SSD: What inspired you to get into what you’re doing?
DE: From a professional standpoint, I knew that I valued environments that put people first. Sounds cliché, but I wanted to work somewhere that bred innovation and autonomy while also creating a culture that encouraged flexibility, healthy work-life balances, and had excellent compensation. As tech emerged within Kansas City, joining the industry seemed like a no-brainer…I just needed to figure out how.
My first “big-girl” job was at a company based out of Nebraska that strived to build better communities by involving people in online conversations (virtual town halls). The compensation wasn’t there, but the “company culture” was, and it was my first time ever experiencing the perks of a tech company. Access to free lunch, unlimited paid time off, gaming areas…It was all new to me. It was the first time I saw a company actually illustrate its values, and it was the first time I felt like I was contributing to something bigger than myself.
When it was time to depart, I knew I didn’t want to lose that level of contribution or lifestyle. I didn’t want to forgo my time in exchange for a job or career that I’d hate 10 years from now. I needed to be able to show up, make an impact and have fun while doing so.
From a personal standpoint, I’ve always had a particular interest in travel and food. It’s hard to explain but a fine food experience in another city excites me. It gets me going. It brings me the greatest joy to connect with others over food and conversations in a different destination. From a French 75 to French Fries or Wontons to Wagyu… the experience shared with others can’t be topped!
SSD: Let’s touch on your Food + Travel Blog for a moment. What is the best meal you’ve had recently, and where was it from?
They offer a 3-course prix fixe menu that is amazing. I order:
First: Maryland crab bisque or Caesar salad… whatever I’m feeling that day.
Second: 4oz filet combo with Atlantic salmon, Yukon mashed potatoes, and grilled asparagus. If you’re fancy – add a side of Lobster Mac & Cheese.
Third: Berries and cream
SSD: How have your skills as a PM (Product Manager) been enhanced by your adventures as a food blogger and vice versa?
DE: Ahhh, food and frameworks. Both are driven by skills but mostly FOMO. I’ve been that person to implement shiny new features while also rushing to try a new restaurant. As a foodie and as someone who works in the tech industry, there’s an added benefit that comes from early adoption.
Product management is a complex organism that is often running at a thousand miles per hour to keep up with business goals. Both blogging and managing a product require commitment. Not just involvement.
SSD: Are you involved in any networking or mentoring organizations that you care to talk about?
Given your stat about Black Women in Tech, I sense that there’s a passion there – so I’m curious about what you’re doing to “be the change”, so to speak.
DE: Yes KCWIT (Kansas City Women in Technology). We focus on bringing women in tech together for solidarity, but also to encourage young girls and women to pursue technology careers. We host events like coding and cupcakes for kids, and coding and cocktails for adults – where anyone can join whether you have experience coding or not.
SSD: Do you feel like being as rare (for lack of a better word) as you are in your industry (as a Black Woman in Tech) has helped your career, made it more difficult, or not really made much of a difference? Why?
DE: I honestly don’t know if it’s helped or hindered, but I do know tokenism is a real thing. As a woman who’s been the only Black person within the engineering team, I can attest that there’s nothing worse than feeling like the token within your professional environment. There’s so much that still needs to be done in order for companies (mine included) to create a space for all employees to feel comfortable, contribute equally, and coexist.
SSD: What do you think have been the strongest supporting forces to your success in your career so far?
DE: My mom and mentors. While my skill set has gotten me through the door, those who have spoken my name in rooms I have not traveled have opened it.
SSD: Putting a bow on everything — What’s a tip that you’d give someone who sees you, is inspired, and wants to follow in your footsteps?
DE: There are so many tidbits I’ve learned along the way that it’s hard to pinpoint just one. So, I’ll share these tips that have influenced both my personal and professional life.
“Have not, because you ask not.”
This is a Bible verse (James 4:2) but something my mom preached when I was younger. This serves as a reminder to advocate for yourself and be detailed about the things you want. Those who are able to self-advocate have mastered their communication and know the ins and outs of their strengths and weaknesses. They can pinpoint the type of accommodations they want in areas that determine their overall wellbeing. As you get older and experience more things in life, you’ll learn to state your worth.
“Don’t get to the end of your life with a world untraveled.”
Travel as much as you can, as far as you can as often as you can. When you look at life holistically, work will always be there, and the money will return. So, while you are commitment-free, agile, and healthy explore. Be curious about how others experience and live in the world. Create new memories and take lots of pictures and videos. Become a memory-making machine, because life is nothing more than a series of events and experiences accumulated over years. Be able to look back at something aside from showing up to work.