Over 230 viewers participated in the Data and Engineering Two-Day Summit presented by VMware in partnership with AfroTech on Thursday, August 20th.

Managers, directors, mid-level professionals, recent graduates and more logged into the virtual event to learn about how to succeed in the tech space from the lens of VMware employees.

The two-part discussion included the topics How To Build A Sustainable Work From Home Experience and Navigating Careers in Cloud Infrastructure & Workspace Technology, moderated by AfroTech’s brand manager, Will Lucas.

VMware’s Director of Product Lifecycle Operations Management, LaTreece Butler-Morton was the featured guest and spoke about diversity, the professional development of Black employees in tech, misconceptions on coding, ideal qualities in candidates and more. 

One of the main goals of the panel-style discussions was to break down how tech professionals don’t need a degree or specific career track in engineering in order to break into the industry. There was much conversation around refining the definition of engineering in order to make the field more flexible for those looking to pivot.

“Sometimes engineering isn’t even what you’re thinking,” said Lucas. “It’s not always writing code, but it’s engineering how people move throughout systems.” 

Lucas and Butler-Morton spoke candidly about her untraditional story entering into the tech field from her background in real estate and finance. 

“I think there’s a misconception that people feel like you need to have an engineering degree or a computer science degree to work in an industry that is of IT,” said Butler-Morton. “I’ve been in IT but that was a small piece of my role. I’ve been in operations teams. I’ve been in finance teams, and again right now I’m a part of this extended diversity and inclusion team.”

Butler-Morton touched on the program VMware offers to expose Black and brown students to the departments they’re able to work in at the company – ranging from marketing, sales and engineering – to prove that they don’t have to become an engineer to make money in tech. 

The director also spoke about how she has created sustainable work from home experiences as a manager and how she stays “connected” with her team and customers in the midst of COVID-19. Her main reason for the activities is that it’s still important to “get together” with her team and not only check in on them, but to check on family members too. 

“The key is to check in with people,” Butler-Morton said. “We know that in this pandemic it is hard for a lot of people. Not only just you and I–those in the Black community who have jobs. It’s hard for our family members. I mean we take that with us. We carry that. That’s part of us.” 

Guests of the second session included: 

  • Yancey Larochelle-Williams, Program Manager, VMware
  • Shamel Jacobs, Product Manager, VMware
  • Rosviny Felix, Software Engineer, VMware

The three employees talked about their personal take on how to excel in the industry and grow in tech jobs. Lucas started the session highlighting Felix’s inspirational story about how she was able to transition from her role as an administrative assistant at VMware to a software engineer all in one year. 

She explained how her love for reading introduced her to the book, Computer Programming for Dummies and from there she took the non-traditional role to get to where she is today with VMware. 

Larochelle-Williams detailed his experience as a program manager for the company and how his extensive professional history and varied career endeavors has helped him excel in his role.

Jacobs spoke on his approach in successfully fulfilling the duties for his job and why it’s important to be extremely customer-focused in tech. 

“You have to understand your customer because that’s who you’re building products for,” said Jacobs. “That’s who you want to buy your products. That’s who you’re constantly trying to appease in some way, shape, or form. Develop something to answer that need and determine how we can answer that need correctly. At the core of everything, it’s really about being customer-focused and customer-driven.”

To end the summit, Lucas asked the three panelists to sum up what aspiring tech professionals can do to land a role in technology. Here are three tips for those who are preparing to start or pivot their career: 

  • Stick with one coding language, learn it well before moving on to others
  • Be organized and have a strong follow-up when networking 
  • Figure out what your expertise will be and how you plan to execute it with authority

Want to know more about how to have a successful career in tech at VMware? Check out the full virtual experience below: