Career technologist Dr. Nicki Washington is no stranger to the challenges Black women face in the tech industry. In her new book Unapologetically Dope she channels her experience into a guide for Black women on how to survive and thrive in the tech field.
“This book is like my personal diary,” Dr. Washington told AfroTech. “I wrote about the microaggressions I experienced because I needed other women to know that it’s okay to not be okay and that there is always someone you can turn to.”
Dr. Washington had the lightbulb moment to write Unapologetically Dope after hearing a group of Black women talk about their struggles navigating the tech industry. She realized she was often part of conversations where inclusion in the workplace and self-doubt were the main issues.
She dedicated a summer to writing the lessons that aren’t taught out of a textbook or in the classroom.
“I wrote this book because I saw and heard that issues around diversity and inclusion still weren’t being solved,” she said. “Nothing is being done to treat the actual problem.”
Despite nationwide efforts to increase diversity and inclusion across the tech ecosystem, Black women comprise only 15 percent of computing Bachelor’s degrees and 3 percent of computing degrees overall.
The computer science educator—whose mom was a computer programmer—grew up surrounded by technologists who were also HBCU graduates. That representation allowed her to not only see the opportunity in tech but also better understand how to build her career.
Dr. Nicki Washington is the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. from North Carolina State University.
But Washington is tired of being the “first.”
“It still bothers me that we still talk about people being ‘the first,’” she said. “The problem with that is that there haven’t been a lot of people who have come behind me.”
She talks about being in her last year of graduate school when her mother, a former IBM programmer, gifted her a set of golf lessons for Christmas. “A lot of deals are made out on the golf course,” she said. “My mother told me ‘you don’t have to know how to play the game well, but you have to know how to play the game.’”
Unapologetically Dope is Washington’s contribution to ensuring that current and future technologists are equipped to tackle the diversity-starved field.
“I hope every woman or girl of color comes away empowered and like they are not alone,” Washington said. “Their stories are the same as mine. I hope to give them that sense of comfort that there was someone who went through this.”