"A lot of kids growing up today aren't told that you can be whatever you want to be, there may be obstacles, but there are no limits."

February is Black History Month and although there are many ways to honor this significant time, we wanted to showcase some of the most influential black leaders in the technology industry. Society recognizes names such as Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates, but do you know who Annie J. Easley and Dr. Mark Dean are? These pioneers have revolutionized technology and have created some of the everyday technological items that we cannot live without today.

Even in the modern age, there is still a lot of work to be done in science, technology, engineering, and math in terms of equality and representation. Tech giants such as Google, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft still significantly lack diversity in their workforce. Even with investments in diverse suppliers including black owned businesses, there is still a significant lack of people of color in the field of technology. Read on to learn more about the contributions and the history of Seven Black Leaders in the tech industry.

Seven Black Leaders in the Tech Industry

Sam Bright

Mr. Bright has more than fourteen years of experience in the tech industry. He was Vice President and General Manager of Soft Goods and eBay North America. In 2017 he led eBay to become a multibillion-dollar company and has an impressive portfolio because of his programming with brands such as Marvel, StubHub, and Verizon. Sam is currently working on the board of directors at Benetech, a California non-profit that drives positive social media posting with technology.

Annie J. Easley

During her career that lasted three decades, Easley implemented computer code that analyzed alternative power technologies, supported a high energy upper rocket stage, and identified energy conversion systems that were used to solve energy problems. She also became a leading member of the team that developed the software for the Centaur Rocket Stage. Her career began as one of the only four black employees at NASA with a workforce of 2500.

Roy Clay Sr.

Mr. Clay is known as the Godfather of Silicon Valley. He grew up in Ferguson, MO and became one of the first black men to graduate from Saint Louis University in 1951. His work in computers started in the 1950s where he worked on writing software that demonstrated how particles of radiation would spread through the atmosphere after an atomic explosion. His career in Silicon Valley started in the early 1970s when a venture capital firm hired him as a computer consultant. He became a key player in Hewlett Packard’s computer division and led the team that pushed HP into the market.

Kimberly Bryant

Kimberly is the founder of Black Girls CODE. It is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to helping young women of color get introduced to technology and computer science concepts. Besides creating Black Girls CODE, Kimberly has spent over twenty five years in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. In 2013 she was recognized as one of the twenty-five most influential African Americans in Technology. Her work has inspired and helped many young women of color and will continue for years to come.

Marc Regis Hannah

If you have seen Jurassic Park, Aladdin or Beauty and the Beast, you have Marc Regus Hannah to thank for the graphics. Hannah was an electrical engineer and computer graphics designer in the 80s and 90s and in 1982 he co-founded Silicon Graphics Inc. There he became the company’s principal scientist. His technology has been used in several major motion films as well as commercials and even the introduction for Monday Night Football. Even George Lucas’s visual effects studio, Industrial Light and Magic has utilized Hannah’s computer graphics technology. He has received the Professional Achievement Award from the Illinois Institute of Technology and the National Technical Association.

Valerie Thomas

From 1964 to 1995 Thomas worked for NASA where she developed computer data systems, conducted large scale experiments, managed operations, projects, and facilities. She also spearheaded a project where the development of the first satellite that sent images to space. The technology developed by Thomas is still being used by NASA to this day. Scientists are also currently learning how to use this technology in surgery. If you like seeing images from space, you can thank Valerie Thomas.

Dr. Mark Dean

Mark Dean is considered one of the most prominent black investors in computer science. Mr. Dean has a Bachelor’s, Master’s, and PhD in electrical engineering. He started his career at IBM in the 1980s and was a key player in the creation of the PC (personal computer). Throughout his career, he assisted IBM in making instrumental changes into the research and applications of systems technology. His most recent invention came while leading the team that produced the one gigahertz chip. In 1996, he was named an IBM fellow and was the first African American to ever receive that honor.