Keeping Dreams Alive: Breaking Barriers Through Tech Careers by Yemisi Onayemi

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I came to Brooklyn from Nigeria and attended Boys and Girls High School my senior year. Building a better financial future has always been a priority for me especially coming from an immigrant background.  As a keen technologist with a passion for social justice and the economic independence of disadvantaged people in any community, one of my career goals is to become a software engineer. The adrenaline rush from hustling, dreaming, and achieving goals: financial, career, educational, and even spiritual, is only a part of what makes life worth living and helps keep the dream of a better future alive. In whichever way we spin it, when it comes to pursuing one’s dreams and forging ahead in life, financial stability is very important regardless of age, gender, and sometimes, regardless of race. (For most non-Black people all they need to fulfill a dream is to have a dream - Think about that!)  Yet for many Black and Brown folks, a stable support system is hard to find or when available, does not have adequate resources to help the individual move forward in the pursuit of success. The importance of community development organizations like Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation is unparalleled when it comes to being a strong support system for many people like myself. With the unfortunate reality that I have to work twice as hard not just as a woman, but as a Black woman; just as most other Black women before me did; hopefully not after me, I pride myself in learning from female leaders dominating their fields through networking or attending events.

I was thrilled to receive a full paid sponsored ticket to attend The Virtual Grace Hopper 2020 conference for women, one of the largest conferences for women in technology.  The conference reinforced among many other salient points, the importance for organizations to prioritize the “human” element when harnessing modern technologies to achieve their vision. While Restoration strongly focuses on improving our performance management system,  we affectionately call RD or the Restoration Data warehouse, and employing the brightest minds to help foster the iterative improvement of the system - it was clear during the summer of 2020 as COVID-19 invaded our spaces that Restoration truly understood what it meant to prioritize the “human” element. Restoration prioritized and met the needs of the mostly Central Brooklyn community members down to the most easily neglected and often forgotten needs such as food (Hard to believe food insecurity is a concern in a city as wealthy as New York) and air conditioners, which for many people is a luxury (We all know in the Summertime that air conditioners come through nicely. Amen!!). These were some of the many needs met by the Center for Personal Financial Health and the Center For Healthy Neighborhoods.  This is what leveling the playing field looks like. Because if we are to truly analyze the impacts that these acts of love and support will have on our clients - for someone to know that they are cared for - that one impact alone provides room for them to thrive and brings hope. 

Aligned with its vision to bridge the racial wealth gap in Central Brooklyn, Restoration launched its Breakthrough Tech Program, an intentional, well-thought-out program for people who have invested time in breaking into the Tech field, however, are still earning below the average earnings in the Engineering and Technology space. As a current employee at Restoration,  I was a bit scared and hesitant to apply. I approached my boss Stan Lyubarskiy to ask for some advice in regards to applying as a relatively new employee of Restoration. He encouraged me, and this support was endorsed by Executive Vice President Ms. Tracey Capers. I believe it takes an organization that not only cares about what they get from you but cares about your growth as an individual and sees your value as a community member to push you forward towards your goals.   

My technical career journey led me to attend a software engineering boot camp. There, I was equipped with the skills to be hired for my current role as a Business Data Analyst at Restoration. This journey now leads me to the Breakthrough Tech Fellowship upon my acceptance into the program with 19 other fellows in less than a month. Although I am getting ready to wrap up my role officially at Restoration and excited about what the future holds for me through this program, I plan to continue contributing towards Restoration’s vision by volunteering to work on special technical projects. My time at Restoration has been nothing short of spectacular, one full of growth: intellectually, emotionally, and especially financially; due to the financial counseling sessions offered by Restoration, my credit score has greatly increased, bringing me closer to my goals as a financially stable woman. I look forward to a life long partnership with Restoration in every way possible not just because I love our vision but because I’ve met some amazing people on this journey of keeping my dreams alive. 

About the Author: Yemisi Onayemi

Yemisi is a Business Data Analyst with Restoration. She was recently accepted into Restoration’s inaugural class of the Breakthrough Fellowship Program, a partnership with Marcy School, to provide advanced career opportunities for people of color. A Nigerian immigrant, she came to Brooklyn at 18 where she graduated high school at Boys and Girls High School. She also completed programs with Per Scholas, General Assembly, and recently received a scholarship to attend the Virtual Grace Hopper Conference. Yemisi is also a talented singer who loves to act and plans on fulfilling her dreams as an actress.