Honouring our Legacy, Paving our Path Forward

By and Shola Agoro | 4 minute read | February 24, 2021

Black History Month is an opportunity for us to recognize the pioneers who have blazed a trail for others to follow, as well as the current leaders who will one day become a critical and unforgettable part of our history. We celebrate the accomplishments of Black Canadians every month, but particularly highlight them in the month of February each year. Throughout history, there have been many individuals whose advocacy, sacrifice and courage have made Canada the culturally diverse, compassionate and prosperous nation it is today.

The death of George Floyd sent shockwaves around the world sparking important conversations about systemic anti-Black racism right here in Canada.  At IBM we are continuously looking for ways to raise Black voices and highlight the outstanding contributions of IBMers both personally and professionally.

Meet Bernie Uche, Technical Solutions Specialist, Public Cloud, IBM Canada

“Last year there was a lot of talk in the corporate sector about diversity and representation. Every company was asking employees about it, including IBM. The company gives me the room to do my job and express myself the way I see fit which isn’t routine in our industry. As a Black man, this is especially important when overcoming imposter syndrome that we all too often have. I strongly believe we need to grab opportunities when they present themselves and make sure we help others to realize their potential. I sincerely believe a career in technology right now is the way to go. Tech has been resilient in the midst of economic hardship.

After the death of George Floyd, a few friends and I got together to start BlackMINT. BlackMINT champions diversity in the technology industry by empowering Black youth with the tools to develop professionally, build connections and stay inspired throughout their academic careers. Our mission is to mentor black youth, provide them with practical skills, career advice, and the help that they need to become confident, career-focused and aspire to be leaders in technology.”

Meet Camesha Elvy-Black, Solution Design Specialist at IBM Canada.

The past year with the onset of the pandemic really amplified what is important in life, like ensuring your family members know and understand you love and care for them; the intangibles of working for a good company, like flexibility, diversity, inclusiveness and being essential to their clients. This pandemic confirmed the decision I made to establish a career with IBM was a smart one, regardless of having a Chemical Engineering Degree instead of a Computer Science Degree.

I feel it is our responsibility or duty to pass on our experiences, skills, and knowledge to the next generation. Our experiences are a great asset, and we should always be willing to pass it on to the generation to come. I also believe it is important to give back to the community, in whatever means we can: time, money, skills, etc. Even though I’ve spent most of my life in Canada, growing up in Jamaica was a community affair, and so it is imperative to enrich and support the community in whatever means we can.”

Meet Alvin Francis, VP Development, Watson Applications, Cognos and Planning Analytics and Ottawa lab Site Leader at IBM Canada.

“Seeing is believing. I want to offer the Black community a sense of representation and belonging. I also want to give others the inspiration to know that it’s possible to get to a high-level position at IBM if that’s what they desire.

I grew up in Dominica in the Caribbean and completed my undergraduate studies in mathematics, physics and computer engineering at New Mexico State University. I then immigrated to Canada and completed an MSc in Electrical Engineering at the University of Toronto before landing my first coding job. It was exciting work, but I’ve always found that I’m nervous if I’m not growing. So, I completed an executive MBA while building the early part of my career. Although it was difficult to balance at the time, I’m glad that I made the choice to supplement my technical academic background with business management. I was attracted to IBM because of the wide variety of technology that the company is involved in, such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, cloud and quantum computing.”

As leaders we have been presented with a unique and compelling opportunity to bring about change. To create an environment where everyone feels comfortable being their authentic self

I have always lived by the old African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together.”

This means sharing your journey, looking for opportunities to uplift, educate and mentor others. Bernie, Camesha and Alvin are doing this, and they are not alone. I encourage others to follow in their footsteps.

As we recover from the events of the past year and grow through our own resilience, I am optimistic about the year ahead. But it begins first and foremost with honouring our history and celebrating it. Without truly understanding the struggles of our ancestors, their legacy disappears. So, as we take time to celebrate their successes, we cannot lose sight that this is an everyday issue, not just a February issue.

I invite you to join me in recognizing and celebrating the historic achievements of those from our past, and one day – those from our present.

If you’re interested in learning more about Black History Month at IBM or collaborating, please reach out. I look forward to speaking with you.

Learn more about what IBM is doing for Diversity and Inclusion here.

Shola Agoro
Diversity and Inclusion Leader, IBM Canada


Twitter: https://twitter.com/SholaAg
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/shola-agoro/