I am Tatiana Mangram-Rock, a self-proclaimed artsy/techie woman, and I like inspiring, empowering and educating marginalized communities. About two years ago, I had the opportunity to design a phone case that a large company (Verizon) saw the value in offering across stores nationwide; and Truthfully, opportunities like these seem impossible until they’re done.
The experience I’m about to share has been a reality thanks to My Social Canvas – a social impact fashion company whose products are designed by girls (like me), for girls. Two years ago, I was completing my Associates in Computer Science, and was excited to read about participating in a Design Hackathon that would provide a new approach to workshopping – a project to mirror the roles of business, technology, and design in the industry; an opportunity to bring a concept from the ideation phase to execution with other participants from various industries. I immediately thought, “dope… I can’t wait… finally, a Hackathon that isn’t limited with students from the same majors, with limited scope”. It was also encouraging to see that some pretty prominent names in the fashion industry would be involved; i.e. Zac Posen and Rebecca Minkoff respectively.
This was all happening at a time in my life, where I was restarting. I had returned from school after a two-year hiatus, and often questioned, “What does choosing a career in tech look like for me?” I went from an art-type of girl to a techie, and believed participating in this, would allow me to stretch the muscles I needed to develop.
The Hackathon was exciting, unconventional, and inclusive. My group naturally meshed over the few hours we had to come up with an idea we would feel proud of. We were asked to design a case that wouldn’t be technical – not an invention of sorts that charges your phone or tells you the time or reminds you of notifications. Instead, a case that would tell a story of its own. We were asked to design a case that was feminine and techie. I’m glad the feminist spirit immediately rang through me and teammates Nadia Marjanovich and Melanie Greene at that point. We asked, what is “femininity”, from a marketing perspective? We didn’t want the design to be limited to the color pink, or a textured fur, or other conventionally misinterpreted ideas of what being a woman on-the-go meant. So, I came up with the idea to add a technical perspective through code. This is where #GirlCode was birthed. Every day women are not defined by a gender role, and all women should be able to walk around with a statement piece, that reminds them and others what wonderful people they are. Being inspired by the literal walls in the space we created that day, we discussed how a styling of text would be the best way to share our vision. My influence was infused in the design – an HTML framework that is used to describe, in code, what makes a woman amazing.
#GirlCode was made to be empowering, encouraging, affirming mantra of sorts – expressing that each woman is (or can be) a boss, who is FABULOUS, witty, BOLD, fearless and a list of other things… innovative, daring, educated, able, Imaginative, and techie! We collectively came up with all the adjectives to inspire, that didnt require you to be a tech wiz, to get the message.
Looking back, I didn’t know what the outcome of that day would be.. I was nervous before the event, and invited my friend and former classmate, Tionna Wilson, so we could go together, as examples of young black women in tech. Through our morning conversations, some of the girls I spoke with had interned with big-name fashion companies in the past, or had been from the same schools. It was interesting that the group was so diverse, just as I for example, found the opportunity from a school email and my computer science professor. But still, at that moment, I wondered how many girls like myself and Tionna could have been there, but weren’t able to be because their life experiences were a little different. How many young women decided not to pursue careers in tech, because they are the minority (in that industry), didn’t see other women present and so decided to take another path?
At the end of the Hackathon, I was eager to thank Lisa Mayer, My Social Canvas’ Founder, and CEO, for the opportunity and give her feedback about my experience, and offer my support in the creation of her next Design Hackathon. I’m glad I reached out and said thanks, because she was so receptive; and because of that, more young women got the chance to meet the people and share experiences like I had that day.
There are so many opportunities for young women out there. Some will surprise you. Like when two years later when the phone case you designed is sitting on shelves nationwide at Verizon stores. But, overall, a lot of opportunities begin by starting a conversation.
Diversity is a buzzword these days. But more than that, it is a conversation starter where influencers can be held accountable and offer opportunities that bring ideas which change the world – inspiring one person, one executive, and one girl at a time. That’s what my relationship with My Social Canvas has blossomed into – that is what the message of #GirlCode is about!
Thank you to Verizon, My Social Canvas and The Colored Girl for this opportunity to tell my story… and just know that you too, can encourage women and girls to do the same and more.
You can find our #GirlCode cases Verizon nationwide!