), the UXPA Magazine, and UK Black Tech. You can find out more about Nerdy Diva in press coverage in the New York Times, The New Stack, and the St. Louis American

»Where to Start

First, be the change. Follow your passion and look for ways to make a positive impact in your community. Next, network and connect with people who share your passion. I’ve connected with people across the US and around the world who care about equity, diversity, and inclusion in tech and are doing the work to make a difference.

»Trevor Powell, Senior Product Manager

My mother is from the South, my father is from Jamaica, and I was born and raised in the Midwest. After graduating from Purdue University, I moved to California to chase my tech dreams. I jumped headfirst into a career in engineering around systems and infrastructure. Writing applications was cool, but I really loved seeing how things worked in the backend. Linux, networking, and virtualization were right up my alley. After more than a dozen years in engineering, I moved into product management for cloud platforms.

»Community Projects

I have always enjoyed helping people. So my outside activities mirror that.

For example, I have had a “little” with Big Brother Big Sisters of America for more than 15 years. I guess he’s not so little anymore, he just turned 30! I am thankful for the Big Brother Big Sisters organization providing an opportunity for me to give back to my community and help a younger version of myself. Life can be hard when you are young, and I am glad I could be there for someone to help them through it.

I have also had the pleasure of being a high school youth leader at my local church, Redemption, for more than 14 years. I’ve stepped in my share of potholes over the years. And if I can help someone sidestep one or two, their world might just be a better place.

Finally, I currently hold the position of Board Chair on the Board at the Lighthouse of Hope counseling center. Its mission to support and heal the community really resonated with me, and I have been working with Lighthouse of Hope for more than 11 years. I am not a counselor and have no training in therapy. But I thought I could offer my perspective from the corporate world and my passion for helping others.

»The Results

A common thread across all three projects is the chance to see a real human life change before your eyes. It is not something that happens overnight, but it is extremely rewarding. Years ago, if you would have told me I would be at my little’s 30th birthday, I would not have believed it. At Redemption, seeing teens grow throughout high school, stumble and learn through life’s lessons while developing their relationship with God is a blessing for me.

Working on the Board at the Lighthouse of Hope has been a unique experience, especially during COVID-19. We closed our primary office and pivoted from delivering services face to face to TeleHealth. And with the COVID-related restrictions in our area, I was concerned that the non-profit would not be able to continue to support its mission. I am grateful to say that we overcame the challenge and were able to support a many-fold increase in clients during the pandemic.

»Where to Start

Remember, you don’t have to change the world overnight. Just start with yourself and help the person next to you. Over time you will see the change before your very eyes.

The views expressed on this blog are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of HashiCorp.

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