Ronda

Tell us about your journey into tech?
I began my career in language and multicultural education before being given an opportunity by my mentor and sponsor, Sonia Jorge, to begin my first role in technology as a telecommunications research analyst. Within two years of transitioning into tech, I landed a role at the GSMA, the global trade association of the mobile industry, as mEducation Events and Relationships Manager. In response to hard work and excelling in the role, I was quickly promoted to mEducation Commercial Manager and Regional Lead for Asia. From the start of my time at the GSMA HQ in London, I made sure I paid for the opportunity I was given forward as an unknown in tech. I opened, and continue to open the door for other women and men who wish to make that change or progress in their own careers. Now as the Global Head of Training and eLearning at the Internet Society, while working to extend the Internet of opportunity to all, I am hosting educational and networking opportunities for a community of over 75,000 people worldwide that help to promote a bigger, stronger Internet.

How do you feel you have made a difference in what you do?
Mentorship has been a big part of making a difference in my work. I’m so grateful that the door into tech was opened to me by a mentor, and having the knowledge and experience to understand just how hard it is to open that door meant ensuring I keep that door open for others is imperative. has professionally mentored, sponsored, and championed more than 20 women since 2010. As a Black and Native American woman who is neurodiverse, several of the people I’ve championed have been Black women, but I have also supported other women of colour and white women trying to navigate their tech careers. I have spent countless hours during the work week and weekends advising people on how to cope with challenging situations at work, including stalled career progression, salary increases, confidential reporting of sexual harassment, maternity pay and working condition disputes, as well as issues around diversity, equity, and inclusion that prevent people of colour from entering or remaining in the tech sector. I have also successfully referred more than ten people transitioning into tech for positions at the GSMA, my former employer, and hired women and minoritised individuals with my current employer, the Internet Society.

What would you say is your biggest achievement?
There are two – one personal and one professional. For the professional one, I could talk about becoming Global Head of Training and eLearning at the Internet Society but I think the best reflection of my success is by looking at what those I’ve helped have achieved in their work. I’ve mentored, sponsored, and championed more than 20 women and men since 2010. I’ve spent countless hours during the work week and weekends advising people on how to cope with challenging situations at work, including stalled career progression, salary increases, confidential reporting of sexual harassment, maternity pay and working condition disputes, as well as issues around diversity, equity, and inclusion that prevent people of colour from entering or remaining in the tech sector.

I successfully referred more than ten people transitioning into tech for positions at the GSMA, my former employer. And my sponsorship contributed to the progression of six women from coordinator to manager- and director-level positions at the GSMA and the progression of two women to country director and product manager roles outside of the GSMA with a telecommunications company and a tech-focused international development startup, respectively. Another mentee completed a lateral move from the GSMA to Amazon with Ronda’s support, moving into a role with more responsibility and external recognition.

My personal success story is in a way linked to the professional, but supported by the amount of hardship I have had to endure and yet have managed to thrive and achieve. In my first year of high school, the responsibility of caring for my one year old niece and my paraplegic father (injured in a fight over drugs due to his addiction) fell to me and my mother. Despite an extremely challenging home life, I won the prestigious St. Petersburg Times’ 2001 Barnes Scholarship, an academic scholarship for college aimed at helping high-achieving, college-bound seniors who have overcome significant obstacles. Without that scholarship, I wouldn’t have been able to attend Salem College in Winston-Salem, N.C., a women’s institution of higher learning.

Academic achievements since leaving Salem College include earning a Master of Arts in Applied Linguistics and a Graduate Certificate in Instructional and Technology Design from the University of Massachusetts-Boston, and a Master of Science in Practicing Sustainable Development with ICT4D specialism from Royal Holloway, University of London (RHUL). In parallel, I had to cope with the deaths of my father, grandmother, uncle, brother, niece, nephew, and best friend from college between 2013 and 2018. Something I’m incredibly proud of is that during this extremely traumatic period in my life, I earned recognition as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar (2013), a 2015 U.S. Jaycees’ Outstanding Young American (an award previously won by people including Al Gore and Elvis Presley, to name but a few historical luminaries), and earned a PhD in Human Geography focusing on inclusive technology from RHUL. Against all odds sort of became my middle name.

How do you think people can go about making a difference, in regards to spreading awareness of Black Women in tech?
I think if we’re going to raise awareness of Black women in tech, we also need to maintain a focus on the lack of Black women in tech. We know that when you see people who look and sound like you achieve great things, it helps inspire you to be the best you can be. We know because it’s how we’ve felt when seeing this. And so events and publications must make sure Black women are featured in print and at every event’s main stage. The tech industry can talk about diversity until it’s blue in the face, but is doing very little, in reality, to actually address its problem. I think we need to bring in quotas to stop letting racist practices continue. To stop event organisers claiming they “couldn’t find enough diverse speakers”, to stop journalists from claiming “there aren’t enough Black women in tech to offer comments” or whatever other excuses they want to make for what is racist behaviour. We need to put more Black women in positions of power – on boards, as CEOs -, and we need to listen to them and not just have them there as token employees.

What do you believe are the most effective ways to engage other ethnicities and genders to embrace diversity?
There is so much I could write here. To start with, we need to show in stark detail just how bad diversity levels actually are and what that means for those of us being marginalised. Data speaks volumes. But it is not our responsibility as those being marginalised to sit down and talk through each of our experiences of bias and racism. We need to encourage others to do their own research, to open their eyes and see what is in front of them. And then we can work together to fix it by empowering each other. We already know that more diverse teams make more money – increasing diversity increases profitability and also has a positive effect on workplace culture. This takes a lot more than just hiring diverse people because we need to make sure they’re also included once in the workplace. Diversity should be about including all types of people – all ethnicities and all genders. Those who have been marginalized before will always understand the importance of diversity faster than those who have not experienced oppression. It’s now time to turn the tables and others need to put in the work.

What is the best advice you ever received?
“It’s not a competition. Power is not finite and if we are all empowered, we can do more things together.” I believe, to paraphrase Michelle Obama’s words, that when you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.

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