Pennsylvania is widely known as a state bookended by two national cities – Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. In an example of geographic tech transfer, Kelauni Jasmyn, CEO of Black Tech Nation, spoke with Tonya Pendleton on “Reality Check” about the expansion of her organization from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia. She was joined by Technical.ly managing editor Julie Zeglen, who recently wrote about the organization’s expansion.
Technical.ly is a tech news platform that got its start in Philadelphia and has expanded its reach over the years to Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Delaware, and beyond, offering insight into tech trends and events in these regions.
Kelauni Jasmyn, the CEO of Black Tech Nation, started her journey in 2017 with a simple conversation in Pittsburgh about the lack of representation of Black individuals in the tech industry. As a software developer, she recognized the need for a thriving Black tech ecosystem and decided to take action. Since its inception, Black Tech Nation has grown exponentially, with approximately 2,500 members nationwide, all sharing a passion for tech, entrepreneurship, and innovation.
“As I got into the tech industry and was really trying to just find my way, I realized there weren’t a lot of people who looked like me in it,” Jasmyn said. “So I had these series of conversations in Pittsburgh about how we build a black tech ecosystem in that city.”
Jasmyn spent the next years building a network of “tech nerds and entrepreneurs.” “Now we’re up to about 2,500 folks all around the country who wants to be startup founders, entrepreneurs, techies,” she said. “What we aim to do is fill in the gaps in every stage of a founder’s or entrepreneur’s or techie’s journey to be a multimillionaire or winners in the tech space.”
Black Tech Nation’s primary goal is to provide resources, support, and education to help individuals succeed in the tech industry. Their success in Pittsburgh and other regions has shown that there’s a strong demand for this kind of support.
Technical.ly has been following the progress of Black Tech Nation for several years, highlighting their growth and initiatives in Pittsburgh. The platform has been instrumental in raising awareness about the organization and its mission. By sponsoring events like Philly Tech Week, Technical.ly has facilitated the connection between Black Tech Nation and the local tech community, offering invaluable support for Black entrepreneurs and tech professionals in Philadelphia.
“Technical.ly has been covering my journey from literally when I was just one person making a lot of noise in Pittsburgh about how to get more Black people in tech and in entrepreneurship,” Jasmyn said. “Then…through Philly Tech Week, I was able to come and meet a lot of the black techies, entrepreneurs in the city and ask them, ‘Hey, how do you need to be supported on a continual basis?’ And it gave me a lot of insight for how we can now do some of our work here in Philly.”
Philadelphia’s tech ecosystem has been on an upward trajectory, with technology becoming a vital driver of the city’s economy alongside healthcare and education. This growth is evident in the increasing number of tech labs, startup incubators, and construction projects aimed at accommodating the influx of tech talent.
The definition of tech jobs has evolved significantly. No longer limited to traditional software development roles, tech jobs now encompass a wide range of positions within tech companies and tech-adjacent industries. This shift reflects the pervasive influence of technology in various sectors, from finance and marketing to healthcare and education.
“It was once [when] you had to be a software-only focused product to call yourself a tech company,” Zeglen said. “But now, any large institution uses technology and they hire software developers. So we might cover anyone from Vanguard to University of Pennsylvania and the research they’re doing there to a small Center City tech company that has five employees.”
Since Technical.ly’s founding, the platform has covered diversity in tech, Zeglen said. “There are a lot of conversations happening and efforts that are being made to bring more Philadelphians into this industry that has the possibility of increasing individual and community wealth,” she said.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a topic that has been gaining prominence in the tech industry. It has the potential to revolutionize many aspects of work, from automating repetitive tasks to making complex decisions. However, concerns exist about the impact of AI on employment, especially for marginalized communities. The conversation revolves around the need for regulations, support, and upskilling programs to ensure a fair transition into an AI-driven future.
“I follow a lot of tech influencers who say, ‘we are not taking this seriously enough,’” Jasmyn said. “We hear this AI word, it’s just kind of like, ‘Oh yeah…kids can like make the chat write papers for them.’ But these are real concerns…especially when we talk about low-income and poor communities, which based on the historical factors, a lot of the time it’s Black communities that are affected the most.”