Black Americans play a profound role in shaping the world’s technology. Many everyday essentials, from caller ID to traffic lights, came from the creative minds of Black technology inventors, innovators, and leaders.
In honor of Black Innovation Week, we’re highlighting Black innovators in technology, individuals profoundly progressed science, the tech industry, and daily life. Although many Black innovators have made a significant contribution to the tech industry, we’ll highlight a few Black innovators in technology that have revolutionized their fields, as well as Indianapolis-based, Blacked-owned software development companies and Black female innovators.
Who are some Black innovators?
Justin Christian, CEO and Founder of BCforward
Justin Christian is the CEO and Founder of BCforward—a global provider of successful solutions leveraging technology and resources to solve business problems. Since founding the Indianapolis-based company in 1998, Christian has grown BCforward into a global IT Services and Workforce fulfillment corporation.
Christian leads the overall BCforward corporate strategy and develops executive-level relationships with its customers and corporate partners. He serves as a member on the boards of the Lumina Foundation, Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, AAA Hoosier Motor Club, and The DePauw University Board of Trustees, among others. Christian is also a member of the Business Equity for Indianapolis Taskforce. In 2020, Ernst & Young (EY) named Christian as a National Entrepreneur of the Year Award winner. He graduated from DePauw University with a BA in Computer Science.
Meredith Harper, VP and Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) at Eli Lilly
Meredith Harper is Vice-President and CISO at Eli Lilly & Company. She joined Eli Lilly in August 2018 as deputy chief information security officer. As of April 2019, she transitioned to the role of vice president, chief information security officer for Lilly’s global information security program. Over her 26-year career, she has emerged as a strategic leader who is not just interested in processes, goals, and objectives, but most of all she is passionate about her greatest assets—her human capital. Her success has been attributed to her ability to manage large-scale complex programs that cross-functional areas while advancing the skill sets of her team members.
Meredith is passionate about empowering women and minorities to embark upon careers in technology especially in information security where those populations are not very well represented. She’s committed to transforming the industry by driving engaging and provocative discussions around diversity, equity, and inclusion and the value it brings. She hopes that the industry transforms at a more rapid pace so that women and minorities are normalized in tech and security spaces. Though she is committed to her professional community, she is equally as committed to her local community evidenced by her 30 years of service through her Diamond Life membership in Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Tope Awotona, CEO and Founder of Calendly
Tope Awotona is the CEO and founder of Calendly, a modern schedule platform. Awotona founded Calendly in 2013 through sheer grit, perseverance, and the complete and utter emptying of his personal savings accounts. With everything on the line, he turned his vision of simple scheduling for everyone into a vibrant, growing platform that manages scheduling for more than 9 million individuals and businesses. Prior to Calendly, Tope spent the majority of his career in enterprise software sales, working for companies such as IBM, Perceptive Software, and Dell Technologies. He grew up in Lagos, Nigeria and came to the US in 1996. Tope graduated from The University of Georgia with a degree in Management Information Systems.
Angela Benton, founder and CEO of Streamlytics
Angela Benton is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Streamlytics, which uses first-party media consumption data to bring transparency to what people are streaming on today’s most popular streaming services while helping consumers own their data in the process.
She is a pioneer of diversity in the technology industry and raising awareness around the inequalities that exist in the industry. In 2011 she founded NewME, the first accelerator globally for minorities. Through her leadership, NewME has accelerated hundreds of entrepreneurs helping the nascent companies to raise over $47 million in venture capital funding. Before that, she launched BlackWeb 2.0 in 2007, a multimedia platform that filled a much-needed void by becoming a vital nexus for African-Americans interested in technology. She is a seasoned Entrepreneur and Internet Executive having worked in various roles from design, to development, to strategy at InterActive Corp.
Of course, this is only a very small selection of Black innovators who have made a significant contribution to the tech industry.
Not only are these notable innovators revolutionizing technology today, but they’ve also helped increase diversity and inclusivity within the tech industry, paving the way for the next generation of Black innovators.
Eleven Fifty Academy Rises to Promote Diversity in the Workplace
Empowered by several community partners like Martin University, The Excel Center, Eastern Star Church, and Indy Women in Tech, we’re working to increase tech industry access for women, minorities, veterans, and rural populations throughout Indiana and beyond. Let’s work together to bring equitable opportunities to those who have previously been counted out. Know someone looking to break into tech? Direct them to our free introductory online courses!