Recently I was contacted by Wayne Hicks, Executive Director for the Black Data Processing Associates Education & Technology Foundation. He was interested in speaking with past members of the BDPA High School Computer Competition, as I was on the team two years, the 94-95 team and the 95-96 team. I speak in the interview about my experiences with the competition, as well as my career path in Information Technology in the years since.
Loving parents want only the best for their children. They want to see their children successful, to see them make full use of their talents in order to get into the best possible position in life. My mother sacrificed to provide me with the guidance, care, and nurturing necessary for me to achieve a full realization of my potential. Unfortunately even the best parent can only hold open the door. Once through a child is on his or her own, free to make decisions, take advantage of opportunities, and to use his or her natural talents for good or for ill. In my case it appeared early on as if I was all too willing to squander my talents and my mother’s sacrifice. Early on I excelled academically, but the lack of intellectually challenging material combined with my ability to do well on assignments with little to no effort fostered within me a sense of complacency. This laziness led to my failing to perform near my potential both at the high school and later at the university level, where I found myself thrust suddenly into classes in which I couldn’t grasp the material quickly. I was in the unfamiliar position of having to spend hours trying to learn something, and it was readily apparent that I lacked both knowledge of proper study habits and the wherewithal to learn the same. This apathy and overall immaturity culminated with my expulsion from the University of Michigan. The safety net that most nineteen year olds rely on to catch them should they fall was snatched from under me, and I was forced to deal with the very real consequences of my actions.
I consider the six years that followed as my rite of passage. The directionless boy full of promise but lacking in work ethic slowly evolved, giving way to a man armed with the knowledge and discipline to accomplish what he chose. Through trial and error, I stripped away the bad habits that led to my previous failures, and learned how best to take advantage of my strengths. After a hard fall, I learned how to get back up. Throughout this time, my definition of success was the ability to set a goal, identify the steps needed to reach that goal, and to make forward progress towards it. At the beginning, this end goal was simple: Get back in school and finish what was begun. As the years passed and I got closer and closer to realizing this goal, I began to question exactly whether this was a goal worth pursuing. If I was successful in this goal, what would be the result? What was it that I really wanted? Years of working in corporate information technology showed me that even if I finished my education, work with computers would never be something more than what I was good at, and a way to pay the bills. I asked myself the question: Do I want to be safe and stick to what I know, or do I want to take the road less traveled and do something for which I felt real passion? It was my mother, to whom I had been such a disappointment for so long, who then galvanized me with a suggestion as to how I should now use my talents to realize my full potential.
I live in a world where the people with the ability to make real change use that ability to enrich themselves, while the people with the will to make real change often lack the ability, the skills, or the power. What I wish for myself is to be one of those people that can combine talent and will with power and resources, and effect real and actual improvement within my community and by extension the world. Toward this end, I wish to pursue an education in civil rights and constitutional law. It is my goal to use my law degree to, as Thurgood Marshall said, “Be the voice of the voiceless.”
This shift in focus in order to immerse myself in the community that I felt most connected to in order to learn how best to serve it. I began to attack my classes with an ardor I had never shown to my academics. I began my studies focusing only on the goal graduation and admission to law school; selecting a major was an afterthought. However, as I plowed through my prerequisite courses I discovered that it was the liberal arts which most drew my interest. What I was learning in the classroom never felt like routine drudgery, in fact with each course I felt my goals, originally as vague as “I would like to make a difference,” come more and more into focus. No longer was I taking courses for some vague or meaningless reason; each and every decision I made had a distinct purpose. I double majored in Africana Studies and History because the richness of the curriculum attracted me, and fueled my nascent desire for social change with historical perspective and depth. I joined and later chaired the student chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union because it was an organization whose goals were directly in line with my own, particularly with regards to voter education and equitable application of the Bill of Rights. My membership in Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity stemmed directly from my desire to aid my community dovetailing nicely with the Wayne State chapter focus on supporting the city of Detroit specifically.
As I became further engrossed in my studies, I found myself gaining a new sense of duty to my community. The axiom “Evil prevails when good men do nothing” began to take on new meaning for me as I learned about historical injustices whose effects are still seen today. This increased knowledge led me to add another two facets to my growth: Political activism and community service. I became very involved with organizations that I felt were committed to making the sort of changes that I wanted to see within the community, from voter registration and education to full-scale political lobbying. I balanced this activism with local community service, which I felt was my duty as a citizen to perform not only because I possessed the ability, but because of a sense of responsibility and dedication to work to improve the community that produced me, with the hopes that this improvement will get more individuals in the position to help, and the cycle of improvement will spread.
Booker T. Washington said that the measure of success was not the position that one reached in life, but the obstacles that one overcomes in order to succeed. I believe that it is precisely the adversity that I experienced that instilled within me the passion to drive toward my goals and the character to deal with bumps along the way. My idealism has been tempered in the fire of real world experience. I believe that I have come as far as I can while still shackled by the constraints of balancing full-time employment, and I am enthusiastic about the opportunity to transition and evolve. It is my fervent hope that admission to your institution will provide the opportunity to truly fulfill the potential that my mother saw in me so many years ago. Thank you for your time.
I've been having a rough couple of weeks to say the least, however I just recently had a Moment. You know, one of those Moments where you take a step back from your problems and look at the bigger picture. The way I see it, I have the following things going for me:
- I was hired on to a contract that puts me on client-site and gives me excellent experience handling contract financials and personnel management, which in turn puts me in an excellent position career-wise both short- and long-term.
- I live in the DMV, which for all my whining and complaining is an amazing place to be for a young socially-conscious and politically-aware young IT professional like myself. I'm literally surrounded by opportunity.
- I think I make a strong candidate for one of the top-tier MBA programs in the area, regardless of which one I choose. Which itself exposes me to more positive experience and opportunity for success.
My relationship situation (or lack thereof) and lack of dependents are part of the reason why I was able to tear up roots and move out here. Moving out here is the only reason why I have the above positives going for me.
So why complain? Good point. From this point on I'll make it a point to remember that I'm in the driver's seat, not hitchhiking.
See you at the finish line. Or not.