Hello everyone! Hope you guys are having a good week. In honor of Mother's Day we decided that this year we're going to highlight mother's who are killing it in our fields. For this week, I'll be featuring Shavonn Brown. Shavonn is a Senior Web Developr at Turner NCAA.com and March Madness Live and is a mother of two. I interviewed her about how she balances her life and career. Read on to learn more.
Tell me about yourself
I’m a senior web developer at Turner on NCAA.com and March Madness Live. I have two children, 17 year old son and 16 year old daughter, and raise them with my boyfriend of seven years. I started school around 24 but didn’t have time to commit to it so I stopped. When my kids were in 4th and 5th grade, I went back to school part time taking two classes a semester. Currently, I am a senior at Georgia Southern. This will be my first degree when I graduate in spring of 2020 and also when my son graduates from high school.
What are some key moments in your life got you to where you are in your career.
When I was 15 years old, my mom and I moved away over the summer. I didn’t know anyone and no one was really outside so I spent the entire summer indoors on our Packard Bell PC. I spent my entire summer learning HTML and when I was 16, my mom bought me my first domain, thadirty.com where I would review dirty south mixtapes
From 19 to 24, I freelanced because a) I never thought anyone would let me develop without a formal education (college was a much bigger deal breaker then) and b) I didn’t have a car and had no clue how to manage outside childcare for having stayed home with my kids until they started school.
"I truly grasped that I could learn anything in no time flat."
When I was 26, I was referred by a friend of a friend so they could get a referral fee for a job at MFG.com. I was hired a front end developer/graphic designer (I hated graphic design). I rented a room in the city and stayed there during the week so I could ride the Marta to work. About 6 months in, my son was diagnosed with cancer. This forced me to bite the bullet and use a full check as down payment on a car. This also forced me to reassess my budget and realize I didn’t make enough which led me to search for another job which led me to Turner on NBA.com as a senior web developer on contract.
From NBA, I won’t say that it was smooth sailing but I was better. I truly grasped that I could learn anything in no time flat and that was a really good developer despite what I did not know at times.
What has been one of the most challenging things balancing a family and your career?
The most challenging thing I have faced is appointments. Between my son’s lymphoma, my daughter’s foot surgeries, both of their follow-ups, regular pediatric checkups, dental visits, eye exams, sick visits, and my own appointments, it felt like I was always leaving or coming in late for an appointment. This gave me a lot of anxiety around job stability. I was felt like I was on the verge of being fired despite the fact that I always got my work done. To this day, I still feel that anxiety at times though I know my track record is strong and that my manager is more than satisfied with my performance.
Did you have full support from your employer when it came time for you to start a family? In what way?
I have the full support of my employer when it comes to taking care of my family. When I have to go, I go. When my son had chemo, I was out every Friday for 6 months. When my daughter had surgeries to lengthen her achilles, I was at the hospital and I was able to leave early every day to pick her and her knee scooter up from school. Just last fall, my son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I took 2 days to find him a therapist and a psychiatrist (trust me- it was that hard). Both my manager and director had my back and didn’t flinch when I told them I needed the time. I feel very supported.
How does your family support you as you navigate your career?
I have my boyfriend Eric. He is quite literally my number one fan. He supports everything I do and think about doing. Just 2 months ago, we drove three and a half hours to Statesboro so I could be in-person to be inducted into Phi Kappa Phi honor society and back that same night just because it was important to me. He is actually the one who taught me how to push back in salary negotiations and to ask for the roles I want. He is the reason I don’t fear no in those spaces anymore. He constantly reminds me that I am smart and amazing.
As a Black Woman in Tech who is also a mother, sis you face any biases? How did you overcome them/change people’s outlook.
I don’t feel like I’ve faced bias based on my being black or being a mother. More often, I feel it can be attached to being a woman in the tech space. I used to get a lot of “you don’t look like a developer” type comments or “oh. I thought you worked in marketing”. To those comments, I responded with sarcasm and side-eyeing nods. I also worked somewhere that I felt the need to start wearing slacks a size larger than I needed because of how openly I was ogled in the office. I even remember my manager, a woman, joking about the attention. I remember not thinking it was okay but I didn’t say anything— not because I was afraid but because I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t even know how to address how horrified it made me feel. I always think about that and wish I could go back to that moment and say something to her about it.
What advice do you have for women who aspire to have a career and a family?
Having a career should in no way take away from having a family and vice versa.
Your best friends will always be time management and Google calendar (shared with coparents).
There is no deadline on career or family.
Refuse help when the strings hurt you.
Do not work somewhere that, in anyway, makes you feel ashamed or afraid to be a good parent or partner.
Thanks Shavonn for letting me feature you and sharing your story! If you want to chat with Shavonn you can follow her on Twitter.