As a high school student in North Carolina, software engineer, community organizer and 2021 RealLIST engineers laureate Dawn Salary knew she wanted to have the most attractive My space profile. Learning to code just makes sure it happens.
“I would decorate my profile and fix the profiles of my friends,” she said Technically during his recent Soft AMA. “There was also a student club for hip-hop journalism and I created their website for them.
Wages enjoyed learning more about coding during this time, but felt she was not advanced enough, even in high school. When she learned Adobe dreamweaver of a classmate to find out she couldn’t afford the program, it was deflating.
As an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Wages graduated in business administration and hadn’t thought about technology or web development since she was in high school. She worked in finance after graduating from college for years before joining the Philly Python User Group in 2015 and fall in love with technology again. When Djangocon was hosted in Philadelphia in 2016, she has never looked back.
Today the salary is a Wharton School research developer, community organizer of tech meetup groups and works to support black engineers in their growth. On a recent Slack AMA, she spoke about her career, her community service work, and how her job as a technologist connects with who she is as a person. Check Out the Answers Below
What do you find most interesting about your current job as a software engineer and researcher?
I love the process, the analysis, the understanding of the systems and the replication of successful models in other ways. of which I am most proud AtTheRoot.dev. We are currently working on the first Antiracist Ethical Source License and have joined the cohort of other amazing ethical licenses with ethicalsource.dev. While simultaneously working on the License, we also create a Anti-Racist Software Development Kit. We are still in the planning stages, but we hope to adopt some of the principles of the Python improvement proposal process used by the Python software foundation for the maintenance and growth of our software development kit.
We also saw cooperative and community models for governance, and ways to contribute subject matter expertise that stays fun and close to the command line – tools built with it. React, Python, Wagtail CMS and Django.
What motivated your work on an anti-racist ethically sourced license and what are its implications?
Following the controversy with GitHub Having a government contract with ICE Detention Centers, GitHub’s Operational Support System (OSS) products were used to support this contract. There has been a huge upheaval on social media about the power developers had with their intellectual property in Open Code.
Currently, there is no recourse method on how to limit someone’s use of code for ethical reasons. The Free and open source software (FOSS) speak Open source initiative and the Free Software Foundation (two organizations that have become the arbiter of what OSS is) only limit the ways in which code is used to make money – in the context of capitalism. It’s an important goal, but it’s leading to a wave of libertarian tech bros who want “opinions” outside their code, while maintaining a stubborn framework. Irony.
The Organization for an ethical source just established itself internationally last year in Geneva. It has also released its Hippocratic License 3.0 which is modular and can add certain ethical components as per the user’s wishes. This is the most enforceable version of an existing ethical license thanks to Coraline Ehmke and the Corporate Responsibility Lab.
It is important to me that as engineers we have the power to build a world in which we want to live. I believe in open code and I believe in ethics.
What programming languages do you prefer to use in your work?
Wagtail is another of my favorite frameworks and tools and is hard to beat. There are many websites that use or could use solid CMS functionality. What comes with Django out of the box we can also take for granted in Wagtail, but with more “syntactic sugar” and nice user features. [like] the administrator function!
As for the apps that I use a lot, I use Linux operating system, Pycharm, Trello, a pad of paper and colored pens.
What was the difference between your workflow at an enterprise technology company like your former employer Lenovo and the work you do today at an educational institution?
We encounter incredible intellectual rigor here at Wharton, but we recognize work-life balance [and] how we get the best results when supported and our goal is to provide the best research services to our faculty – especially in my department as a research staff support service.
At Lenovo, we were rough. I worked for the web sales organization and during my tenure we captured a large chunk of market share in a very saturated consumer electronics market. We rushed to sell these units. As a project manager, we had programs and partnerships [using] tons of time and energy to get into the minds and desires of the consumer to position them with the best product and provide them with a pleasant shopping and post-purchase experience. In my role as an engineer, we had the latitude to come up with new ideas on features that would make the online process smooth, modern and efficient.
I’m happy to be outside of the world of sales as calculating success per units sold becomes difficult, but I’m clearly drawn to organizations with high standards and a focus on mutual support as a team and I’m incredibly grateful to have had this here in Wharton.
A year after the George Floyd murder led to diversity engagements from leading tech companies, how do you think the industry has changed?
In my job, I don’t think I get the big picture of how the industry is changing, but I can definitely say it is. I am inspired by people like Pariss Athena, founder of the Black technology pipeline, Career karma founded by Ruben harris, People of Color in Tech (POCIT) founded by Michel Berhane, Brand watch through Abadesi Osunsade, and Rahim’s AI through Brandon anderson. They all examine how technology can bring tangible value to the lives of black people – in and out of industry – in very different and complementary ways.
I feel the tides are shifting with responsibility as well as money, the energy shifting towards an active awareness of the impact as it relates to race and fairness. I hope I can announce a Anti-Racist in Tech Virtual Un-Conference for summer 2022 or summer 2023.
There are so many anti-racist experts doing a great job. I want to invest my time to hold this line. We’ve made it this far and I hope I can continue to connect and provide tools for subject matter experts to keep the movement going and spread the knowledge.
Considering the importance of your community work in supporting other technologists and people interested in technology, what made you give back in this role and what have you learned from experience up to? here ?
At this point in my journey, I’m not always comfortable leading with my personal brand. My heart and skill immediately goes to how to remedy disconnections or improve inefficiencies in the system. I have always really enjoyed learning, interpreting and helping other people’s noble ideas. Being a queer woman of color has given me the goal of seeing the universe in a beautiful, colorful and unique way.
I try to fill my life with empathy, warmth and mutual support and I hope to do the same for my communities. I feel like empathy is a skill that will always need to be honed [and it] maybe my (read: our) superpower. There is no movement if it is not truly intersectional at its core. I learn something new in every conversation, and there is untapped potential in the world. I am particularly excited about what is coming out of the African continent. Shout out at the Nigerian developers who are really kicking the game.
Michael Butler is a 2020-2022 corps member of Report for America, an initiative of the Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism. -30-