Local tech guru aims to spread the wealth

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Founder and CEO of The Premium Experience app and Twin Cities organizer for Blacks In Technology, Mike Jackson is one of Minnesota’s own upcoming tech gurus.

The Premium Experience app is geared towards the entertainment industry and event ticketing. “We basically help venues and promoters better understand their audience through data,” explained Jackson.

Blacks In Technology is a national organization supporting the inclusion of Black people in the tech field. “I got involved with Blacks In Technology in 2018 when I helped do the consulting. I booked Nipsey Hussle to come speak. After that one, I co-produced the second [conference] fully. We spent 13 months on that,” he said. 

Through his continued involvement with Blacks In Technology and the mission to create more inclusion and opportunity, Jackson decided to create a powerful new platform, Black Tech Talent, that he believes will change the demographic landscape of the tech industry. 

Black Tech Talent is an online platform designed for scouting, onboarding, hiring, and providing resources to Black people interested in or working in the tech field. On the surface, Black Tech Talent may be thought of as just a freelancing platform, similar to Fiverr or Upwork.

But Jackson’s culturally specific objectives allow Black Tech Talent to stand in a class of its own and create a real positive impact in the Black community.

 “Now that Black Tech Talent is here, I don’t feel like anybody’s children’s first job should be fast food,” said the entrepreneur.

Recently given the Inclusive Evolution Award from the Minnesota Startup Awards 2020, Jackson’s goal through Black Tech Talent is to provide a pipeline that will allow Black people to connect, find resources, and perhaps most importantly find paid jobs and opportunities in the tech field. 

“There is the job board. We also do recruiting which is more in-depth. Then we do what we call “culturally specific content,” said Jackson. 

Culturally specific content refers to online conversations that feature tech talent and highlights the unique Black experiences that are commonly occurring in the tech field (and the general workplace). “In one of them we discussed colorism, in another, we discussed Black privilege and the difference between African and African American.”

Neka by Makers/Unsplash

Other topics include natural hair in the workplace for men and women. Every conversation aims to encompass the relevance of the unique Black experience and how it intersects with work. “These are conversations that HR won’t get to hear, that your White coworkers won’t get to hear. But it’s stuff that they need to hear,” said Jackson.

While Black Tech Talent has a clear mission geared towards Black people, Jackson understands that inclusion is key. “We have [Black] youth that are troubleshooting their PlayStation 4s, they’re jailbreaking iPhones, they’re fixing their own laptops and computers. But if you ask them if they are in tech, they’d say no, but that’s tech!” 

Black Tech Talent wants to educate more Black people to understand that a successful career in tech is not only possible but easier to obtain than one might think. “You don’t have to have a two or four-year degree. You can go through boot camps,” said Jackson. “Summit Academy offers a five-month, completely free IT course. Google partnered with Coursera. They have a course that is $49 a month and by the end, they give you a professional certificate. [Then] you can send your resume out.” 

According to Jackson, working a help desk job, you can make $50K-$80K just starting out. “The average pay for a tech job is $145K starting,” he said.

Jackson hopes that the Black community will begin to consider tech as a field filled with opportunity and be willing to strategically pursue jobs in the field with the understanding that traditional education does not have to be a barrier, as it has been historically, for some Black folks.

“For my people, I’ve always seen us as prestigious. I have always seen us as having the talent, having the heart and the culture to do things, and then always missing the mark when it comes to the finances,” he said. 

Jackson hopes that will be a gateway to greater opportunity and future for the Black community. “I’ve always been passionate in seeing my people in the best position as possible and finding a way to get not just a few of us in, but as many of us in as possible,” he said.

Jackson envisions a future in which, “I see us [Black people] being drafted into tech at 18 like they do in sports.”

For more info, visit www.blacktechtalent.org.

About Tiffany Johnson

Tiffany Johnson is a contributing writer at the MN Spokesman-Recorder. She can be reached at tjohnson@spokesman-recorder.com.

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