An Entrepreneurial Spirit.
…Mine came from years of experience in other industries. I’ve worked with nonprofit organizations, small for-profit consulting firms (e.g. Braveline in NYC), major corporations (remember MCI?), and schools and colleges (taught every age from 3 to 73 – really!). Jeff Hurant (Braveline) and Vivian Cox Fraser (Urban League of Essex County) were two of the best bosses I’ve ever heard. I’ve learned a great deal from my years and experiences in all the places that I’ve worked. But deep down, I’ve always known (since I was 12) that I’d be working with (teaching) youth in after-school settings. I suppose this grew from growing up spending time in an after-school program in Somerset, NJ and getting a computer when I was much younger. Yup, I spent hours on my Apple IIe!
Bellcore Intern (7 Summers)
I also believe the seed of my entrepreneurial spirit grew out of my experience being an intern at Bell Communications Research (Bellcore, now Telcordia) in NJ. I was an intern from the 10th grade until I graduated from college as a Bellcore Scholar. Every summer, I received a new mentor and a new technical assignment. That was when I was first introduced to SQL (structured query language used to manipulate databases, for those who may not know) and large computers that required men in white lab coats to work on – yes, that was such a long time ago. By the time I graduated with a BS in Computer Systems Engineering from Howard University, I had spent seven (7) summers in corporate America. I think that was more than enough for me! :)
I did, however, adhere to the American dream of simply going to college and getting a job upon graduation and worked at MCI for two years as a Network Administrator. I quickly returned to Howard University for Graduate School to obtain a Masters in Computer Science.
Becoming an Entrepreneur
So, after exploring various options, conquering fear, and remaining true to my calling, I founded two organizations in 1999 – a nonprofit (Uplift, Inc.) and a for-profit (emagine! technologies). They each allowed me to work with two entities I enjoyed – children and technology – and I’ve been doing so ever since.
After obtaining my Masters, I soon became a certified teacher and taught for 3 years at the first charter school in NJ – North Star Academy Charter School of Newark. There, I realized that I wanted to create technology that supports learning – but I wanted to ensure that whatever I produced had great impact on the people I wanted to serve – children and learners of all ages. So, I decided to attend graduate school to learn how to conduct research and obtain my PhD.
I became a PhD Candidate in the College of Information Studies (iSchool) at the University of Maryland, where Dr. Douglas Oard is my advisor. Before working with Dr. Oard, I worked for 2.5 years with Dr. Allison Druin in the Human Computer Interaction Lab (HCIL), the first HCI Lab in the country.
However, I have since decided to withdraw from UMD. More about my educational pursuits soon.