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Because My “WHY” Is Stronger Than Your Excuses — Part 1

Originally posted on August 19, 2018

I will begin this post as I begin each talk, with a list of my credentials because there’s always somebody who needs to see this to understand that I am not an “angry black women”, but rather an informed one.

As I sat back, over the past few weeks, thinking about how I would write about the challenges facing the developer community and specifically Stack Overflow, I realized that there were so many ways I could go. But in order to do what I do best, communicate effective, I’ve decided that this will be a series. This first post will serve as a general overview.

The Problem: Lack of Inclusion & Diversity

Definition of terms

  • Privilege = Access
  • Underrepresented = Numbers
  • Marginalized = Treatment
  • Diversity = Variety
  • Inclusion = Experience

Developer Survey Results 2016

Stack Overflows own data points to serious challenges with diversity:

Developer Survey Results 2017

Developer Survey Results 2018

Here’s a video of my evaluation of the 2018 survey results and their potential implications on a global developer and business community.

Beyond Stack Overflow, the larger technical community continues to demonstrate a lack of care and concern for changing a status quo that favors PRIVILEGED individuals over all others.

White Women != Diversity

A privileged system must take on the responsibility and burden of improving inclusion and diversity in our organizations, communities, and events for members underrepresented and marginalized groups.

  1. We know that many of you don’t care about improving the experiences of those who aren’t benefiting from privilege.
  2. Please stop assuming that your efforts for improving inclusion and diversity are in any way effective.
  3. White women != diversity because they also benefit from a system of privilege.
  4. We are watching you. Your words and meaningless gestures will come back to bite you in the ass over the long-term.
  5. Finally, if you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not doing enough.

Indicators of Meaningful Progress and Change with Stack Overflow

  • A strategic plan outlining how they intend to improve not only the number of underrepresented and marginalized individuals meaningfully engaging on the site. But also, a plan for improving the experiences for all (inclusion)
  • Documentation of outreach efforts to underrepresented and marginalized communities.
  • A process for reporting incidences of inappropriate behavior.
  • At least a 25% participation rate for underrepresented and marginalized individuals in the 2019 Developer Survey
  • A meaningful academic study conducted on the potential inherent bias associated with the “knowledge” shared on the site.
  • An onboarding process for those new to the site and new to coding.
  • A regular report that is shared, as widely as you share your survey results, to ensure a transparent process.
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Why Alabama Is Not A Victory For Black Women


As someone who has championed the need for uncomfortable conversations about inclusion and diversity in tech, I am still trying to process my thoughts and I must say that I’m feeling some kind of way about this.

Black women have been the backbone of this nation since slavery, with absolutely no recognition or respect and here we are again.


Although many see this as some kind of victory, I have to admit that I do not. “People are giving black women the credit for defeating Roy Moore”

What I see is a temporary pat on the back that black women have always gotten for coming in and handling business by taking the load on our already worn shoulders. Why are we only called off the bench when the game is on the line? For me, this only reinforces and further disenfranchises black women.

Why? Because is not going to change because of what these women in Alabama have done. White women will still be underrepresented yet will still have the advantage of the privilege that comes with being white in most parts of the world.


And black women will still be underrepresented AND marginalized in a country that only sees their value when they are saving the country from itself.

Some may ask why I’m being so “pessimistic”? Why do I not “see” this as not only a victory for Alabama but also for black women? Because by next week, the celebrating will have ended and these very brave, inventive, and clever black women who managed to mobilize their communities for this vote, will largely be forgotten and it will be back to business as usual until the calls goes out for the next “fight.”

People with the power and resources to change just don’t believe that black women or any other group of people of color matter and until we can look this elephant that’s in the room, squarely in the eye, and deal honestly with this overarching issue NOTHING WILL CHANGE!

As I travel the world speaking at conferences and events about the business and economic values of improving inclusion and diversity, I continue to be surprised at, although many event organizers value these issues, very few collect any substantive data on their efforts. For some reason, it seems that collecting data on these issues is seen as offensive, yet as a researcher, like it or not, I know that data has the ability to tell a story.

You cannot manage what you cannot measure.

In an effort to understand what was behind the reluctance of one of my business coaching clients to embrace even the thought of developing processes for measuring progress, I had them write about it and the answer was insightful.

If I measure, I might fail.

I have a slight bent toward perfection. (Okay fine, a rather impressive bent toward perfection.) I seek it in whatever I do, even though I don’t believe it actually exists. Worse, I’m convinced it’s harmful and brings nothing but stress and disappointment. Demanding perfection from yourself is terribly unkind. It’s also paralyzing. Why would I move forward if I know I could fail; why would I do something that could fall short of perfection?

Measuring also places the responsibility squarely with me. If something is measured, you can’t chalk failure up to some uncontrollable, mysterious outside force. I’ll be able to see where the problem is, in black and white. Can I handle that kind of cold, unambiguous feedback?

What I took from this is that some may just be uncomfortable with asking these kinds of questions, while others are afraid of making mistakes in this area.

Well let me help you with this:

  • It’s time to get uncomfortable
  • And you will make mistakes

But believe it or not, by collecting the data, no matter the story it tells about your efforts at actually improving inclusion and diversity in any significant way, this same data enables you to document and tell your own story. A story of sincere intention can easily be illustrated in the data you collect. It enables you to identify areas of strength and challenges, so that you can use your available resources efficiently and effectively. And more importantly, it becomes part of a playbook that can be shared with others with the same intention.

So no, I don’t think Alabama changed a damn thing for black women in this country but I do believe that when enough of us can take an honest, measured look at improving the state of inclusion and diversity, our efforts will eventually bear fruit for us all.

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I Don’t Do Non-Technical Talks

We will never change how tech does business until we change how we redefine technical.

I have completed many CFPs over the past year and a half and it is only recently, as I dive deeper into the issues of inclusion and diversity in tech, that I now question a very specific part of the process. Almost every CFP in some form or another, asks the submitter whether their proposed topic is technical or non-technical. On the surface, this seems like a simple enough question. There seems to be no opportunity for harm or miscommunication in requesting this kind of categorizing data.

The damage that happens when all programming content is considered technical and everything else is non-technical is what we are experiencing now“Non-technical” content does not hold the same value in the minds and wallets of many members in our communities. This kind of content is often seen as “filler” and unnecessary to the profession.

One of the ways the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines technical is: of or relating to a particular subject.

Just as many of you have decided to do so, I made a decision not to pursue programming as a profession. What I saw, while working with many individuals and programming teams was a need for professional development and business operation strategies. And more importantly, I knew that after years of experience, I had the unique set of skills to provide such support.

No, the content I provide to the technology community is not programming specific but my ability to internalize and articulate this content in ways that enable programmers to hone their craft and to become better members of our community IS VERY TECHNICAL. And because not everyone can do what I do, I would say that I have a very specialized set of technical skills.

This to me is in direct alignment with the above definition.


In our efforts to become more inclusive and diverse, we must look beyond just gender and race and critically examine the various ways our intentional and unintentional behaviors may be placing barriers to entry for others. By not extending and expanding how we define “technical” beyond programming, it becomes much more challenging for individuals with equally important skills to establish themselves as experts and thus receive the level of respect and compensation they deserve.

Until we as a community begin to elevate the roles and responsibilities of individuals who are on the front lines everyday working to make the technology industry as a whole better, we will continue to spin our wheels on making this a safe, meaningful, and profitable space for all.

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And the Winner is…Processes Over Products AND Services

There are many reasons that businesses succeed or fail but in an Information Age economy, one looms bright.

The reason organizations like Amazon and Walmart are so successful is how their leaders have built their businesses. These leaders value processes over products or services, which is a completely different approach than most businesses, particularly startups.

Process driven businesses are designed to scale and take advantage of opportunities for innovation and competitive advantage by implementing processes into their system that work and that can be changed quickly. This level of flexibility, enables leadership to respond to customer needs quickly, as well as switch out or completely abandon current products and services with minimal effort when needed.

Process focused organizations, because they ARE NOT focused on any specific product or service, are able to innovate in ways that product and service businesses CANNOT because they’re designed for adopting new ideas and shedding old ones. Since these businesses ARE NOT “tied” to the success of any specific product or service, all available resources ARE NOT focused on preserving any ONE product or service to the exclusion of other opportunities, especially better ones.

Walk into any Walmart or log onto Amazon’s website and you quickly see the power of process over product. These businesses are able to swap out products, expand into completely different business areas when the opportunities present themselves, and completely disrupt existing business structures because of well established and vigorously tested processes.


Focusing on products and services to the exclusion of all else has been and continues to be the achilles’ heel and downfall of many successful businesses. It is those business leaders who consciously make the shift to managing processes AND NOT products or services who will dominate the business landscape, especially in our information rich, always changing, with increasing complexity, “new normal” of a business climate.


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Let’s Stop Putting Out 🔥 By Building Better Businesses

Yes, I’m known for working on issues of inclusion, diversity, and safe spaces in tech but let’s be honest, this work is reactionary. It focuses on the effect and rarely the cause, which is that these issues and others that do damage to a business’s reputation and bottomline, are symptoms of systemic failures.

All too often organizational leaders, managers, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists AND YES customers focus all available resources on the development of a product or service. Rarely, if ever, thinking about the subsequent business components that need to be established and that are necessary in order to support the growth and sustainability of any market successful product or service.

Products and services are not businesses.

As teams are iterating their product and service, as they are testing the marketplace, as they are incorporating what they learn into subsequent versions, they should also be designing and testing the policies, procedures, and processes that will guide their choices now and into the future.

The reason we are currently putting out fires related to inclusion and diversity, when they aren’t an outcome of intentionally discriminatory practices, is because little to no thought has been given up front to how the team intends to communicate their values amongst themselves, let alone to external stakeholders.

Let me pause here and explain what I mean when I use the word “values” in a business context. I mean, what are those “things” that the team wants to communicate, internally and externally, related to their product or service.

If this step is taken, it rarely extends to the more important step of determining how the team will operationalize those values.

Operationalizing values is all about the processes, procedures, and policies the team establishes that address how the business will be run. Its all about measurement. Because what cannot be measured cannot effectively be evaluated. It’s this step, which is ongoing because it’s a testing and evaluation process, that enable teams to better handle their ability to scale, hire, identify appropriate partnerships, etc.

To create a mission and values statement and post them on a website or office wall is nothing more than pretty words if the team, partners nor customers can articulate them as reasons why the product or service is better.

Pretty words cannot be measured. Teams cannot effectively improve products or services with feedback like “good” or “wasn’t a culture fit” because these words, and similar ones, mean nothing. These kinds of statements aren’t measurable because they mean different things to different people. It’s not until the team has agreed on the organizational values and operationalized them that they have the tools they need to create products and services that reflect those values and hopefully appeal to potential customers and clients.

It is this crucial step of operationalizing values that the team can spot potential issues with inclusion, diversity, and safe spaces in tech. By going through this process, particularly over time, the team can begin to identify and address patterns, red flags, that are surfacing that may become barriers to inclusion and diversity when recruiting, scheduling meetings or deciding between supply chain partners.

When operationalizing and evaluating values becomes part of a team’s culture, then they improve their ability to write the narrative and they are better positioned to address any missteps that may happen before they’ve had a chance to damage the business’s reputation in the marketplace.

And equally important, it is the operationalizing of the teams values that enable them to differentiate themselves in the marketplace and ultimately gain competitive advantage.


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My Inclusion and Diversity In Tech Manifesto — How Bad Does It Have To Get?

I have spent the last year and a half, traveling the world talking to groups of various sizes about the need for improving the health of our technology cultures and communities.

  • I’ve talked about the need for and strategies for mentoring.
  • I’ve encouraged individuals from underrepresented groups to share their stories.
  • I’ve given 100s of hours of my time “having coffee”, in an effort to help people successfully transition into tech.
  • I’ve conducted research on the economic and business arguments for inclusion and diversity for gaining competitive advantage.
  • I host and produce a podcast designed to have honest and frank conversations about inclusion and diversity in tech.
  • I’ve listened to stories of people who have been harmed by past and current exclusionary practices in tech.
  • I’ve designed and facilitated curricula focused on providing the information leadership and decision makers need in order to make effective changes in these areas.
  • And everyday, I read a new story about how some organization or community is now dealing with the fallout of piss poor policies, processes or procedures.

And for all of the accolades I’ve received for doing this and so much more, I have yet to be paid to do the work that I constantly see people on social media complaining isn’t happening.


Because it’s easy to complain.

Yes, it often comes from a place of pain but complaining is a sign that you’ve come to accept the pain as normal. It’s uncomfortable and often annoying but you are still able to go through your day until you see or hear something that reminds you of your pain, which justifies more complaining.

So as I listen and watch people, organizations, and communities in tech increasingly expose, to the world, their issues with inclusion and diversity, a part of me wants to complain.

  • I want to complain about white men expressing their surprise that a person with my level of experience and expertise has to start each conversation with my list of credentials before some people will even entertain what I have to say, when they have none and are instantly seen as experts when they talk.
  • I want to complain that I’m constantly asked to provide proof of my success at various scales, even after I’ve given a 50 minute presentation, when I’m in an industry that at its foundation is about experimentation and that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for addressing these very complex and often explosive issues.
  • I want to complain that I’ve discovered that this is a clever way of getting consulting advice for free.
  • I want to complain about the fact that people assume that anyone can do my job and that my years of experience learning to manage group dynamics, designing approaches for differentiated instruction, and the expenditure of more money than I care to share in order to develop a well-rounded understanding and practical knowledge of successful business practices aren’t contributing factors for my unique perspective.
  • And I could go on.

But honestly, what would be the point? Complaining is reactive in nature and there’s no “real” power in being reactive.

So if we’re not complaining, which is the reactive thing to do, what is the answer?

What is the proactive way to improve the discourse and health of our communities and organizations?

We Stop Complaining and We Take Action!

We admit that we have a problem.

We recognize that we have challenges that only someone with specialized skills can help us solve.

We would never think of substituting the star quarterback, during the Super Bowl, on a game winning play with someone who is not equally or better able to handle themselves in such a high pressure situation.

We demonstrate that we value these issues by allocating resources, including lots of money, to funding people and projects. There is no reason, with all this complaining, that someone like myself should have to start a Patreon campaign. I am running a business!

The work I do is no different than any other role that is well-paid in tech, except that it is the role that the foundation of your entire organization’s or community’s reputation rests on.

So yes, the issues of inclusion and diversity in tech are hard and painful to address.

But how bad does it have to get before we stop complaining and get to work?

You can contact me on Twitter: KimCrayton1 or email:

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How To Leverage Organizational Culture For Competitive Advantage

Organizational culture is often an under-appreciated and mismanaged organizational asset.

Culture can be defined as how individuals within a bounded system, usually an organization, supply chain or affinity group, interact with each other. Community is how well those bounded systems i.e. cultures, come together to create unbounded systems.


Organizational culture is not something that should be addressed “once we get our product or service up and running”. Organizational culture should be what drives the development of your products and services. It should help determine your strategic partners, your hiring practices, your forms of internal and external communications, etc. Organizational culture is your declaration to all stakeholders, direct and indirect, what they should expect whenever they encounter you, your employees, and your products and services.

Many founders are doing themselves, their organizations, and their products and services a disservice, and in some cases harm, by not taking the time to consider organizational culture. An organization’s culture has value. This value is determined by a marketplace, customers, employees, supply chain partners, etc., that increasingly is seeking to work with individuals and businesses which demonstrate values that align with their own.

The recruiting and training process is a resource heavy one, so making decisions about your values as early as possible and how they will be demonstrated is culture in action. There will always be employees who are on the lookout for better opportunities, especially money, elsewhere. But when all things are equal, they often leave or stay based on your organization’s culture.

Members of underrepresented communities in tech are known to make their employment decisions based on culture. This is an important concept not only to understand but to internalize when success in today’s business climate requires organizational leaders to be receptive to diverse perspectives.

In order to position an organization’s culture for competitive advantage and in turn, be able to benefit from it, founders should be thinking about culture at the same time that they are iterating their products and services. Although it’s never too late to focus on culture, organizational change is often a complex and challenging undertaking which requires an expenditure of already limited resources in order to identify and make the appropriate shifts to address already established culture issues.

Action Steps for Leveraging Organizational Culture For Competitive Advantage for New Businesses:

  1. Gather all current team members together to have a serious conversation about what values you want to use to guide your communication and actions. This conversation should take place in a comfortable environment which supports all team members input. Which might mean, in an alcohol-free environment.
  2. Create a story of what experience you’d like internal and external stakeholders to have when coming into contact with your team and products and services. Get as detailed as possible and work to gain consensus among team members. Then reverse engineer the desired experiences. Ask yourselves, “what would we have to do/be in order for stakeholders to have this kind of experience with the team and with our products and services?” Develop a list of action steps from this exercise.
  3. Take the list and group similar action steps. Once the action steps have been grouped, assign someone on the team to be responsible for that group of action steps. Without someone taking ownership, the chances of success are lowered.
  4. Develop a 2-week sprint schedule around this initiative until the team is receiving feedback from all stakeholders that the desired cultural experience is taking shape.
  5. Then schedule monthly culture meetings to demonstrate the importance of culture and to ensure that your efforts remain on track. This also helps the team address culture issues that will come up before they have a chance to negatively affect this valuable asset.


Action Steps for Leveraging Organizational Culture For Competitive Advantage for Established Businesses:

  1. Make this process a priority.
  2. Ask stakeholders, internal and external, to provide the team with feedback and suggestions on current organizational culture.
  3. LISTEN! This is not the time to try to explain, justify or defend your current situation.
  4. Follow steps 1–4 under “Action Steps for Leveraging Organizational Culture For Competitive Advantage for New Businesses”.
  5. Communicate your organization’s culture changes with all stakeholders and allow them to provide you with feedback.
  6. Follow step 5 under “Action Steps for Leveraging Organizational Culture For Competitive Advantage for New Businesses” once the team and stakeholders believe that the appropriate culture changes have been made.

By following these few, although challenging steps, founders will be doing the work necessary to proactively position their organizations to stand out in an overcrowded marketplace while developing a reputation that will enable them to authentically trade on culture for competitive advantage.

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Tech…The Model For Safe Spaces For All?

My friend Gregor recently posted:

Here’s his response when I asked him to explain:


It’s not hard today to find conflict, disharmony, and blatant disrespect. Actually, it often feels like it’s EVERYWHERE but it needn’t be.

Tech, if for no other reason than economic, is beginning to understand that diversity and inclusion matters for the survival of products, services, and INNOVATION. It may seem safer to prefer “your kind” over another but what the technology field is waking up to is the fact that without differing perspectives working through issues that affect the masses, your ability to develop solutions is greatly limited and these limitations WILL affect the bottom line.

Those who use technology to solve problems aren’t looking for safe solutions…they are looking for solutions that allow them to have the greatest impact on the largest scale.

To be this kind of technologist requires one to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. It requires one to seek out and not run away from conflict. It requires one to respect the opinions of others, particularly if the perspective is one in which they have no prior experience.

Technology has and always will be about taking risks. Going where not only no one has ever gone before BUT imagined before. It’s always welcomed the rule-breakers, the disrupters, the GEEK!

So can tech become the model for how to create safe spaces for all…DAMN RIGHT IT CAN! Because the community has learned that it MUST in order to survive.

Will it be easy…of course not…but what’s new. Hell, learning to code is one of the hardest things many have EVER tried to do but does that stop them…NO! They keep moving forward…step by step…line of code by line of code…until one day, they look back to realize just how far they’ve come. And that’s how safe spaces are created.

It starts with one conversation, one decision not to do something that may offend, one action to empathize rather than criticize someone else’s point of view.

It only takes one…

Done OVER and OVER again…

Until you can look back and realize just how far we’ve come…


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How to push past the trolls and get the help you need on Stack Overflow

When you’re new to coding, Stack Overflow can be a scary place. It’s an amazing resource for newbies. But it’s also a place where bullies troll for new victims.

With the hundreds of thousands of unfilled programming jobs out there, and the need for more diversity in the field, you’d think that experienced programmers would be eager to help newbies. And generally, they are.

But there’s also a vocal minority of people who will respond to your questions with snark or responses like “Read the Freaking Manual (RTFM)”. They may flag your question as a duplicate without taking time to read it, or take any number of other passive-aggressive actions.

I was a high school teacher, so there is very little that some anonymous person online can say to me that will keep me from getting answers to my questions.

Still, it took me some time to add Stack Overflow to my toolbox. This was not out of fear of trolls. It was because I wasn’t yet sure of how to ask the right questions.

How to ask the right questions

Here are some beginner steps for newbies to use to harness the power of Stack Overflow in leveling up their learning. All examples are my own 🙂

Research your question online before posting it.

Wording is everything.

Homework Center: Finding Information on the Internet: Using Search Engines


Read this article for more details: Homework Center: Finding Information on the Internet: Using Search Engines

Provide ALL relevant information

This including links to other resources you’ve looked at in researching your question.

Don’t include screenshots of your codebase.

Copy and paste the actual code into the text box (use the { } ).

Those who are wanting to help you will use your code to try to replicate your error or issue.


This is only a portion of the Full Trace. Too long to include in image


This is only a portion of the profiles_controller. Too long to include in image


This is only a portion of the profile.rb. Too wide to include in image


You can review the entire question and answer feed here.

Learn to use the formatting tools.

How do I format my code blocks?


For more details on how to do this, read How do I format my code blocks?

Use tags.

They help to make sure that the right group of people with the expertise you are seeking see your question.

If you receive an answer that you don’t understand, ask politely for additional clarity.

For example: “Hello (person’s name) I’m new and I don’t understand your answer. Would it be possible for you to provide additional information for clarity? Thank you.”

For more details, check out How to ask a good question? and Discourage screenshots of code and/or errors.

If you receive a response that seems harsh, politely remind them that you are new and still learning.

For example: “Thank you (person’s name), I’m new and it would be helpful if you explained what’s wrong with my question and the steps I can take to ensure that I don’t make this mistake again.”

If one or more of the answers you receive helped you with your issue use the arrows next to that answer to upvote it.

Stack Overflow has a points system. It’s important to those who have taken the time to help you, so it should be important to you.

For more detail and to run the code snippet: Styling the text on each side of a <input type=“range”> tag

If your issue is solved click on the checkmark next to the most helpful answer to close the question.

You can read in more detail here: Circular dependency detected while autoloading constant ConnectionsController

Most importantly, don’t take it personally.


I’d like to end this post with two very good examples of the process outlined above: How to create more than one index page in RoR and Installing the jQuery.AreYouSure? Plugin.

Thanks for reading!


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“Hidden Figures” Was Great…Now What?

I knew that once this film was made available to the masses that I would start receiving calls and texts from my nontechie network about not only how great it is BUT more importantly…now what?

For the past two-years, my friends and family have heard little else from me outside of the need for them to begin to embrace technology as tools rather than toys and the need for computer programming to be this generations required 2nd language. No longer can we afford to sit back and let technology pass us by.

Technology can no longer be treated as the fun, fad thing to consider only when replacing your cellphone or during the holidays. Technology will increasingly drive our economy in general and our personal lives specifically and it is the individuals with the ability to understand and solve technical problems that will dominate the landscape moving forward.

So now what?

I have 3 pieces of advice for those of you who have been inspired to action and desire to know how you can move into the technology space:

  1. Understand that technologies are always changing, so learn to embrace life-long learning. Be prepared to further develop current or learn a completely new skill often. It is this acceptance of the need for continuous innovation that is both unique and frustrating about technology but is the foundation for which the “next big thing” will come.
  2. Start small. TECHNOLOGY is a big word that means different things to different people. Take your time and figure out where you fit. Some areas of interest are: hardware/product creation, software development, security, data, project management, entrepreneurship, marketing, sales, education, etc. Technology now touches every industry and finding your place could be a simple matter of discovering the technology touch points in your current field.
  3. Get Connected! Sign up for and search for local technology groups. Meetup is a great website for finding groups of any interest in your local community. Once you’ve found 2–3 groups that interest you, join them and attend a Meetup. Everything about finding your place in technology is about networking. Next, join Twitter. Twitter is the place to discover people, ideas, and most importantly opportunities in technology. Start by searching for and following a few people in technology, then retweet those things you find interesting, and when you become comfortable, start commenting on others tweets and tweeting your own thoughts/ideas.

This blog post, like the movie Hidden Figures, was created to educate and inspire you. I often describe the technology space as the Wild West because there are very few rules and new discoveries are happening everyday. This is truly uncharted territory, where opportunity is available to everyone regardless of race, gender, religion, ideology/beliefs, etc. if they are willing to do some exploring and the work. Will there be challenges…of course! But it’s been my experience, in my short time in the technology space, that the payoffs are more than worth it.

Good luck and use the power of technology to blaze your own course!