Kat Calvin’s name will surely soon grace one of those ‘top 30 under 30’ lists. Starting companies, rallying female entrepreneurs, encouraging techies, being nerdy; taking names and prisoners – it’s all in a day’s work for her. On any given day, Kat can be found developing powerful and poised young women through her Michelle in Training (MiT) program. It’s a three-year course, inspired by First Lady Michelle Obama, which helps to build urban girls’ professional and life skills. From civic responsibility and educational curiosity, to personal branding and cultural awareness, the program’s entire curriculum is focused on creating the next generation of female powerhouses.
When she’s not promoting girl power, Kat is connecting and inspiring the black tech community through a website called Blerdology. Along with her partner, Amanda Spann, Kat launched Blerdology to connect black nerds or “blerds” with each other and with companies looking for fresh, tech talent. The girls even recently teamed up with other organizations to host a Hackathon at SXSW called #blackhack Hollywood.
How she manages to squeeze anything else into her day is beyond me but her Twitter account proves she’s pretty good at multitasking. (Follow her at @AGinDC.) She’s also great at accommodating interviews and hopped on the phone with me to chat about Blerdology.
SH: Can you tell me more about blerdology? What’s a blerd anyway?
KC: A blerd is a black nerd so Blerdology is literally the science of black nerds. Basically, we’re about supporting and engaging the black tech community – everything from having "black hacks" to build apps and web platforms, to connecting blerds with startups or nonprofits that work in the black community…We will be building more things in the future like a forum for blerds. We’re planning more special events this summer to help connect blerds with each other for work purposes, with corporations that are looking to hire, and we’ll be doing a lot of work concerning the issue of blacks in STEM fields.
SH: What’s the one thing you’d tell blerds to go out and do right now?
KC: Besides go to our website? (Laughs) I would say get on Twitter. A lot of times blerds feel isolated because we’re often the only black person at a conference or the only person in our office space or whatever. Twitter is basically home of the blerds and I would say get on there and start engaging with people and you’ll find an amazing community. I talk to the blerds on Twitter more than I talk to anybody else which might be bad but I love Twitter. I’m on it all day.
SH: Were you always interested in doing stuff online and in tech, or is this something that happened later in life?
KC: I have this conversation all the time. For me, as I think it is for most of my generation, and definitely the ones coming after, tech has just become something that’s part of everything we do. No one ever said anything about coding to me when I was younger, it didn’t even occur to me to think about how the things on my computer showed up – they just did...Today, everything we do is online or on our smartphones and I think that the idea of whether you ‘are’ or ‘are not’ in tech is very quickly becoming archaic… it’s a mandatory thing now. Everyone’s in tech. Like it or not, we’re all in tech.
The next part of our chat turned to computers and video games and Kat confessed to not being much of a gamer. However, she assured me that buying a video game system and getting into it was on her to-do list. (As if she doesn’t have enough on her plate already!)
What we never said – but it became clear from our conversation – is that through technology, young people have an increased ability to connect, share, and learn. They have the tools to start their own projects, advance their own ideas, and change the way we look at the world. Now, more than ever, young people have a real opportunity to make a difference. And, as I reflect on the time I spent with Kat, it’s clear that some have already accepted the challenge…