9 (More) Caribbean Diaspora Members Making Their Mark In Global Tech
Wherever you go, you will always find someone from the Caribbean.
With approximately one in two foreign-born blacks in America hailing from this region, Caribbean people are making a big impact in all areas of business, at all levels, including the global tech industry.
In its ongoing quest to shine a light on Caribbean trailblazers, regional tech ecosystem, Tech Beach Retreat, has released a new list featuring nine more Caribbean nationals and members of the diaspora who are making incredible contributions in big tech, leaving their mark in spaces ranging from finance to social media.
Kome Emuh (T&T), vice president – COO Global Markets Operations Engineering, Goldman Sachs
Kome Emuh was born in the UK to Trinbagonian parents. Now based in the US, she is the vice president – COO of Global Markets Operations Engineering at finance giant, Goldman Sachs, where she manages a US$120M investment portfolio.
Emuh was drawn to a career in technology, specifically within the financial space, by her desire “to play my part in managing [the] growth and transformation in financial services”, she says. In this era of interconnectedness, “data assets have become invaluable and digital literacy has transformed the expectations of consumers”.
For Caribbean nationals setting their sights on the technology industry, Emuh advises: “Ensure you are well versed in changing policy and regulation on new and emerging technology. Pre-empting regulatory headwinds will demonstrate that you are thinking long term about how policy can impact the business [and its] revenue — this is the value add.”
Marlon Nichols (Jamaica), co-founder and managing general partner, MaC Venture Capital
As the co-founder and managing general partner at MaC Venture Capital, Jamaican national, Marlon Nichols accelerates and promotes early-stage entrepreneurs and companies on the verge of their breakthrough moment.
From a successful career in enterprise startup and management consulting, Nichols discovered his passion lay in having meaningful interactions with forward-thinking individuals and applying cutting-edge technologies to solve problems. “I’ve learned that venture capital is a way to help create the world I want to see and technology is a powerful tool if used for positive change,” Nichols says.
He advises those interested in pursuing a similar path to: “Just do it. Work on challenges that truly resonate with you and build relationships along the way. The worst thing we can do is look back and think ‘what if’,’ so bet on yourself and pursue your dreams.”
Cavel Khan (Jamaica), chief revenue officer, Tumblr
Jamaican national and advertising-industry-wave-maker, Cavel Khan joined microblogging and social networking website, Tumblr, over a year ago, as its chief revenue officer. There, he leads the team responsible for the sales, operations, and marketing efforts focused on increasing revenue opportunities.
Recently inducted into the 2020 American Advertising Federation Hall of Achievement, he takes particular pride in being able to serve as an example for younger Jamaicans with aspirations of joining the global tech workforce. “My goal is to lay an easier path for folks who are not yet in this industry, to be able to enter the industry and thrive,” Khan says. “My advice is simple, do the work to find the opportunities that exist in the marketplace…Find companies who are leading the charge on distributed work and connect with them.”
Nicholas CM Fuller (T&T), director, Hybrid Cloud and AI research, IBM
Trinidad and Tobago national Nicholas Fuller leads IBM’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) research agenda as the company’s director of Hybrid Cloud and AI Research. In this role, Fuller focuses on using AI to improve the developer experience, enhance application security risk posture and increase application availability.
His favourite part of the job? Developing ideas all the way from concept to solutions that “solve specific business problems” and impact the market.
Fuller was led to a career in technology by his “passion for science, technology and discovery, and the application of these to the advancement of humanity”. He encourages Caribbean nationals who are passionate about tech to pursue their dreams: “If science and technology ignites a passion in your inner being, listen to it, follow it, and don’t let various obstacles, perceived or real, hinder your interests and pursuits.”
Stephanie Alexis Smellie (Bermuda), head of creator partnerships, Spotify
Bermuda-born, of Jamaican parentage, Stephanie Alexis Smellie serves as the head of Creator Partnerships at Spotify, where she works with platforms and brands to enrich the audio streaming service’s offerings to its artistes.
Smellie was driven by her fascination with how “innovation and digital media has shifted culture, changed the way we interact and unlocked new opportunities for monetisation”, she says.
She reminds those working toward careers in the tech industry that: “There is room for so many other roles, from sales to marketing and HR, that may fit your skillset. Getting your foot in the door is the most important step. You don’t have to shoot for the biggest tech companies in the industry. It may mean working for a start-up or a lesser-known platform. However, getting the experience [of] working in a fast-moving innovative environment will set you up for success.
Subira Willock (T&T), business success and thought leadership marketing manager, Facebook
Trinidad and Tobago’s, Subira Willock, helps brands master the power of Facebook as the social network’s Business Success and Thought Leadership Marketing Manager. Willock and her team produce content that helps businesses of all sizes better understand how to leverage the platform to connect with their customers and grow their business.
Willock was pushed to join the tech industry by a desire to positively impact her favourite apps and services, like Instagram and Whatsapp. Now, she gets to work directly with these apps.
Willock, who serves as a member of TBR’s Global Advisory Board, believes that education and experience are great equalisers. She advises Caribbean nationals aspiring toward a career in technology, to “be intentional about what you choose to study and the jobs you take to build your career, because those choices contribute to the story you tell to unlock the doors of big tech”.
Cassandra E Campbell (Jamaica), program manager, Facebook
Born in the US to Jamaican parents, Cassandra E Campbell is a program manager at Facebook. She serves as a part of the Ads and Business Products Organisation team, developing programmes that show small and medium-sized businesses how the platform’s products work so they can best leverage each feature.
Campbell initially sought a career in the public service but, realising that “every single industry was transitioning to ‘going digital’,” she shares, she quickly changed her mind and began her career in technology at a call center, on Yahoo’s Customer Experience Team.
Campbell believes the potential exists for any qualified and committed Caribbean national to succeed in the global tech industry, providing they believe in themselves, take the time to become an expert in their respective niches, and never give up: “You may not get it the first time around but if you pursue the goal consistently, you’re bound to win!”
Lisa Godwin (Dominican Republic), creative technologist, NYTimes
Born in the US with roots in the Dominican Republic, Lisa Godwin was always interested in technology, setting her path at an early age by programming video games.
Encouraged by her Dominican parents to follow that path and pursue a career in computer science, she has emerged as a major contributor to the industry, working as a creative technologist at The New York Times, where she develops digital properties for monetisable growth.
Godwin, who is also the Founder/CEO of You Are Tech, assures those aspiring towards a career in the tech industry: “There is room for everyone within the tech ecosystem. Coding is not necessary, there are endless possibilities within tech to explore. Discover your passion and leverage that within the industry.”
Michael Montano (T&T), head of engineering, Twitter
Michael Montano always had a passion for building, moving from legos and duplo blocks as a young boy to digitally crafting games and websites in high school. Add to that his love for science and math, his role as Twitter’s head of engineering should come as no surprise.
Born in Canada, with his father hailing from Trinidad and Tobago, Montano now works with his team “across the technology stack to build, maintain, scale and improve Twitter’s service”.
Montano advises Caribbean nationals pursuing a career in technology: “The tech ecosystem is changing rapidly, accelerated by the global pandemic. Global tech companies are recognising that talent is distributed around the world, as are customers, and are looking to hire and grow from all over the world. Those who bring a combination of technical skill and unique perspective from the region will be huge assets to companies looking to serve more customers.”
Indeed, these Caribbean nationals and members of the diaspora are proof that with purpose, passion and drive, we can make an impact not only regionally, but internationally.
If you know someone of Caribbean heritage who deserves to make this list, send us an email at email@example.com.
About TBR LAB: A robust partnership with IDB Lab and the DMZ, the Vision of TBR LAB is to radically transform the digital landscape of the Caribbean and emerging markets. TBR LAB’s mission is to empower the emergence and proliferation of high-growth tech start-ups, as well as enable enterprise organisations and governments to deploy impactful tech-driven solutions.
—By Serah Acham