Magazine - Spring 2022





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The efforts to increase the percentage of Black STEM professionals in industry have been outstanding. However, since the start of the new millennium, the number of students who actually graduate with STEM degrees has been declining. We hope to solve this problem by inspiring minority students to pursue STEM careers and by providing resources to those who have already begun their journey. See Possible.




Sometimes all we need are examples of the possibilities. is an inclusive community of STEM (science, technology, engineering, & mathematics) professionals who collaborate and share solutions. Our mission is to bridge the skills gap between professionals at all levels, and our professional development opportunities help our community members to achieve success in their careers. We were created to serve as a platform for all STEM professionals to share and leverage value.

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Anyone can research our database of professional stories and connect with other people in hopes of developing collaborative relationships. We want to take the stress out of professional development by providing a bridge between developing and senior level professionals.


Enjoy and continue living like there is [no box]!





Ashley M. Scott I NC L U S I ON How I Broke Into the Healthcare Industry and Started My Career as a Data Analyst

Why is representation in the workplace critical to upward mobility? Growing up as a first-generation college student with Caribbean parents, there was a strong emphasis on getting a "good" job after college. Despite graduating with honors and a public health degree and working up to three jobs at one time as a full-time college student, I struggled to land a "good" job in healthcare. I felt uneasy about sharing the news with my parents because it might have raise questions about my degree’s credibility in the workplace. Luckily, my saving grace was my decision to reach out to people in the healthcare industry for guidance and mentorship. I created meaningful relationships and learned how to re-strategize my career search. It is interesting to note that my mentors, who identified as women of color, emphasized the importance of having at least one graduate degree. I always aspired to pursue an MBA and took a leap of faith by enrolling in a one-year MBA program. In business school, I noticed analytical skills were becoming sought out more in the competitive job descriptions. I continued taking more analytics courses, but I began to feel bittersweet about my career trajectory again. I needed to niche down my industry and core skills which led me to build my data portfolio and reposition myself as a data professional in the public health space. My journey reminds me why I started my social media platform, Data Girl Ash, during the COVID-19 pandemic. I understand firsthand that navigating your career path can feel challenging when you are changing career paths or don't have access to specific educational resources and support groups. As I expanded my network, I found a poor representation of women in these careers in the media and workplace. According to the Boston Consulting Group, 15 to 22 percent of today's data science professionals are women. Forbes

reported that women who are data analysts do not usually hold managerial roles, considering 18 percent of leadership positions are at premier tech companies. Women in these fields have often reported mistreatment, bullying, gender pay gaps, and lack of mentorship as leading reasons for leaving the industry. The low retention rates of women and underrepresented groups encouraged me to share my story at the pandemic's peak, stay motivated, and educate other non-traditional data enthusiasts before they became discouraged from applying to the field. I can attest that applying for jobs is a job in itself. Luckily, there are many ways to make the job search less of a hassle such as the following: receiving personalized job recommendations via email, job posting websites, recruiting events, apprenticeship opportunities and more. My goal is to provide more motivation and tips to data enthusiasts without a technical background who are interested in pivoting into an in-demand field in technology and data analysis. By supporting college students, post-graduates, career changers, and working professionals, I hope to be a small part of their journey to exceed their career goals and enhance their data awareness in and outside the workplace. In my #DataGirl social media campaign, I posted educational content to increase the awareness of data careers by sharing my experiences. The campaign reached international recognition with customers across the United States, Canada, and Ireland which inspired me to create my data-inspired apparel and accessories collection. A portion of the proceeds supports local women-minority-owned businesses and helped to launch my Data Girl Scholarship in partnership with the New York Urban League. There is strength in numbers. Remember, small steps over time is a testament to paying it forward which helps diversify the talent pipeline and cultivates new ideas to elevate more leaders to adapt to a data-driven economy.


I am the founder of Data Girl Ash, a teaching and coaching company that helps without a technology background become more data-savvy. Whether you are interested in pivoting in your 9-5 job or want to become more data literate in your entrepreneurial goals, our company’s culture aims to empower all data enthusiasts. We diversify the talent pipeline and show our pride through fashion, training classes, speaking engagements, and career coaching services including resume reviews, LinkedIn optimization, and interview preparation. Our data career-inspired clothing and accessory line has reached international recognition with dozens of customers across the United States, Canada, and Ireland. A portion of the proceeds supports other women- minority-owned businesses and our Data Girl Scholarship, tailored to people interested in pursuing or advancing their data literacy.

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Own the Possibilities

SHIFTECH Disruptive Technologies & Solutions that are Changing the World and the People Who are Leading Those Innovations

Darrick “ DJ ” Johnson was born in Compton , California . A graduate of McPherson College and Georgetown University , DJ has worked in technology for over a decade . DJ launched his non - profit organization , ITech , in 2019 and has helped place more than 1 , 200 people in jobs or mentorship programs in Silicon Valley . Throughout his decade - long career in the tech industry , he received over a thousand rejection emails from companies in Silicon Valley . This motivated him to think about the future plight of the younger generation in tech , and he opted to prepare them to be accepted in the growing industry . Since the establishment of ITech , Johnson has donated more than 500 computers , in hopes that his donations will make a difference for many individuals aspiring to become tech leaders . DJ ' s work has been featured by some of the top media outlets in the country including the San Francisco Post , The Silicon Valley Review , and The New York Weekly .

ITECH this is why



ITech was started because every company in Silicon Valley told me no. After leaving the tech space for two years in 2017 to run my own sports agency, I had to work an internship with Apple in a retail store to get back into technology. I was sleeping on my mother's couch after sleeping in my car for a few months. That’s when ITech was born. I told my mother I wanted to help people who looked like me break into tech and give anyone with a non-traditional background the opportunity to attain a career in STEM. I had a hard time finding someone in the tech industry who was willing to talk and give me guidance on how to navigate the tech space. ITech now offers this service and so much more. This is why ITECH...because everyone told me no! WH A T W A S THE DEFINING MOMENT TH A T INSPIRED YOU TO CRE A TE ITECH ? YOUR EXPERIENCE SP A NS B2B S A LES , A RTIFICI A L INTELLIGENCE A ND EVEN PROFESSION A L FOOTB A LL . HOW H A S YOUR FOUND A TION IN THESE DISCIPLINES EN A BLED YOU TO LEVEL UP YOUR C A REER ? I’ve always been a team player and understand that with every obstacle comes the process. For example, we had an off- season in sports to get ready for the season. I realized that everything I did in the off-season directly affected my success during the season. If I went through the process and did my job, things turned out exactly how they were meant. I’m a firm believer in being the CEO of a role. I see many people who want to lead, but have never followed. Each season in my life has required me to set back and observe first before having the honor of a leadership role. I live by four core principles: faith, family, health, and wealth. Aligning myself and using those four principles as my north star has allowed me to level up in all phases of my life.

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It might sound cliché, but it’s helping people obtain impressive careers that create generational wealth. STEM has so many verticals, and being able to help people find their way has been truly unique. I also think that because the services I provide are 100% free, it is much more rewarding and drives me to do more and find more ways to help the next generation of STEM professionals. CONGR A TUL A TIONS FOR WINNING DOTCOM M A G A ZINE ’ S 2022 IMP A CT COMP A NY OF THE YE A R A W A RD . WH A T H A S BEEN THE MOST REW A RDING MEMORY OF YOUR JOURNEY THUS F A R ?


The balance between short-term wins and long- term success. As you know, the industry is forever changing. Choosing when and how to pivot ITech is the most difficult decision thus far. Also, choosing who I want to align with as a non- profit is challenging; it's hard to turn down funding. However, I never want to put my organization in a compromising position because of money. WH A T IS THE MOST DIFFICULT DECISION YOU ' VE H A D TO M A KE TO PURSUE TECH ENTREPRENEURSHIP ? HOW C A N WE INSPIRE MORE MINORITY STUDENTS TO PURSUE C A REERS IN TECHNOLOGY ? By showing up and showing young students that there are other careers outside of sports, media, and entertainment. In the same way, we show up for sporting events and concerts, we as STEM professionals should be doing at least three speaking engagements at each level, including elementary, high school, and college. You can’t be what you can’t see, and that’s where any minority in the STEM industry can make a true impact. WH A T A DVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUNG PROFESSION A LS OR ENTREPRENEURS ? Understand that your journey will be different from others who came before you, and know that success leaves clues. Apple, Nike, Tesla, and many other successful organizations have copied each others blueprint for success. There is no need to reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to. Be bold and dream. BIG dreams are free, so dream as big as possible. A human being created everything we use in this world. So, when stepping into tech entrepreneurship, don’t be intimidated by those large mountains. They are easy to climb and in time you’ll reach your destination. Lastly, enjoy the journey. I know it is easy to get caught up in what’s next but enjoy each victory because entrepreneurship is not easy, but it’s worth it.


Everything. But no, if I’m being honest, I’m pushing to bring an ITech center to every inner city across the country. I also ask myself, “what did I need to do to raise and secure more funding.” However, I’m a man of faith, and I know that God will provide ITech with everything we need with faith and hard work.

ITech is a Nonprofit focused on STEM, i.e., Science, Technology, Engineering, Math. Our mission is to help fuel the next generation of techies. We specialize in technology job placement & STEM exposure for inner-city youth. We specialize in career and job placement for recent college graduates and mid-career professionals. ITech also hosts computer drives, coding, and software camps for kids ages 8-17.

STEM-Programs We have partnered with numerous gaming providers to help children and teens have a fun opportunity to learn to code while gaming. In conjugation with our E- Learning platform, we also find communities that need computers and host computer drives to help bring resources needed within inner cities. The computer drives give the communities a chance to get involved and help out with the youth. We also grant scholarships to college students in need, giving away five new computers per year to students that need them.


Job Placement Need help breaking into Technology? Find out how our FREE mentorship programs can help you land the tech job of your dreams. ITech has partnerships with some of the largest technology companies in the valley; contact us TODAY! Itech offers free job placement/mentorship for recent college graduates & early career professionals; - Career Coaching - - Interview Prep - - LI/Resume Workshops -

Passionate about STEM and Technology? We'd love to partner with you and your organization.

Contact us today.

ITech has partnerships with some of the top technology firms in the world. We have partnered with Google and Microsoft to help anyone in the ITech program obtain Cloud, Program, Project Manager, HR, Business, and other technical certifications. We also partner with other non- profit organizations to help bring change in the world of STEM for people of color.












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Kelly Knight


Kelly Knight

Kelly Knight, a 2020 University Teaching Excellence Award winner, is an Associate Professor of Forensic Science and a STEM Accelerator. Professor Knight has been teaching forensic science courses and mentoring research students at both the undergraduate and graduate level for the last ten years. As a STEM Accelerator, she mentors STEM students and leads K-12 STEM outreach initiatives for those underrepresented in STEM programs such as the Females of Color. After obtaining degrees in chemistry and forensic science, Professor Knight worked in forensic science laboratories for almost a decade before starting her career in higher education. She is qualified as an expert in both forensic serology and forensic DNA analysis and has testified in several court trials. In addition to her experience with forensic casework, she has many years of experience in research which includes areas such as laser microdissection and low copy number (LCN) DNA methods. Professor Knight has also remained active in professional organizations since beginning her career in forensic science. She was promoted to the rank of Fellow within the American Academy of Forensic Sciences in 2020 and has twice served as the Biology Section Chair for the Mid-Atlantic Association of Forensic Scientists. Professor Knight is also currently working on her PhD in science education research. Her research examines how out-of-school STEM programs impact middle and high school girls of color, particularly in the area of STEM identity. Through her advisory roles and participation in various DEI committees across campus such as the President’s Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence taskforce, her work in higher education centers the development and implementation of equitable practices for both STEM students and faculty. We can’t change society’s perception of what a scientist looks like if we continue to assimilate to what is considered the norm.



WH A T W A S THE DEFINING MOMENT TH A T INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A C A REER IN FORENSIC SCIENCE ? It would be difficult to distill it down to a single moment that inspired me to pursue a career in forensic science because I believe that our significant accomplishments and decisions are generally the sum of many smaller moments. However, I do think there were two significant moments that led me to want to pursue this career. The first moment was a mock crime scene lab in my 11th grade anatomy and physiology class. This was the first time I experienced how all of the natural sciences I had been learning could be applied to a real-life career that had the potential to impact lives in the way that forensic science does. The second moment was the internship I did my senior year because even though I was inspired by forensics in high school, it wasn’t until I got to college and decided what I didn’t like that I was led back to forensics. I spent 3 years majoring in chemistry and then in my senior year I worked as a DNA technician in a DNA laboratory and having that firsthand experience really showed me that forensics was what I really wanted to do for the rest of my life.

HOW DO YOU ENSURE TH A T YOU A RE A UTHENTIC TO YOURSELF A ND YOUR WORK ? Though I definitely agree with being authentic, this is honestly something that I grapple with daily. As a young Black woman trying to enter the STEM field, I felt the pressure to conform to society’s perception of what was considered "intelligent and scientific." Obviously, I couldn’t magically become an older white male, which is the stereotype many people think of when they think of scientists, but I did other things to try to fit in like trying to minimize my personality, be more serious, wear eyeglasses, suits that were too big, and wear my hair in a straight, tight bun. It was so stressful trying to be someone I was not but the longer I have been in STEM, the more I have convinced myself that I owe it to not only myself but also to those coming after me to be my authentic self. We can’t change society’s perception of what a scientist looks like if we continue to assimilate to what is considered the norm. So while I still struggle sometimes as I think about how others may perceive me if I bring my whole self to a situation, I remind myself that the stress and undue burden I would feel from not doing so will always be worse than anyone else’s perception of me. To help me remain authentic, I am intentional about surrounding myself with other powerful women who are also committed to being their authentic selves so that I am reminded everyday to do the same. I also firmly believe that if my

authentic self is not welcome in a space, then I am in the wrong space and I need to find a new one or create one of my own. PRESS play


FROM BEING A FE A TURED SCIENTIST ON CNN TO DELIVERING KEYNOTE SPEECHES TO A TT A INING YOUR PHD A LL WHILE BEING A MOM OF TWO , HOW DO YOU M A N A GE IT A LL ? A NY H A CKS YOU C A N SH A RE ? I was just thinking about this recently because everyone sees my social media highlight reel and thinks I am a superwoman and while I appreciate the compliments, I am anything but that. I have to first acknowledge that my faith in God and the support of my family gives me the strength I need to do all of the things that I am able to do. Second, I think it’s important to acknowledge that there are many days where I feel like I just want to lay in bed and not do anything. I will say, though, and I have heard others who are successful say this as well, that on the days when I’m not feeling motivated, what keeps me pushing ahead is my commitment to being disciplined and consistent. I am able to be disciplined and consistent by planning ahead. Personally, this has been so critical for me to reduce burnout and to effectively manage my time. That being said, I still don’t always do a good job at those things either and in those moments, I am not hard on myself. I give myself grace. I let go of that “superwoman” image other people have of me and remind myself that I am a normal person just like everyone else that has good days and bad days, productive days and nonproductive days. I take breaks when I need to. And then when I’m ready, I jump right back into the routine of things

WH A T IS THE MOST DIFFICULT CH A LLENGE YOU ' VE H A D TO OVERCOME IN PURSUING YOUR PHD IN SCIENCE EDUC A TION RESE A RCH ? There are two things I have really found difficult during my PhD. One is that I am very much outside of the discipline I have been trained in throughout my education and my career. My BS and MS degrees are in natural sciences and I have worked as a scientist my entire career. Although I have been an educator for a decade, “doing” education and learning about education are two very different things and there has been a steep learning curve for me. With that learning curve has come a lot of feelings of imposter syndrome because many of my peers have degrees in education so the concepts and theories are more familiar to them. Because of that, I often have that feeling of “Do I belong here?” But I constantly remind myself that I do belong! I went through a rigorous process to be accepted into my PhD program and if the admissions committee did not think I would be successful, they would not have admitted me. The other thing I really struggle with is just the time it takes to do what I need to do to get this degree. Outside of the hours spent in classes, there is so much reading, research, and work I put into assignments and projects. And being a full-time professor while raising two children does not leave me with a lot of free time so it has been really challenging trying to figure out how to integrate these various components of my life.

I never intended to build a brand or become an influencer when I started my Instagram page.

I started my page because I love what I do and I wanted to share more about science and my experiences in academia all while being a mom. Honestly, as much as I love my friends and family on my personal page, they weren’t really interested in those topics, ha! So I wanted to have a space where I could connect with other people who had similar interests and now it has grown to be so much more than I ever dreamed. I think what brings many people to my page is my authenticity and relatability. Science and academia are often thought of as rigid and serious but I wanted to show

another side of it. I also hope to inspire other women who are looking to get into these fields or are currently in these fields and are looking to connect with someone who can relate to their journey. I think it’s this connection that I have with my followers that has really resulted in the growth of my online community. I think of those who follow me as my IG family and I would even consider some of them to be actual friends. They engage with my content but I also enjoy engaging with them as well.


WHY IS GENDER EQU A LITY IN STEM IMPORT A NT TO YOU ? Gender equality in STEM is important to me because many girls are interested in STEM but there are barriers in place beginning as early as elementary school that are preventing them from being able to have the opportunity to pursue and be successful in these careers. For example, there is often a lack of female representation when teaching about scientists to young children so girls are unable to see themselves in STEM careers. There are also still these lingering stereotypes that STEM is not a “girl” thing and that girls only want to play with dolls and dress- up (which there is nothing wrong with because I did both). STEM is not a gender-specific career. Girls have the right to pursue any career they may be interested in without being hindered or discouraged from doing so. Further, having more girls and women in STEM will increase the diversity of thoughts and perspectives when it comes to innovation and decision-making in the field so it is critical that we do what is necessary to expose young girls to these fields and encourage them to pursue their dreams. Girls have the right to pursue any career they may be interested in without

WH A T A DVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO STUDENTS OR YOUNG PROFESSION A LS ? So for students and young professionals I say don’t be afraid to follow your dreams. As they say, never give up on something you can’t go a day without thinking about. If you are in high school, go for the advanced STEM courses to prepare you for STEM courses in college.Try to attend camps or programs in your area of interest to see if you’re really going to like it or to be exposed to other areas. For college students, I recommend seeking out undergraduate research opportunities and start looking today for ways to build the skills you need for the job you will want tomorrow. If your future career is going to be looking for experience with a particular type of lab technique or leadership skills or public speaking skills, you have to start thinking about what type of things you can get involved in while in college that will connect to those skills in order to build your resume and boost your cover letter. For everyone else, I can’t express enough how important it is to find a mentor (or mentors) no matter what stage of your career you are in and to get connected with a group of like-minded individuals. Life is tough and we need other people around to help us navigate sometimes.

being hindered or discouraged from doing so.

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WH A T KEEPS YOU UP A T NIGHT ? Honestly, other than my kids, I would say the only thing that keeps me up at night is wondering if I’ll ever reach a point in my life where I’m not chasing after the next thing to accomplish and cross off my list. I am one of those people who is so ambitious and is so focused on the plan for the future that I forget sometimes to live in the moment…to look at where I am at this current stage in my life and acknowledge that I am living answered prayers. ▪

Kenneth Robinson Jr.


Kenneth Robinson Jr.

leadership by utilizing our diverse environments where our children are motivated to achieve, and to empower people to become shareholders in the economic and social fabric of the communities we serve. The 100 Black Men of Metropolitan Houston, Inc. is committed to the intellectual development of youth and the economic empowerment of the African- American community based on the following precepts: respect for family, spirituality, justice, and integrity. For the last several years, he has served on the Board of Directors of the organization and on January 2017, he became the youngest President in its history . Kenneth currently serves as Chairman Emeritus for the organization and Chair of the Emerging 100 Committee for the 100 Black Men of America. His professional and civic leadership have propelled him to the forefront in the Houston community when his accomplishments were highlighted by Houston Construction News in 2012 and 2013. In addition, he was featured in several editions of Who’s Who in Black Houston. Kenneth serves as an Adjunct Instructor at Houston Community College in the Construction Department where he teaches courses related to residential and commercial construction. Kenneth believes he could not have achieved the things he has without the mentorship and guidance of others and feels it’s his duty to support others. Kenneth is most proud to be the husband of Dr. Samoan J. Robinson and father of daughters Chandler-Elizabeth and Brooke Robinson.

Kenneth Robinson Jr. is a native of New Orleans, Louisiana. Creative at a young age, he was drawn to the beauty of the antebellum homes in New Orleans. The city's historic design inspired his love and passion for architecture. He graduated from Southern University A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana with a Bachelor's Degree in Architecture. Before forming his architecture firm, Kenneth worked at one of the oldest architecture firms in New Orleans and worked at major firms in Houston, Texas. In 2010 Kenneth formed Kenneth Robinson, A Professional Corporation which is a Houston based architectural design firm. His background includes design, project management, and planning. He has been involved in the design and construction of a wide range of projects including affordable housing, restaurants, schools, religious sanctuaries and single and multifamily residences with construction budgets ranging from $50,000 to $30,000,000. In 2019 Kenneth founded Red Cedar Development LLC (RCD). RCD is a Houston based development firm that specializes in the renovation and new construction of both traditional & historical residential properties. Because of his strong commitment to volunteerism and community service, Kenneth is active in several local and national organizations. In 2006 Kenneth became a member of the 100 Black Men of Metropolitan Houston, Inc. The goal of the 100 Black Men of Metropolitan Houston Inc. is to serve as a beacon of

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Growing up I wanted to be either a Cartoonist or an Architect. I had several defining moments that inspired me to become an architect. The first was growing up in New Orleans I was always inspired by the architecture around the city. I remember going to the doctor's office in Uptown New Orleans with my grandparents in the summer and going back to their house drawing some of the mansions we drove by on St. Charles Avenue. Interesting thing was after my grandmother passed away in 2017 we were cleaning out her house and found some of my drawings that she kept from when I was a kid. The final defining moment was when I received my first summer internship at Hewitt-Washington & Associates in New Orleans after my 2nd year of college. I was nervous about the internship because of all the stories of how great the principle architects at the firm were. When it was time for me to go back to school in the fall I had the confidence that I could be successful in the field of architecture. One of the quotes I live my life by is by Confucius, "choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life." WH A T W A S THE DEFINING MOMENT TH A T INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME A N A RCHITECT ?

The most rewarding side of architecture for me is the technical skills side. I’ve never designed to be published in a design magazine. I want to make sure my designs are functional and safe first. Sometimes I walk into a building and comment “why did they do that?” or “that’s wasted space.” My goal with each of the projects I design is to never have someone make those same comments once it is complete. I want to make sure every inch of the structure is usable space for my clients. There are two things that I tell my team about designing. First, "put yourself in the space as you are drawing. If it doesn’t make since while you are drawing then it won’t make since once the project is complete”. The other thing is “if you have questions about how something is going to work or be built, then the contractor will have the same questions and more, so it is better to answer that question in a drawing.” A RCHITECTURE IS A DISCIPLINE TH A T USES BOTH TECHNIC A L SKILLS A ND CRE A TIVE A RTISTRY TO DESIGN PROJECTS TH A T A RE FUNCTION A L A ND A TTR A CTIVE . WHICH ONE IS THE MOST REW A RDING TO YOU A ND WHY ?

WH A T IS A TYPIC A L DESIGN PROCESS FOR A RCHITECTS A ND HOW DO YOU COLL A BOR A TE WITH OTHER DISCIPLINES ? Our process starts in the initial meeting with the client learning about their needs and wants in the structure along with their budget. From there we develop floor plans, exterior elevations, and a site plan to present to the client so they can see how the structure will look and flow. Once we get their approval we send those drawings to a group of engineers to do their part. Depending on if the project is new construction, a remodel, or a tenant build out will determine what group of engineers to send the drawings to. For example, if the project is new construction, the drawings will go to civil, structural, and mechanical, electrical & plumbing (MEP) engineers. If the project is a remodel or tenant build out, we may only send it to the MEP engineers. While the engineering group is working on their portion of the project, we schedule coordination and status meetings with the engineers to make sure the project is staying on track and there aren’t any unexpected problems that we may find once construction begins. Once everyone has completed their portion of the project, we have a final coordination meeting before we submit for permit review. After the drawings are approved by the municipality we hand them over to a general contractor to begin construction. During the construction phase we visit the site to see how construction is going or to meet with the general contractor and their subs on any unforeseen conditions. We do this until the project is complete and the owner has moved in.

WH A T IS THE MOST DIFFICULT DECISION YOU ' VE H A D TO M A KE TO PURSUE ENTREPRENEURSHIP ? Like most entrepreneurs, I think the most difficult decision I had to make to pursue entrepreneurship is walking away from a regular paycheck and benefits. You know you have certain financial obligations you have to meet every month based on your current income. Once you walk away from that safety net of a regular paycheck you may have to adjust your lifestyle. Something I always tell people who are thinking about becoming an entrepreneur is to begin thinking and treating yourself like an entrepreneur at your current place of employment. Your current employer is your client. Understand that he or she can terminate your employment at any time but while you are there give that job 100% as if it was your own company and begin marketing yourself outside of your employer. If that employer decides to terminate you or you decide to terminate that employer, hopefully you have begun receiving some part-time business that will now become full-time. WH A T DID YOU G A IN THE MOST FROM YOUR HBCU EXPERIENCE ? Other than lifelong friends, I gained opportunities that I probably would not have received from another university. My HBCU experience opened up doors that I still benefit from today. Starting from my summer internship, to meeting other African-American architects and business owners across the world in a short period of time.


I think HBCU’s play an important role in inspiring minority students in any career choice. I graduated from Southern University A&M College in Baton Rouge, LA and before I started college there I had only met one African-American architect in my life. If there was an architect in attendance at my high school career days, he didn't look like me. During my time at Southern and even after I graduated I met so many architects who looked like me and who are successful in their own way. At Southern University I learned about the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA). A part of NOMA’s mission is to foster communications and fellowship among minority architects. Organizations like NOMA help not only professionals but but also youths interested in architecture and college students majoring in architecture to become successful in the field. HOW C A N WE INSPIRE MORE MINORITY STUDENTS TO PURSUE C A REERS IN A RCHITECTURE ?

WH A T A DVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUNG PROFESSION A LS OR ENTREPRENEURS ? The advice I would give a young professional or entrepreneur is to find a mentor. Mentors play a very important role in not only your career path but your life choices. I personally have more than one mentor. I have mentors who I go to for professional advice and I have mentors who I go to for advice about life choices. When I began my internship at Hewitt-Washington & Associates in New Orleans I got to know the VP of the company, James R. Washington Jr. I think he saw the potential in me before I did. One day I was in his office and had just finished doing some schematic drawings for a sport complex development in New Orleans East. About 15 minutes before the meeting, he called me to the conference room and said, "I have to leave so you are going to facilitate this meeting." I was confused because I had never facilitated a meeting own my own or without someone else in the room to support me. I felt even more pressure because the meeting was going to be with the developer and his team, along with some of the City of New Orleans officials. In that 15 minutes he broke down everyone’s role in the room and their interest in the project. The last thing he told me was also the most impactful. He conveyed that I had done the design so that I could explain what I did and why with confidence. I actually had an unexpected trip to New Orleans recently and while I was in town I decided to stop by their office just to say hello. I ended up sitting in the conference room with Mr. Washington, who is one of the firm's owners, for more than an hour talking about the impact they firm has made in lives of African-American architects around the country. We even talked about how I’ve modeled my office after their office by taking my team to jobsite and client meetings like they did with me.

WH A T KEEPS YOU UP A T NIGHT ? There are two things that keep me up at night: 1) trying to figure out what the next big design trend is going to be and 2) what piece of technology is going to become standard in different project types. On the commercial side, a few years ago articles began being published about “open office floor plans” becoming outdated and now since COVID, businesses have been realizing that they do not need all of the office space they thought they needed because of people working remotely. Now that more people are working from home, even if they are working from home part-time and the remaining time in the office, home offices or dedicated work spaces are becoming more popular in residential designs. Also on the residential side, builders are beginning to make new homes solar and electrical vehicle ready.


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Design is our passion. Architecture should speak of its time & place, but yearn for timelessness.




Mias Allison

Mias Allison AGAINST THE GRAIN Mias Allison is a native of Eunice, LA. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Marketing and Business Management from McNeese State University, he moved to Houston, TX to begin a career in investment management at a reputable financial investment company. However, an entry-level position in investment management wasn’t the most lucrative job at the time. As a father and husband who ultimately was responsible for his family's well- being, he started looking for other job opportunities. Since Mias possessed a level of familiarity within the manufacturing industry and also had family members, including his wife and friends that were working in the industry, he decided to make a transition. He was impressed with the career stability and the financial advantages including salary, benefits, retirement, etc. In 2007, he was hired by Dow Inc. as a Process Operator in the Light Hydrocarbons 7 (LHC-7) unit. Mias was promoted to Technical Advisor in 2014 and then to Unit Leader in 2021. Mias met his wife in college and has been married for 19 years. They have a daughter who is a college graduate and continuing her education as a nurse. They also have a son who is approaching his senior year in high school and is a rising star football athlete. In his leisure time, Mias enjoys traveling and spending quality time with family and friends. He takes great interest in the exposure to various cultures, scenery, and cuisines during his traveling adventures with family. More recently, he has become fascinated with collecting rare and allocated bourbons. These exclusive collections of bourbons have a unique taste profile which makes their availability limited.

One must value and take advantage of the vast range of learning opportunities that are available. Knowledge is key in this industry!


The most vital character trait I inspire to leave as a legacy to my family and community is one of self-determination, which dissolves boundaries imposed on oneself. A career as a Process Operator comes with a great salary and benefits that allows one to live a very comfortable lifestyle, however, I wanted more. I accepted a Technical Advisor position that afforded me the opportunity to interact routinely with operations, engineers, and unit leadership. After expanding my technical experience and knowledge in the Technical Advisor role, I set my sights on the next level career opportunity. This was a bold and unorthodox goal as the Unit Leader position was historically only available to candidates possessing an engineering degree. Even though I was fearful of rejection, I relentlessly pursued this opportunity because I was confident that I possessed the skills to be successful at the next level. Additionally, I had the hands-on experience of normal and abnormal events related to 24/7 operations that proved to be a valuable asset regarding business and personnel decisions as a Unit Leader. HOW A RE YOU USING YOUR EXPERIENCE TO LE A VE A LEG A CY BEHIND FOR THE NEXT GENER A TION ? My initial pursuit to become a Process Operator was solely for financial stability. However, once I began my career as a Process Operator, I became immensely intrigued with science involved in the manufacturing process. The thermal cracking furnaces, enthalpy changes within the steam driven compressors, separation of molecules in the distillation towers, and the catalytic reactions of the reactors are some examples of the facets of manufacturing and science. All of which I found extremely fascinating and piqued my interest to gain knowledge related to the intricate details of the science which is a major component of chemical manufacturing. LET'S CHOP IT UP! WH A T INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A C A REER IN STEM ?

Overcoming the stigma of a “glass ceiling” for Process Operators was my most difficult career challenge. However, my ambition propelled me to learn the intricate details of science and technical manufacturing while becoming a subject matter expert in the olefins manufacturing process. WH A T W A S THE MOST DIFFICULT CH A LLENGE YOU H A D TO OVERCOME IN YOUR C A REER JOURNEY ?



I see a tremendous amount of value in investing in the digital future!

The operations function of manufacturing will increase dependency on integrated digital tools compared to manual operations. Developing a strong digital operating discipline will enable a more efficient work execution process which results in higher productivity. This is a key factor to success in manufacturing.

I would advise an individual to be very engaged and inquisitive. There are many details involved in manufacturing that are different in day-to-day operations. Such details are not necessarily addressed in the educational realm but must be learned on the job. Additionally, one must value and take advantage of the vast range of learning opportunities that are available (i.e., company-specific or industry training sessions, etc.). Knowledge is key in this industry! WH A T A DVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE ST A RTING IN M A NUF A CTURING OR OPER A TIONS ?


There are so many things that I love about my job that it’s difficult to list them all. But if I had to narrow them down it would be the understanding of theoretical basis (fundamentals rooted in science) while experimenting and bringing practical results, improvements, and successful changes to fruition within the manufacturing process. Secondly, I am passionate about mentoring. The self- gratification I experience when I have the opportunity to share my manufacturing knowledge and experiences, whether specifically related to the process or career experiences, is a humbling yet priceless emotion.

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For STEM enthusiasts, it is obvious how aspects of STEM are imbedded in all areas of life, including the world of sports. Ironically, there was a time when promising athletic talent was somewhat discouraged from pursuing STEM degrees.

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Damiane Gardner

soccer skills acquired playing street soccer in Jamaica, made him a targeted soccer recruit for his high school team. This led to an opportunity to play D2 soccer in college, but Damiane opted to play intramurals instead as it was less demanding and supported his academic endeavors. Upon graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science., Damiane accepted a position with Dow Inc. in Freeport, TX as a Capital Projects Engineer. Four years later he pursued a role that would provide more interaction with field equipment and ultimately accepted a position with Sunoco Inc. in Pennsylvania as a Refinery Reliability Engineer. After five years in this purely technical role, he transitioned into leadership as Superintendent of the Electrical and Instrumentation Department of the refinery. In 2011, he returned to Missouri S&T to further his academic pursuits by attaining a Master of Science Degree in Engineering Management. In 2011, he returned to Missouri S&T to further his academic pursuits by attaining a Master of Science Degree in Engineering Management. In 2012, Damiane transferred back to the Greater Houston area as a manager with Sunoco Logistics, LP. In 2017, the company merged with Energy Transfer Partners where Damiane now supports several major projects across the US and overseas in his current role. While living in the northeast with his wife, Kendra, and two sons, Darrius and Myles, Damiane’s interest in soccer was renewed but this time it was more from the coaching perspective as Darrius had begun gravitating towards the sport. Myles took an interest in soccer as well and by the time his family relocated back to Texas, Damiane became extremely active with a newly formed soccer program where he now serves as vice president. Under his leadership, Pearland Soccer Club now reaches over 1,400 players at the recreational and competitive levels. He is also the Vice President of the Houston Youth Soccer Association. In addition, he recently expanded the club’s reach through a joint acquisition of additional soccer fields and the formation of PowerFC, a new club to service the southwest Harris County area. As a proud member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Damiane still manages to find time to support his community through multiple efforts including robotics coaching and the “Pass It Back” initiative to provide under privileged youth with proper soccer attire to help advance their love of the game. He continues to be involved in the development of his sons as well. Darrius plays varsity soccer for his high school and Myles plays for the MLS Houston Dynamo Academy.

Damiane Gardner, current Director of Engineering and Construction at Energy Transfer Partners, immigrated to the US from Jamaica by way of St. Louis, MO at the age of 16. His original career goal was to become a pilot. However, exposure to computing and automation at Gateway Institute of Technology towards the end of his high school years altered his career path trajectory. Damiane received a full academic scholarship to the University of Missouri. He chose the 2+2 option which allowed him to begin his studies at St. Louis Community College for two years before transitioning to the University of Missouri- Rolla, now known as Missouri S&T. While at Missouri S&T he was fortunate to secure internships and co-ops at notable companies like IBM, General Motors, and United Electric. Outside of his academic and professional accomplishments, Damiane has always had a passion for athletics and comes from a family of sprinters. While growing up in Jamaica he excelled in the 100m and 200m races. His speed coupled with necessary basic

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