NATIONALITY: African American
EDUCATION: Bachelor in Arts | Umass Amherst
WORK: CEO of The Tech Connection
From an early age Melissa has been a pioneer for her family and community. Melissa is a proud, first generation African-American. As her family got acquainted to living in America her parents worked, as a Certified Nursing Assistant and Transportation Coordinator, just to get by. Melissa watched her parents work 12 hour days to make ends meet. By watching their work ethic, she gained an appreciation for the impact of one’s workforce opportunities in shaping their socio-economic aptitude. As a young girl, her parents always encouraged her to go to college, even though they personally could not financially support this family dream. As a result, Melissa had to work two jobs to become the first in her family to graduate from college with honors from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2010.
She currently serves as the Founder and Chief Executive Officer for The Tech Connection. The mission of her company is to connect underrepresented Software Engineers and Information Technology (IT) professionals to workforce opportunities that will accelerate their careers. Her company was founded on the principle of diversifying the engineering workforce across America. Previously, Melissa worked as a Talent Acquisition Recruiter at Sample6 and Google. It was at this time that she came across hundreds of deserving applicants that were simply under-exposed to the right opportunities to accelerate their careers. She knew she had to devise a way to help combat this inequality. In 2014, tech giants, such as Apple, Google, Facebook, and Twitter released reports on the diversity demographics of their companies, which supported her idea. The reports stated that their workforce is roughly 70% male. Furthermore, in the U.S., it was found that about 61% of employees were Caucasian, 30% Asian, 3% Hispanic, and less than 2% were African-American. In an effort to address this institutional discrepancy, the idea for The Tech Connection was born.
Innovation is happening everywhere and Melissa and The Tech Connection are here to make sure people from all backgrounds are able to make history together. The Tech Connection has been designed to foster the kind of communal and societal change and opportunities Melissa envisions for today’s technological and culturally divided world. She diligently works to see more underrepresented talent in the technology field, not only because it will help create more innovative products, but also as a means to create greater economic prosperity within underrepresented communities.
Melissa is a true pursuer because she is always striving to support and develop her community in an impactful way. In college she took time out of her studies to volunteer at the Youth Institute of Science and Technology in Ghana. There she taught a class on leadership development where she saw the benefits of teaching leadership development to catalyze positive socio-economic change.
On top of running her business, Melissa is also the founder of the first ever Black Tech Boston Meetup, a platform to celebrate and introduce the impact of technology within the African American communities. She has served on the board for the Youth Institute of Science and Technology, and the Young Black Women’s Society.
Melissa is the recipient of two notable honors including the U.S. President’s Volunteer Service Award, and the Black Student Leadership Scholarship. Boston Business Journal recently featured James as a “Woman on the Move”. She has also been featured numerous times in Xconomy, the Boston Herald, the Bay State Banner, Touch 106.1 FM, and Boston Neighborhood Network TV.
Melissa is a prime example of someone who truly loves the work that she is doing. Her goal for 2015 is to help 50 underrepresented tech professionals find new workforce opportunities. She is working on expanding her services beyond the Boston area by creating a career management solution that will help future generations think strategically about their careers.