At The Judge Group, we are deeply committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). As part of that commitment, we believe it is important to share the experiences of our employees. In this blog, Tiana Johnson, Senior Talent Acquisition Manager, shares her experiences and valuable insights on achieving success as a Black female in the technical recruiting field.
Being a Black woman in corporate America can feel like walking up a hill with no peak. Many of us must work twice as hard to get half of the opportunities – salaries, promotions, respect – that, at times, is given undeservedly to our white counterparts. Being a Black woman in the technical recruiting industry has been an interesting experience. I’ve learned so much throughout my career thus far that I would like to share.
Let me begin by explaining that Technical Recruiting is hiring employees with specialized technical skills and knowledge most often used in industries such as software development, engineering, and data analysis, where technical expertise is critical for success. My role involves conducting interviews and assessments to evaluate a job candidate’s technical abilities and fit for the company culture and team they will be working with.
I fell into technical recruiting during the pilot stages of my partner’s start-up out of sheer necessity – we needed qualified technical experts. Although I didn’t need to become a technical expert to hire them, I knew that the more I understood about technology, the better I would be. So, I learned.
Navigating the information technology (IT) industry in the early 2000s was difficult. The lack of diversity in IT was something I wasn’t expecting, and I experienced disdain and discrimination when searching for technical candidates early on.
One example I recall was when I was recruiting for a PHP Developer. I begin my interview process by getting to know candidates. In doing so, I learned that this candidate grew up near where I attended a historically black college (HBCU) in Charlotte, North Carolina. I shared this about myself, and he said, “Oh, I didn’t think they would have a technical program of study at a school like that.” He then asked, “How does a woman who went to an HBCU get into technology?”
Needless to say, he didn’t get the job.
This prejudice was a common occurrence, unfortunately, but my experiences helped shape the way I approached my role going forward.
Today, I am so well-versed in technology-based roles that candidates don’t have the opportunity to make those kinds of statements. However, the air of disdain and ignorance is still there.
Following is a list of my top five tips for not just being a Black woman in technical recruiting, but being a Black woman in any profession that is primarily dominated by white men and women.
Tips to help Black women excel in the workplace
1. Be confident
No one will believe in you as much as you believe in yourself. Be confident in your knowledge and ability to excel in your position. When you are asked questions, make a point of knowing the answers. Do your best to avoid making statements such as, “I don’t know.” If you truly don’t know, be confident in your ability to find the answer.
Nothing is impossible to achieve for a person who is confident in who they are and what they do.
2. Set goals (and focus on them)
Whether it’s working on a specific team, exceeding your metrics, or obtaining a certain title within your company – set goals for yourself and focus on them.
For example, one of my goals is to double my base salary in commission. I keep my attention on achieving that goal, which allows me to focus on my work rather than on the sometimes-competitive nature of this industry.
3. Know your craft
I cannot stress enough how important it is to know your craft – not just in technical recruiting but in any career.
As I said, I don’t need to be a technical expert to hire technical experts, but the more I know, the better I can vet and interview candidates, resulting in Judge getting the best candidate for its open IT roles.
Regardless of your profession or industry, knowledge of your craft will set you apart from everyone else.
4. Be yourself
Black women often feel pressure to maintain standards that the rest of our teams are not expected to uphold. We feel at times that our supervisors and managers work against us, holding us back and dismissing our ideas. I am here to tell you that regardless of how you are treated, you must stay true to yourself and not forget who you are.
Being a recruiter is fulfilling because I can speak with so many people and relate to them personally. When qualified candidates need convincing, I win them over with my personality and my ability to help them understand how the role I am offering is the best role for their career goals.
My point is that you are better off being yourself and relying on your natural gifts than trying to be who you think your employer wants you to be. Your responsibility to your employer is to do your job. You can do your job and do it well while also maintaining your integrity, your morals, and your authenticity.
5. Have a role model (or hold yourself to role model standards)
I had a professor at college who once told me that she was her own role model. This really resonated with me because she was everything a role model should be. She was intelligent, outspoken, a fighter, and unapologetically Black— a walking example of all the wonderful things that make our culture so rich and grand. She never changed who she was in any setting, whether in the presence of her Black female students or sitting on a panel of white women discussing how white societal issues and entitlements affected the Black community.
She was everything I wanted to be, but at the same time was so afraid to be. Now, 20 years later, I am proud to be a Black woman and I understand that is not a handicap unless I allow it to be.
So many Black women have come before us who have gone on to become NASA scientists, some of the wealthiest people in the world, and even Vice President of the United States.
I guarantee you that confidence, goal setting, knowledge, and authenticity all have something to do with their success.
Therefore, keep grinding, keep fighting, and keep believing. You are deserving, you are qualified, and you are worthy.
Want to work with Tiana? You can find all internal careers at Judge here. If you’re a job seeker looking for a new opportunity, you can browse thousands of available positions nationwide in IT, healthcare, engineering, and more here.
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