Navigating Tech as a Strong Black Woman (feat. Karmen Kendrick)

March 26, 2024 00:23:11
Navigating Tech as a Strong Black Woman (feat. Karmen Kendrick)
Underrepresented in Tech
Navigating Tech as a Strong Black Woman (feat. Karmen Kendrick)

Mar 26 2024 | 00:23:11

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Show Notes

In this episode Michelle talks to Karmen Kendrick about navigating the tech world as a strong, independent black woman - the challenges, the hopes, and the successes.

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:03] Speaker A: Welcome to the Underrepresented in tech podcast. Underrepresented in Tech is a free database built with the goal of helping people find new opportunities in WordPress and tech overall. [00:00:18] Speaker B: Hi, Carmen. How are you today? [00:00:20] Speaker C: I'm doing great. How about you, Michelle? [00:00:22] Speaker B: I am good, thank you. And welcome to underrepresented in tech 2023. As most of our followers know, Allie has stepped back for the project, and so I am forging ahead. And my first guest of 2024 is my friend Carmen Kendrick, who is. I already forgot your title. You're at learn that you're the product owner, marketer, something. [00:00:45] Speaker C: Product marketing manager. [00:00:46] Speaker B: Yeah. Thank you. Product. We have so many titles at Liquid Web, so I tend to forget. I'm like, you're the learn girl. That's a pejorative. I'm the stellar girl. But yeah, it's great to have you here. And thank you so much for joining me. I loved the topic that you suggested when I asked you if you wanted to talk today, which was being underrepresented and doing remote work. And of course, we talk about things in tech because that's what we do. But I kind of want to just kind of turn it over to you, let you tell a little bit about your story and why this topic is important to you. [00:01:22] Speaker C: Yeah. So I kind of just happened upon this role, in a sense. I talked to someone yesterday. They said you always find good things when you're not looking for them. And so I remember a couple of years ago, Chris Lemma, he posted about a product marketing role at Learndash. I didn't really know exactly what product marketing was at that time, but once we had our conversation, I realized that there was a lot that I was already doing in my freelance business that was in tune with what I do now at Learndash. So I was like, you know what? Let me just go for it. And I did. And of course, that's how I ended up here. This is my first time working in a remote atmosphere where you don't even really go into the office and see your coworkers. I maybe see you all maybe once a year if I'm lucky. So it's definitely a different experience. And also, being a black woman, it's kind of funny. I like to say this, but I can count on one hand the number of black people on our team. I'm not saying that as a bad thing, but it's just something that you have to. Well, it's kind of a hard thing to. I don't want to say it's even hard, it's just difficult to process because it's like I don't want to make it seem like I'm trying to be different, but I am different. And you want to fit in with everyone. Luckily, the team at stellar, I feel like they're pretty supportive, but I don't feel like we don't have, like, a dei type of initiative, to my knowledge, within stellar, it's kind of crazy because liquid web, it just feels so distant from what we do at stellar and even, um, but that's just, I guess, a challenge of being. [00:02:59] Speaker A: Hmm. [00:03:00] Speaker B: I think that's true. So I used to work in higher education. So you don't work in higher education remotely unless it's an online school. Right. So I used to have to go to the school for almost 25 years. I went to a school every day, colleges, and then eventually a trade school, and was in every single day interacting with people every single day, thinking about what I'm wearing every single day, worried about the commute every single day and all of that and working remotely. Like, wow, what a difference. Just everything. Your whole mindset about how work works is different with that, would you say? [00:03:36] Speaker C: Yeah, it is. Like, you still face some of those challenges. I think maybe I'm just being self conscious, but even if I change my hair, I went through, like, a drastic hair change. [00:03:47] Speaker B: I know. I like it. [00:03:49] Speaker C: Thank you. Yeah. Sometimes I'm just scared to even come on camera and see what people are thinking, or I don't want to look like a certain type of way, and maybe it's just my own fears and how I've been treated, like in other workplaces, because I feel like most of the places I've always worked at, it's always been, like, an underrepresented person at the organization. And so I always dealt with things. So maybe that's just my past kind of that makes me concerned, but I never felt that way at stellar, that people were judging me by my appearance. But even sometimes how I talk. I'm from Albany, Georgia, which is like a southwest city here in Georgia, and I live in Atlanta, and I have an accent, but I try my best to make sure I'm enunciating, but I don't do it that well all the time. So it's just all these things that I'm always thinking about in the back of my head. Maybe no one cares. Maybe they do. But my past experience have definitely shaped how I feel or how I operate in this remote environment. [00:04:58] Speaker B: The accent thing I get for sure, because I don't hear my accent. None of us hear our own accent, right? But people make fun of Rochesterians for the way we say Rochester as opposed to however other people say Rochester. It sounds the same to me. It doesn't sound the same to other people. So I totally understand that. And as somebody who's always spoken really quickly, I'm probably doing it now. Even I try to make a concentrated effort, especially when I'm giving a talk, to slow my speech down, not just because it's easier for all people, but specifically, you and I work in a global community. And so to think about the fact that there are people who don't even speak English as their first language who are trying to comprehend what I'm saying, I'm learning Spanish. I know what it's like to hear people speak rabid Spanish and go, oh, I thought I was doing so well, but I didn't understand any of that. Right. So I get it. [00:05:55] Speaker C: I'm learning French as well, so I know exactly what you mean. [00:05:58] Speaker B: Yeah, it makes a difference, right? It's like, oh, wow. I'm just roaring through Duolingo, and then I'm like, I sit in an Uber in New York City and listen to somebody speak rapid Spanish. And I'm like, I thought I was doing so well, but I can say, where is my suitcase? [00:06:16] Speaker C: There you go. Yeah, I found myself being. I just started this journey learning French myself, but I can definitely identify words. Reading, but listening to it, and I was like, how can I go to France for one year and live there and just immerse myself in the. [00:06:32] Speaker B: As a remote worker? We do have that. [00:06:37] Speaker C: Do we do. [00:06:38] Speaker B: But uprooting your whole life is another story altogether, right? At any job that you've had in the past as a black woman in tech, have you ever felt tokenized? Because we talk about underrepresentation is representation without tokenization is our goal here. So I'm always curious. I wonder sometimes if I get included in things because I sit in a motor device, right? So that if I'm in a picture, I'm on my scooter and I'm like, did they want me because they wanted me, or do they want to show diversity? Do you ever feel that way? [00:07:13] Speaker C: Yeah, I do feel that way. Sometimes I have been included. Like, there was a roundup from a popular WordPress host, and it was, like, for black History Month. And that's good. They're spotlighting black web designers and freelancers in the WordPress space. But it's like, really, just because I'm black, I wouldn't make a list if it was just like, top 100 agencies to work with or freelancers to work with. So, yeah, there's definitely some tokenization in it, and I try to use it to my advantage. In a sense, it's messed up, but you use it to your benefit to get across what you want to do. So, yeah, I definitely felt that way. [00:07:54] Speaker B: I can understand that for sure. It's like when they make the list of women in tech or women in WordPress and you're like, would I be on that list if it was everybody? Or are you just highlighting women so that you are showing people that you care or at least trying to look like you do? So that's a good question. And I think as an underrepresented person, it's always in the back of your mind, like, did I get hired? Did I get included? Did I get asked to speak or all of those kinds of things because I am expert at my subject matter or because I'm good at my subject matter, but I also make the demographic look better for their event or their business. So, yeah, I can't help but wonder sometimes, right? [00:08:34] Speaker C: Yeah, it's so difficult. The other day I was just thinking, I don't even know if this is true or not, but I'm thinking that other countries are more homogeneous when it comes to race, but even still, you suffer people with disabilities and different things. And I would just wonder, are we ever going to get to a place where it can just know everyone feels like they're being treated fairly? And it almost just seems because you hear things about, like, Switzerland and Japan, and you're just like, well, it's kind of easier in those type of countries because everyone looks alike. So that was just a thought that came to the back of my mind. I'm wrong in thinking that way, but we just still have so much further to know. [00:09:13] Speaker B: Yeah, I absolutely agree with you on that for sure. Especially when you look at speaker lineups and things like that where they're pulling people together for an event, and you just wonder how come there aren't more fill in the blank, right. To make this look more balanced. So I can't help but wonder that myself sometimes. And I do understand that in other places, diversity looks different than it looks like for here, for us here in the United States. But there still has to be an element of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, no matter where you are in the world. Exactly. I think to an event in Bangladesh last year where there was, I think, one or two women speaking out of 20 and all the rest are men, and it's a very patriarchal society. So what the diversity movement looks like there might be more gender focused than here, where it's definitely gender focused, too, but it's also ethnic minority focused. Right. As far as looking and being more diverse and things. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. It totally does. So I'm going to ask you another question. You are not just doing the work that you're doing in Learndash. You are building your own personal empire, which has been so much fun to watch your website change. And the things that focus you're doing, you put out. I saw it in December. Maybe you put it out sooner than that and I wasn't paying attention. This LinkedIn learning or not LinkedIn learning? LinkedIn profile challenge. Yeah. That you put. And I haven't done day three yet. It is day three and it's not noon yet, so I'm okay that I haven't done day three. But I love the idea that you are sharing more than what you just do at your nine to five job, so to speak. Which, by the way, remotely doesn't necessarily mean nine to five. Right. But you're doing a lot of other really cool things, and you're using a lot of tools that are really cool and sharing your journey and showing people how to use these tools, too, which I think is really cool. What percentage of doing those kinds of projects is because you have a passion for those projects. And what percentage of those projects do you feel like you have to do publicly so that you feel or show that you're relevant outside of your job? Does that make sense? [00:11:35] Speaker C: Yeah, I think there's, like, two questions in there. So what was about the percentage exactly? I'm sorry. [00:11:42] Speaker B: Yeah, no, it's okay. So you do all these side projects? I do side projects, too. We both have things that we do there. Do you do those side projects primarily, I'm sure. Primarily because you enjoy them. Right. Because they're passionate. They're things that you want to learn. But is there an element to it of. I also feel like I need to show relevance as an underrepresented person. Like, I need to show that I'm multifaceted. I need to show why I belong and stake my claim in my little corner of tech, because I know I feel that way sometimes. [00:12:13] Speaker C: I actually felt the opposite up until recently, because when I got the job at Learndash, I pulled back from doing any web design stuff. I still had a few clients I was helping, but this year or the end of last year, is when I really just said, hey, I'm trying to step back out there. And I was so confused about how I approached my personal website. When I'm a product marketing manager in my day job and I'm a web designer and I'm also studying interior design, I'm back in school again. And so I just decided, like, you know what? All this is a part of me and I'm going to share all of it. So it was never really if I felt like I needed to do something, it was just like, I just needed to feel comfortable saying like, hey, I am all of these things and I do want to share all these things. So you may read about me buying a new coffee table, my blog, and you may get a list about all my favorite WordPress plugins. I'm just like, you're just going to get all of me. I am the niche. I'm the subject matter. So that's how it is. [00:13:12] Speaker B: I love it. And I do love your new coffee table, by the way. I read that blog post. That was pretty cool. [00:13:17] Speaker C: Thank you. [00:13:19] Speaker B: We follow each other on Twitter, see all of the things that we're doing, which I love. What advice do you have for people who are underrepresented, especially ethnic minority, who are working remotely? What are some things that you would want to have in your toolbox to make life a little bit easier? [00:13:39] Speaker C: Yeah, I'm so conflicted on this. I hate giving advice because what I do personally is I don't really comment on a lot of issues, especially when it comes to being underrepresented. And it's just maybe just something I struggle with personally. So I really don't feel like I have the best advice of what to tell someone. [00:14:02] Speaker B: What works for you, then. [00:14:04] Speaker C: Yeah. So I think I just try to be who I am, but also realize that things I may say or do, it may offend someone. And so you want to be very careful. And that's how I think about things and how I share certain things out there. Like, everything that comes in my mind does not need to be shared on the Internet. You know what I'm saying? And so that could just be me just trying to keep this stellar image that, like, oh, my gosh, she's so great and she doesn't curse or do anything crazy or bad. I guess my advice would just keep a polished appearance online. Like, don't do too much, in my opinion. [00:14:46] Speaker B: Yeah, I can understand that for sure. I think sometimes that there's whether we feel the need to represent or not. White men, white cis, het straight men don't feel the need to represent because they just are, right. They hold the power. And so I think sometimes as a woman, I feel the need to represent women. Sometimes I feel the need to represent older people. Sometimes I feel the need to represent the disabled community. I have friends and family who are part of the LGBTQ community, so I feel the need to support and be an ally for so many different groups. Do you feel that some of that comes into play with your public Persona? Is the need to make sure that you feel that there's other people standing on your shoulders or standing behind you that you need to represent for? I don't know if I said that. [00:15:42] Speaker C: Well, yeah, I definitely do. And that's, like, I'm very careful that I never want to say anything that offends somebody because I do have also family members that are gay or lesbian. So it's just like, you never just want to offend anyone. So, yeah, I'm sorry. I just kind of got lost in that. [00:16:01] Speaker B: That's okay. I know I didn't say it very well anyway, but, yeah, just the need to represent a little bit. And with the realization that when I put myself out there, I'm also the person that other people look at and say, she's a woman in tech or she's a disabled person in tech. Do you feel that pressure to yourself that not only are you putting yourself out there as you, but people look at you and say, that's a black woman in tech, or that's a black person in tech, and kind of draw conclusions and make generalizations based on what you put out there. Does that make sense? [00:16:33] Speaker C: Yeah, I definitely feel that way. That people, they look up to me, of course. And I do need to present myself a certain way. So there is a pressure because, of course, we're on Twitter, and I'll see people, they'll just tweet, like, the craziest thing, and I'm just like, oh, my God, I would never say that. And to me, that's that pressure. I feel like I can be myself without having to give all of myself in that personality, my personality online. So, yeah, there is definitely a pressure there, but I just try not, like I said, I never want to say anything that can come off as offensive or just like, oh, my gosh, I look up to you. Why would you say something like that? I like to keep that idea, that image of, like, this is an outstanding person. Outstanding black women in tech. [00:17:24] Speaker B: Yeah, that makes sense. I think that the lesson there, if I'm reading you and what I know of you and see of you is you can be your true authentic self without showing everybody everything that is part of yourself. So what you put out as your public Persona is authentic, but it doesn't mean that you have to tell people what you had for breakfast and what color car you drive or whatever. All of those things that are less important to other people as opposed to what they learn from you. [00:17:54] Speaker C: Exactly. [00:17:58] Speaker B: Because I think sometimes when we talk about our public Personas, we talk about our personal brand or we talk about who we are on social people, then assume that that's not an authentic portrayal of who you are. And it is. It's the authentic portrayal of your public, of your professional selves, which I think makes exactly. [00:18:13] Speaker C: Yes, it does. And I think a lot of us, we struggle with that because people, I think, I don't say people, but a common thing right now is people are kind of like pimping their transparency online, so they're sharing everything. And it's just like, if you're not doing that level of sharing, then you can feel like, oh, maybe I'm not being authentic enough, maybe I'm not sharing enough. But it's just like, hey, we will all be better if we knew less about one another. [00:18:41] Speaker B: Yeah, you can't exactly write TMI under some people's posts, but mentally you do for sure, right? Some people just overshare a little too much, but yeah, I understand that. So what are some things that we can look forward to that you're working on and that you're excited about coming up in 2024? Yes. [00:19:03] Speaker C: So I am very busy in 2024. I am taking three studio art classes. So I'm currently in an art program and I'm trying to get all my credits I need so I can apply for the BFA in interior design. So I'm very excited. I took like a very long break away from college, almost a decade. And so I'm back. I made two A's this past semester and I woke up this morning, oh, my God, I made two A's. And I hate to say this, but my GPA before I left college was like less than like a 1.0 or something. And so now I'm at a 2.0. I don't have any type of academic probation, and I'm just like, oh, my God, I'm actually doing this. So I'm very excited about this path. And I know people probably wonder, like, where does interior design fall into tech? I don't feel like tech is going to be the rest of my life. I will definitely have a foot in it somewhere, but I can see myself maybe 40, 50 years old. Being an interior designer, that's just like my goal. And then also what makes me excited is that I'm working on my web design business again. So I'm taking clients like two a month, nothing too crazy. Small type website, so it doesn't get in the way of work. But I'm very excited about building those processes out. I think that's probably one of the most exciting things to me. Not just the finished website, but the process and how much the clients really appreciate having a good process going into it. So, yeah, those are two things I'm super excited about in the new year and of course, learn dash and all the great things that we're going to put out in futures. [00:20:35] Speaker B: Yeah, I'm excited about some of the things that are on the roadmap that not necessarily aren't even public yet, but that will be coming. But it's also been just. I mean, you and I have known each other a couple of years now. It has been just so exciting to watch all the fun things that you're doing and the directions that you're taking things in. And I got to see some of your artwork, and I was just, like, blown away by the art that you create and then your blog. And certainly I'm learning from, like, my LinkedIn profile is okay, but what am I going to learn from Carmen to make it better? And that's pretty exciting stuff. So thank you for all you do. [00:21:10] Speaker C: Everyone else as well in this challenge. So, yeah, it's a lot of fun. [00:21:14] Speaker B: And I'm trying to hold myself accountable, not just to do the work, but to do it within that 24 hours period so that I don't have to catch it all up on the weekend, but also then to answer the questions that you have in the Twitter group so that I can be held accountable. Not that you're ever going to go, hey, Michelle, I don't see your day three stuff yet kind of thing, but it just holds me accountable to show you that I'm doing the work that you have challenged us to do. So, yeah, I really appreciate it. Thank you so much for doing problem. So if people want to learn more about you and the work that you're doing, where are some websites and what are some social handles they can follow? [00:21:52] Speaker C: Yeah. So two places that you can really get to know me super well are Twitter. My Twitter handle is I am Carmen K, and Carmen is spelled with a k. And then also on my website, carmenk.com. I'm also ramping up on Instagram a little bit more, posting more stuff. So if you kind of just want to see my day to day type of stuff, I'll post a story of my dog sleeping on the sofa or something like that. But Instagram, Twitter, and of course, my website are the three places you could find me. [00:22:18] Speaker B: Fantastic. And we will have all those links in the show notes for this episode. Herman, thank you so much. Are there any final thoughts you want to share before we sign off today? [00:22:26] Speaker C: I just want to say it is the beginning of a new year. Continue to be great. Don't give up on your goals, and, yeah, keep listening. [00:22:34] Speaker B: Fantastic. Thank you so much. I appreciate you being here, and I know that we're going to see many great things from you this year and even after, for sure. But I'm excited to see what this year holds for you and for all of us. So thanks again for being here. I appreciate you very much. [00:22:48] Speaker C: No problem. No problem. [00:22:49] Speaker B: Thank you. [00:22:51] Speaker A: If you're interested in sponsoring an episode using our data face or just want to say hi, go to underrepresentedintech.com. See you next week. Our.

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