“I grew up in a home with three generations and ten to fifteen people crammed into four bedrooms,” laughs Marlon Avery, Udacity Tech Coach. “It was a wonderful time, and no matter how tough any one group of people has it now, it’s important to remember we all have it much easier than our grandparents!”
Marlon’s personality is as big as the smile on his face as he recounts his youth, but despite the breezy way he tells stories, growing up as a black man in the South and working in tech, he has most assuredly faced adversity.
“The thing about adversity is that it’s all in the way you look at it,” he says. “You can focus on it and not get past it. Or, you can create a conversation around it and invite everyone to take part and, through that, reach a kind of understanding.”
To further that conversation, and to celebrate Black History Month, Marlon just moderated a panel discussion, Belonging in Tech, and was joined on stage by four remarkable individuals, each of whom was as honest and genuine a storyteller as Marlon.
The panel was introduced by Grace Rhee, Udacity’s VP of People, who spoke eloquently about diversity and the importance of being “inclusive in a way that’s enabling to your true self.”
Marlon was joined on stage by Brian Douglas, Developer Advocate at Github; Patrick Menzel, Senior Devops Engineer at Mode; Tiffany Deng, Machine Learning Fairness at Google; and Kyle Woumn, Co-Founder and CTO at Shopr.
The panelists were quick to outline their understanding of diversity and inclusion, noting that, “Diversity is having a seat at the table; Inclusion is having a voice, and Belonging is having that voice be heard.”
While there were some common threads in the discussion, it was fascinating to hear the various stories. Tiffany, for example, graduated from West Point, and worked as a Military Intelligence Officer, before working for various think tanks and then Facebook, before moving to Google. Much of Tiffany’s life has been spent in predominantly white male spaces. Patrick’s story was equally unique; he was adopted by white parents and went on to study finance before deciding on a career in computer science. The crowd laughed as Patrick recounted, “I thought you had to be a genius at math to get into computer science, but that’s not the case. And DEFINITELY not the case with me!”
Despite the varied backgrounds on display, each panelist broadcast such emotional intelligence and maturity that it was a truly mind broadening experience listening to them describe their various journeys.
Watch the Panel
The belief in inclusion is at the heart of everything Udacity does. It was set up with the express goal of democratizing education. Udacity’s Founder, Sebastian Thrun, believed that while skills and talent were evenly distributed across the globe in all countries, opportunity was far more limited and accessible to only the lucky few, so he developed a platform that would bring the best education to everyone everywhere.
With a similar ethos of sharing with everyone everywhere, come join us at noon on Friday for a YouTube live screening of the panel discussion. You’ll discover for yourself the journeys of our four incredible guest panelists! You may also watch the panel discussion by simply clicking on the link any time after noon on Friday!