Angie Jones is a software engineer and inventor of more than 20 patents on innovations that include collaboration software, social networking, virtual worlds, smarter planet, and software development processes. Jones has been featured in Ebony Magazine as one of the 30 young leaders under the age of 30, Women of Color magazine as a “Technology Rising Star”, and Triangle Times as a “mover and shaker in the technology industry”.
Most notably, Jones is the founder, owner, and operator of Diva Chix, which is “a platform where teenage girls and women learn to excel in technological areas as well as learn other key life lessons such as running a business, managing finances, and working as a team… all within the realm of a fashion game.”
The Tempest had the opportunity to speak to Jones about her career, motivation, and where she stands in the technology world.
The Tempest: Tell us about yourself, your origins with technology and mentorship, and how it has impacted your life.
Angie Jones: I never considered technology as a career path at all. I didn’t know any technologists growing up, so that wasn’t something that was on my radar. I enrolled in college very unsure of what I wanted to do with my life. My father insisted that I take at least one computer class because he knew this was an emerging space. I took a computer programming course my freshman year and absolutely fell in love. My professors at Tennessee State University saw my potential and mentored me beyond the class assignments.
I’m now a Technology guru and Master Inventor, holding 20 issued patents in the US and China. I am a Consulting Automation Engineer at Lexis Nexis in Raleigh, NC, and also the creator of Diva Chix, an online fashion game.
I’ve had a lot of great mentors over the years, both male and female, who have been a tremendous help to me. I do my best to pay it forward by mentoring others, particularly young women, and exposing them to technology.
What’s the importance of having more women like you in the work that you’re doing? Do you see women like you in the people you look up to?
It’s natural to be drawn to others who you identify with. I see it all the time when I teach workshops or work vendor booths at conferences. The girls and women, especially Black ones, flock to me because it’s inspiring to see someone you identify with doing something that your demographic is not typically known for.
Unfortunately, I don’t see many black women in my field. The first time I had the opportunity to write code with another black woman was 12 years into my career. Imagine going 12 years of your life without working with someone who is the same gender and ethnicity as you are. That does something to your psyche. That causes you to feel like an intruder… someone who doesn’t belong. This self-doubt can affect your work performance and overall satisfaction with your career. This was something I battled with and had to learn to overcome.
What kind of frustrations do you deal with, and how do you navigate them?
While the technology industry definitely has a diversity shortage that can be frustrating and discouraging, I have also experienced the bright side of being a black female in a field dominated by white males: I’m different! Like all technologists, the world is literally at my fingertips. I feel like I have super powers and the ability to magically create anything that I can dream of. What’s made me successful, however, is that the things that I dream of are new and innovative, because as a black woman, I bring a unique perspective to the world of technology. My background is different, my culture is different, my interests and hobbies are different, and therefore, my thought process is different. This different world-view is what has led to unique solutions to business problems and the creation of my 20 patented inventions
How did Diva Chix come about – and what kind of impact have you seen it making?
I’ve loved games for as long as I can remember. Playing games is a favorite pastime for my family, so I grew up playing things like Scrabble, Scattegories, UNO, LIFE, etc. My favorite games are ones that aren’t strictly luck-based but require strategic thinking.
As a young adult, I played dress up games online, but quickly grew bored because there was no strategy involved. There were plenty of MMORPG’s online that catered to males, but I couldn’t find a fashion-related one that targeted females. So, I decided to create my own: Diva Chix! It’s a competitive fashion game that’s all about strategy. Players battle it out to see who’s the best dressed, they compete as teams to complete tasks, and they create and sell virtual clothing in shops in an attempt to be a top fashion designer within the game.
The impact has been phenomenal. The quarter of a million teenage girls and women who play the game learn to excel in technological areas as well as learn other key life lessons such as running a business and working as a team… all within the realm of a game. Many of them have gone on to become graphic and fashion designers in real life because of their experience with Diva Chix. It’s definitely a community of empowerment.
What’s one piece of advice you wish you’d known growing up, that you’d tell women now?
Be true to who you are. Being a woman in technology means that sometimes there won’t be anyone in the room who looks and thinks like you. That is perfectly okay! Do not try to change who you are to fit in with the culture. Bring your own culture. Your products will be all the more better for it.