Cecilia Austin


Cecilia Austin

AfroTech blogger

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Peloton Does It Different: Alfred Jones On How Peloton Gets It Right With Tech

Peloton’s mark on the culture of fitness is real. Since 2012, the company has continued to innovate by fusing technology, hardware and programming to create a fitness program that continues to attract athletes of all levels. This is also thanks in part to an expressive community that has built a reputation for its inclusiveness. It’s a community that even Beyonce is proudly a part of, as the Queen Bee explained during a 2020 partnership announcement : “I’ve been a Peloton member for several years and I’m excited to partner with a company that helps people, young and old, be the best versions of themselves, in an innovative and adaptable way.” Innovation and adaptation are two things that have propelled the technology brand far beyond the popularity of its signature offering the Peloton bike. Behind the scenes, Alfred Jones, VP, Hardware Engineering, works to bring these products to life. During a recent sit-down with AfroTech, Jones discussed how Peloton is using technology to...

Jul 2, 2021

Removing the Remote Barriers: Facebook Is Leaning Into the Future to Stay Connected

Having a job during an ongoing pandemic is a blessing, but for those working remotely, it has presented a unique opportunity for a generation of workers. According to Forbes, “The world witnessed a historic shift in the 2020 job market due to the Covid-19 pandemic. While some companies used to offer the ability to work from home as a perk, it has now become the norm for most businesses. By 2025, an estimated 70% of the workforce will be working remotely at least five days a month.” Leaning into the unknown, Facebook has seen these changes as a way to attract and empower its increasingly diverse talent by making roles more accessible for those seeking careers in tech — something that has directly impacted Black professionals looking to enter the growing industry. Facebook’s Commitment to Remote Work As a global employer, Facebook is refining its remote work experience to meet the unique needs of everyone working on its distributed teams. The vast tools and resources available like...

May 18, 2021

Black Men In Tech: How Seven Men Are Finding Equity While Bringing Their Own Seat To The Table At Amazon

With hands in everything from online shopping to web services, online retail giant Amazon counts on the people behind the scenes to get the job done on a daily basis. Much of the company’s success is due, in part, to its ongoing commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Through its #BlackHistoryMakers series, Amazon celebrated Black creatives inside and outside of the company. In fact, we recently got real with a few Black women leading the way at Amazon. Now AfroTech is speaking with seven men creating change and impact for those around them. They share their professional journeys, offer encouragement for aspiring Black professionals and discuss how they’re changing the game at Amazon. The Black Men Making Waves at Amazon Mark Hatcher, Global Sales Account Manager As an industry leader and professional, this Detroit native found success through progressive responsibility at companies like Cintas, Coca-Cola, Harley-Davidson Motor Company and the Seattle Seahawks. Since joining...

May 5, 2021

Careers in Tech: Jotham Ndugga-Kabuye Is Making All the Right Moves at Twitch

If “stay low and build” were a person, there’s no doubt it would look like Jotham Ndugga-Kabuye. A first-generation Ugandan American, Ndugga-Kabuye has never been one to shy away from hard work — something that’s served him well as the Head of Global Social Media at Twitch, where he currently leads global strategy, resource planning and people development. Despite wearing many hats, this Southern California native still doesn’t consider himself a boss. Instead, he views his role as more of a facilitator in a larger effort to empower and uplift those under his leadership. He says this path is more like being “a coach who enables his players to make the necessary plays for us to win.” Before making his mark at Twitch, Ndugga-Kabuye built an impressive — and varied — career. He started in fashion, working for iconic streetwear brands like Crooks & Castles in styling and content creation. After completing graduate school, he realized fashion wasn’t the right field for what he ultimately...

Apr 20, 2021

Careers in Tech: Jazmine Eaton Urges Black Professionals Not to Limit Themselves in Tech

From getting approved to searching for your dream home, buying (or selling) a house is a process in itself. Because it understands just how difficult this process can be, Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans has worked to put countless Americans into new homes for more than three decades. Behind the scenes, Rocket Mortgage is powered by an army of professionals who have elevated it to the status of a premiere mortgage company. This army includes Jazmine Eaton, who’s found her niche within the company as a Senior Application Engineer. It’s a role that helps streamline the mortgage process — something buyers and sellers alike can appreciate. Eaton says her job involves “reducing the amount of paper it takes to close your loan and sign your mortgage,” a digital push that allows Rocket Mortgage to expedite a traditionally long underwriting process. Making mortgages more efficient wasn’t originally in Eaton’s plan. She initially dreamed of becoming a pediatric surgeon, but after realizing...

Apr 2, 2021

Careers in Tech: Rachel Tate Breathes Life Into Herself and Her Career at Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans

Proving there’s power in longevity, for more than 30 years Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans has worked to provide affordable mortgages as one of the largest mortgage providers in the country. With award-winning services that have helped thousands of home buyers and seasoned sellers alike, Rocket Mortgage remains a leader in the mortgage industry. Since joining the organization nearly five years ago, Rachel Tate has risen the ranks just by putting in the work, eventually earning a promotion as Team Leader of Engineering where she currently supervises a team of 25 individuals. A Detroit native, Tate took an unconventional journey into tech after initially earning a degree in Political Science. Taking a leap of faith, after shadowing other tech professionals, eventually, Tate was able to get her foot in the door. “I graduated from Michigan State in 2015 with a political science degree, so it had nothing to do with technology. I usually tell people that I got started in technology...

Apr 1, 2021

The House that Diversity Built: How Ulysses Smith Is Bringing Equity to the Table at Blend

Blend has been busy. The digital consumer banking platform has found its stride making the financial process easier to understand for consumers by simply being transparent about its mortgages and other financial offerings. Beyond its services, Blend has become a force in the FinTech industry by leading the way in diversity and inclusion through investing in community programs and partnerships to remove the kinds of financial roadblocks that have historically back held Black and other marginalized groups. Blend has kept that same energy internally, working diligently to recruit and empower a growing pool of Black talent — an ambitious initiative currently helmed by Ulysses Smith, Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging. No stranger to hard work, Smith has rolled up his sleeves and allows his results to speak for itself. A leader in diversity, equity and inclusion, the Cornell University graduate has built organization-wide DEI functions that drive social impact through products....

Mar 31, 2021

Celebrating Women’s History Month with Amazon Alexa Startups and The Alexa Fund: Get to Know Five Finalists from the “Women Founders Represent” Pitch Competition

From corporate boardrooms to launching new businesses, in addition to being the most educated group in America, women are making history 52 weeks, 365 days a year. So each March, the least we can do is highlight those doing it their way during Women’s History Month. With women facing additional hurdles in the venture capital world, Amazon Alexa Startups and the Alexa Fund , which provides up to $200 million in venture capital funding to fuel Artificial Intelligence (AI) and voice technology innovation, kicked off dedicated efforts to address such inequalities through capital and non-capital support for women entrepreneurs. In this spirit, in 2020, Alexa Startups and the Alexa Fund collaborated with All Raise — a nonprofit organization that works to empower women entrepreneurs and venture capital investors – to create an innovative pitch competition called Women Founders Represent (WFR). In celebration of Women’s History Month, meet five women who made their voices heard at WFR, and...

Mar 31, 2021

Moving Goalposts: Kimberly Lowe-Williams on Black Leadership and the Importance of Paying It Forward at Salesforce

Creating access to careers in technology is key for advancing equity and creating a more equal world for all. For leaders like Kimberly Lowe-Williams, creating opportunities for others through technology is a passion that drives her work. “I am a technologist with a passion to bring the gift of coding and technology to underrepresented communities. I truly believe technology will serve as the catalyst for people in poverty to change their lifestyles, both individually and as a community. If I could contribute to that progress in any way, I know I will have made a difference in the world,” Lowe-Williams explains. As the first Black woman to lead as a senior engineering manager at Salesforce’s Heroku division, Lowe-Williams has emerged as a force within the company. Drawing on her own experience as a nonprofit founder, since joining the team she’s worked hard to cultivate new relationships and build bridges at Salesforce; as a result, Lowe-Williams has broken down walls while opening...

Mar 30, 2021

Careers in Tech: Ashantè Fray on Creating and Curating Diversity at Indeed

Based in Toronto, Ashantè Fray has found her calling by building bridges through diversity and uplifting underserved communities. As a Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging – Educational Specialist at Indeed, she’s worked to create engaging content and initiatives to drive cultural diversity inside of the nation’s largest employment website. Fray humbly describes her title as “a fancy way of saying that basically what I do from 9 to 5 is create and curate content for Indeedians to ensure we are creating or fostering a sense of continuous learning, especially in regards to equity issues.” Enthusiastic about all things equity and diversity, opening doors for others has become a passion for Fray as she nears almost three years with the company. Since joining, Fray has been promoted three times, and she’s held a region-wide leadership role in Indeed’s LGBTQIA+ Inclusion Resource Group, iPride — a role Fray holds especially dear as a Black bisexual woman. Empowered by the support from Indeed,...

Mar 29, 2021

Excellence in Tech: Black Leaders at Accenture Discuss Pathways to Success

The global professional services powerhouse Accenture is accelerating its efforts to tackle one of the most persistent challenges in the professional world: addressing inequality in the tech industry. Accenture is taking action to attract a deeper, more diverse pool of talent – pledging to increase the representation of Black employees and managing directors. Whether Accenture is finding solutions for clients by bringing together industry experts, data scientists and business intelligence professionals or empowering its own professionals, the company has staked its reputation on creating strong leaders. That includes hiring rising Black tech professionals, several of whom recently spoke to AfroTech about their journey through the industry, the incredible work they are doing and how they’re paying it forward for those coming up behind them. Black Talent Leading the Way at Accenture Tony Olinger, Enterprise Salesforce Program Leader and Management Consultant Already familiar with...

Mar 25, 2021

From Learner to Educator: Chela White-Ramsey on the Study and Importance of People

With over a decade of training experience and a Ph.D. in human resource leadership development, Chela White-Ramsey has a reputation for getting things done inside of Indeed, America’s most recognizable website for employers and job seekers. Behind the scenes, White-Ramsey helps Indeed’s recruitment team grow their ability to present information, tell meaningful stories and effectively communicate. A lifelong learner, White-Ramsey has found her niche by studying people and what makes them tick in the workplace. “I always had an interest in people at work, and mostly through my academic studies is what led me to training and development. I studied psychology in undergrad, industrial-organizational psychology in my master’s program and then went on to get a human resource development Ph.D., which focused on organizations and learning and development at work,” she explains. Inside of Indeed, White-Ramsey has also been able to flex her recruiting experience, giving her a unique insight...

Mar 24, 2021

Take a Leap of Faith: Launch Your Next Career at Fivetran

Based in the soul of the Bay Area — Oakland, California — for almost a decade, Fivetran has worked to perfect a platform that creates and maintains a reliable replica of enterprise data, enabling businesses to store a virtual warehouse of information with minimal user configuration. By making data analysis simpler, Fivetran has become a force in the technology industry. Fivetran follows the data, offering more than 150 fully managed and automated connectors for databases, applications and more. The company says this innovation “redefined the data pipeline. Our fully automated connectors sync data from applications, database logs and more into a cloud warehouse. Our connectors deploy in minutes, require zero maintenance and automatically adjust to source changes. We take care of engineering so our customers can focus on business insights.” Beyond the technology, Fivetran has become known for something else: the way it encourages and motivates its team. As the rising technology...

Mar 24, 2021

Black Women Leading the Way: Insight From the Women of Amazon 

Black History Month may be over, but the impact of Amazon’s innovative #BlackHistoryMakers series will be long-lasting for the Black creatives who were given a platform to share their stories. The series was all part of the leading online retailer’s ongoing efforts to highlight and empower Black employees, especially those making an impact at Amazon and within their communities. Now to celebrate Women’s History Month, Amazon is amplifying women-owned small businesses. It’s also using this month to focus on a new set of voices by sharing insights from Black women making an impact of their own at Amazon. AfroTech recently spoke with Tiffany Johnson, Dr. Tiffany Bowden, Jillian Blackwell and Karie Harris about their paths into tech, tips for other professionals and more. Black Women Leading the Way at Amazon Since moving to the United States at age 14, Tiffany Johnson has been determined to find her way. Despite a rough start that included becoming an emancipated minor, living...

Mar 22, 2021

Careers in Tech: Samara Moore Shares Why She Bet on Herself in Technology

Sometimes you can’t just trust the process; you have to trust yourself as well. It’s something Samara Moore has learned during her career in technology. As a Security Assurance Senior Manager and Global Energy Specialist, she’s made her mark since joining Amazon Web Services (AWS) by leading the security and compliance program for regulated industries and public sector throughout North and South America. It’s a role that found her unexpectedly while she was still with another company. She says this shift happened while “I was going along my merry way with a company that I really enjoyed, and I got wind of an opportunity at AWS and someone said ‘Hey would you consider this?’” Less than two months later, Moore found herself implementing and sustaining integral programs that effectively managed cyber risks and aligned security measures with business and IT strategies. In many ways, it’s a role Moore was simply made for, thanks in part to experience that draws on over a decade with the...

Mar 12, 2021