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Valerie Sharp & Kristen Seversky

“I overheard someone in [GDI] leadership say something to the effect of ‘this is what they need – they need our space’ kind of like to say like ‘to find each other’ – this is ‘what they need, black women in tech need this’. As if we weren’t going to find each other at Google I/O, a predominately white event with very little people of color. Like we weren’t going to run into each other?”

Image of Valerie SharpeValerie Sharp is a self-taught technologist who loves jumping between the UX Universe and Coding Cosmos to create user-centered digital experiences. By combining her passions of art, psychology, and, tech, she hopes to find the perfect balance between tech and humanity to create a better human experience for all. 

To help spread the finical wealth offered by the tech industry, Valerie founded Tech By Choice a nonprofit that is working to increase diversity in the tech industry by providing low to no cost events for individuals in protected groups.

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“This is completely heart-breaking. What was once an area that I could really enjoy is now the same area that causes immense harm. It forces me to look back on four and half years and ask what did I even do? Was that even a net positive?…it feels like a waste of time.”

Image of Kristen Seversky

Kristen Seversky is a product-owning, design-thinking, code-writing, people person. She’s a passionate problem solver with a love for people and technology. Few things make her happier than building better solutions for any given problem. She knows the world needs more efficiency and inclusivity thus she happily contributed ten years as a software developer with a blend of design thinking. Kristen enjoys wearing many hats and rarely shies away from a new challenge. She has tons of energy and is constantly seeking the right environments that let her run full speed.

Kristen is formerly the co-founder and co-leader of the Girl Develop It – Rochester chapter, which was started in 2014. She rarely missed any of the 90 events and taught various languages in the first two years as the chapter grew. GDI aside, Kristen has spoken to incoming Computer Science freshmen women, STEM teachers, and participated in panels devoted to women into tech. In 2018, she was honored as the Digital Rochester’s (now TechRochester) inaugural Emerging Technology Professional Woman of the Year and continues to engage in conference planning and networking events in the local community.

When not at her laptop, she can be found in her Oculus set (she might have a computer separation anxiety), boating on the Great Lakes or Finger Lakes with her husband, playing with her dog, powerlifting in her gym, and feeding her curiosity for all elements of life.

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Marisa Catalina Casey

“If we’re not going to make progress in our matriarchal organizations, then we’re just as oppressive as our patriarchal organizations.”


Image of Marisa Catalina CaseyMarisa Catalina Casey is an artist, educator and social entrepreneur. Prior to serving in Ecuador for two years as an Education and Business Advising Volunteer with the Peace Corps, she founded the Brooklyn-based nonprofit arts organization, Starting Artists, Inc. (SA). SA served hundreds of youth in New York City over the 5 years of Marisa’s leadership, inspiring and educating 10-19 year olds through hands-on training in the media arts and entrepreneurship.

Marisa obtained her BA from Brown University and her MA from Columbia University and has held positions at the Hearst Foundations, CARE, Alliance for Children Foundation, Teen Ink, APERTURE, The Nature Conservancy, and Girl Develop It. In addition, she led the Communications Team for Mindy Domb’s successful Massachusetts State Representative campaign and serves as a volunteer grant reviewer for the Pollination Project on the International Economic Development panel.

Marisa co-authored the book, Born in our Hearts, with her adoptive mother, with all proceeds donated to international orphanages, including her own in Bogotá, Colombia. She has served as a board member of the Americans for the Arts Emerging Leaders Council and founding board member of Emerging Leaders of New York Arts. Marisa has been chosen to participate in several leadership programs including the International Youth Foundation Global Fellowship, American Express Nonprofit Leadership Institute, Lucca Leadership Foundations Program in South Africa, and the British Council’s Transatlantic Network 2020 bringing young leaders from Europe and North America together to address social issues.

Currently, she lives with her husband, their daughter, and a turtle in Western Massachusetts where they can be seen on outings in their avocado green 1978 VW Camper Van. See more of her work at:

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All music for the #causeascene podcast is composed and produced by Chaos, Chao Pack, and Listen on SoundCloud

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Tamara Temple

“There is this global expectation that I can walk through the world and just demand things because of who I am and the color of my skin. And that is fucking wrong.”

Image of Tamara TempleTamara Temple is a self-described “Webologist”, tech maven, and deeply interested in software as a craft. As a life-long learner, Tamara has long had an interest in teaching, coaching, and mentoring people in the arts of programming and helping people to learn how to use computers to solve problems, communicate with others, and have a lot of fun.

Tamara works on both back-end development in Ruby on Rails, front-end development in ReactJS and GraphQL, and loves using static site generators such as Jekyll and Gatsby. She loves coaching and mentoring new developers, and loves answering questions of almost any sort.

“I am deeply committed to increasing the diversity of my chosen field by increasing the opportunities for people of colour and people with disabilities, especially. It’s important for marginalized and underrepresented people to have wonderful, rewarding, and respectful learning opportunities and experiences.”

When not working around computers, Tamara is a mom to two grown daughters, a watercolourist, sketcher, and photographer, and sometime musician.

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Authors of Color I’m reading a lot of lately:

  • Nnedi Okorafor, Ph. D. – a prolific author in the aforementioned Afrofuturism style, author of the “Binti” series. Dr. Okorafor’s writing is beautiful, and has opened up vistas for me into African culture as it could play out in the far future. She’s also the writer on the latest Black Panther graphic novel series, and a new spin-off series, Shuri.
  • Nora K. Jemisin – another speculative fiction author, winner of 3 Hugos in a row for the “Broken Earth” triology. An essay she wrote in 2010 is hugely important to understand: Don’t Put My Book in the African American Section
  • Saladin Ahmed – an Arab American writer, writer of graphic novels including Black Bolt, Exiles, and the very fabulous book Abbot.
  • Tananarive Due – an AA speculative horror fiction writer and instructor, her books are not in a genre know for Black writers, and while not really my personal favorite genre, these are illuminating and expansive into areas where I have had no prior view of African American and African culture

Correction from Tamara: After listening to the podcast, I realize I made an error: Alice Walker is the author of “The Color Purple”. Toni Morrison is the author of “Beloved”. My apologies to both authors and the audience.

All music for the #causeascene podcast is composed and produced by Chaos, Chao Pack, and Listen on SoundCloud

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Leah & José

“The way that I describe it, and this is the god’s honest truth, I’m white enough to get the job, white enough to get hired, but I’m not quite white enough to get paid.”

Image of Leah La SallaLeah La Salla is a self-taught, polyglot software architect. Her high school years in the Chicago area involved many hours working in her dad’s super-precision tool-and-die machine shop.  Leah got started in tech long before there were any initiatives trying to bring women into development. She studied CAD design in college and then spent a decade in software engineering –  including five years as a Federal employee – while teaching herself to program in an additional 9 languages.

Leah’s worked on wide range of technically unusual products including fabrication application development, industrial printing, and more conventional app development and app security.  She’s mentored over a hundred in women in coding as the LAMP/Js curriculum advisor for the Ada Academy, and she’s rated in the top 10% of Stack Overflow (her social media handle is Open Sorceress). Leah built Astral’s original prototype in between assembling the company team out of the personal and professional network she has built over the course of the last seventeen years. As the inventor of toaster-sized neuromechanical drones for unbiased public safety, she hacked NASA with a toaster.

Image of Leah La SallaJosé La Placa Amigò grew up in Puerto Rico where his mother is the Dean Emeritus of the University of Puerto Rico School of Science.  José served in the US Air Force, as an off-site engineer specializing in installation, fault isolation, and reconstitution of fixed cable and wireless distribution systems, as well as LAN and WAN.  As a war veteran, he’s been shot at. Fluently bilingual Spanish / English, he establishes and oversees our Spanish-speaking international strategic partnerships. He also handles WAN network engineering for line-of-sight development at Astral AR.  José is also a longtime volunteer and foster parent with the Santa Rosa Dog Den Rescue, helping countless dogs find forever homes.

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All music for the #causeascene podcast is composed and produced by Chaos, Chao Pack, and Listen on SoundCloud

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Sharyn Holmes

“One of the challenges that happens in the online space, we say how we want to identify and people want to question that. As though that’s so hard to wrap someone’s head around that someone can choose how they want to identify.”


Images of Sharyn Holmes
Sharyn Holmes is a biracial Asian Australian. Not for the faint of heart, Sharyn’s work dives deep into social justice, spirituality and personal sovereignty.
Sharyn works as a consultant and coach to clients in the spiritual, online business, creative and wellness industries on anti-racism & conscious business strategy guiding them to cultivate an anti-racist identity.
She disrupts spiritual business and entrepreneurial spaces with #dearselfstyledguru letters calling for better
 representation, equity and inclusion for Black, Indigenous and Womxn of Colour.
She teaches people through her workshops and programs, Unpack Your Privilege, Gut Instinct and the program

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All music for the #causeascene podcast is composed and produced by Chaos, Chao Pack, and Listen on SoundCloud


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If you’re silent about your pain, they will kill you and say that you enjoyed it

“So you have these intentions, but without strategy it’s chaos. It doesn’t do anything and in many cases it harms the very people you’re trying to include.” @KimCrayton1

If you’re silent about your pain, they will kill you and say that you enjoyed it ~ Zora Neale Hurston

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” ~ Zora Neale Hurston

“If you want that good feeling that comes from doing things for other folks then you have to pay for it in abuse and misunderstanding.” ~ Zora Neale Hurston

“Those that don’t got it, can’t show it. Those that got it, can’t hide it.” ~ Zora Neale Hurston

“Learning without wisdom is a load of books on a donkey’s back.” ~ Zora Neale Hurston

“I feel most colored when I am thrown against a sharp white background.” ~ Zora Neale Hurston

“Once you wake up thought in a man, you can never put it to sleep again.” ~ Zora Neale Hurston

“Through it all, I remain myself.” ~ Zora Neale Hurston

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