THC

TECH | HUSTLE | CULTURE

By Cameron Flowers

TECH | HUSTLE | CULTURE

As a Black technologist (software developer, educator, solutions architect, and business consultant) I find that often times the current landscape of the technology industry leaves out nuanced conversations about Blackness and the historical contribution of Black people in the formation of major technological milestones. There has been an ongoing conversation for the past several years around the growing diversity-gap in technology and Dev Jam Labs was birthed out of the desire to challenge these issues presently preventing Black people from seeing themselves as possessors of power within this industry. Whether it is through our creative usages (think Black Twitter) or else our own construction of technology platforms (think WorldStar), we are undeniably capable of creating multi-million dollar tech businesses out of a couple clicks and swipes. One of the main missions of the Lab is to actively redefine what it means to be a technologist by showcasing products and engineers that actively center the Black community in their work. Redefining technology means changing the focus of the narrative to not only include Black people but to actively empower and uplift them as well.

Part of what was driving the Lab in its inception was the idea of building technology that simultaneously serves a purpose and perspective. Purpose meaning that the technology is equipped with the right tools to achieve its function, and Perspective meaning that it is built from our (or our client’s) point of view with respect to our audience and culture. I think that, of the two, perspective is the most important because Without the right perspective can something ever truly achieve its purpose? Think about it in reference to culture, can we really ever build an app for Black community and culture without first understanding the perspective? Instagram and Twitter are applications that were made into tech company juggernauts partially due to the impact of Black culture but these tech platforms were not built by developers or companies that have a mission or perspective centering our culture. How can we build better platforms for our community? We need to find ways to allow our community to build the platforms themselves.


HUSTLE:


A lot in the past few days has made me very reflective about the importance of hustle in everything that we do. The way we look at Hustle in the Lab as well as here with The Dozens is as follows: Hustle is the “By Any Means Necessary” attitude that Malcolm was talking about.


Hustle as defined by Merriam Webster looks like this:


Many people have probably heard the word hustle used in the contexts that Merriam Webster publishes here. The ones that have been on my mind the most are 2B and 3B which each speak about hustle pejoratively (underhanded, fraud, deception) these words undoubtedly describe hustle in a way that is adverse to good business practice. This semantic fact started a dope conversation in the Lab about whether or not “Hustle" is the most positive way of representing a business seeking to appeal to serious individuals and businesses. Thinking on it more is what inspired this post. The reason I believe that Dev Jam Labs should still center itself around Hustle is specifically because of the importance of redefinition. The Lab like The Dozens, was started from hustle, rather from Kheperah and my ceaseless drive to persevere and continue moving and building even when the odds seemed against us. We have a collective mindset internal to the Lab that is to never give up, rather to work out a creative way to beat the odds. In that sense our version of hustle is linked to the Merriam Webster definitions but where we differ is that from our position hustling isn’t about conning someone weaker than us rather it is more about being judicious and cunning enough to outsmart an opponent that doesn’t want to see us win. As Black Americans, we are constantly fighting for our right to self-definition and empowerment, and to win that battle we must continue working hard, but more importantly, we must continue working smart. This is why we say hustle for us in the Lab is the “By Any Means Necessary” mindset X referred to. Hustle is the energy that allows us to create the technology and do the work of turning our ideas into successful businesses.  Hustle is the center of the three pillars because it is the glue that connects the technology and the culture. Without the people working to create for our community, we cannot redefine technology.


CULTURE

When we first started talking about Dev Jam Labs we were impressing the need of culturally relevant organizations in technology as well as the importance of our voice as a Black youth in the tech industry. As two dope brothers from inner-city Chicago, Kheperah and I have a different way of communicating our love for technology than many of our peers in the industry. We seek to articulate our cultural perspective in everything we do include our work with The Dozens and Dev Jam Labs. Part of what is hard about our work as technologists is that there are many systems in place that have limited people’s perspective of what a techie/coder/hacker is and looks like. Often times the images/references that people think about when they hear technology diverge from images of Blackness and Black Culture. We want to change that.

In order to be a tech company relevant to Black culture, Dev Jam Labs is in the business of redefining our culture’s perspective about their contribution to the technology industry. We making it cool to be young, gifted, and black in the tech world by challenging the dominant narrative about the Musk's and Zuckerberg's and featuring our own unique experiences. We want to redefine how our community looks at themselves in technology by turning them from users/consumers and into the engineers, producers, tastemakers, and curators. In actively working to redefine these ideas, I believe that Dev Jam Labs is undertaking a goal that is as necessary as it is challenging. In centering our perspective and voice around Technology, Hustle, and Culture we are keeping ourselves accountable to a mission-oriented around transformation, and positive communication and growth for ourselves and our community. We need new voices in technology, business and culture and I believe that Dev Jam Labs as well as the Dozens can be a platform to champion the voices of our people.

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Redefining Hustle Culture

By Flo Reo

Redefining Hustle Culture

If I asked you to close your eyes and conjure up an image of the word “hustle,” what comes to mind? Maybe you see the grind: the long hours and sacrifices, the peaks and the valleys of building a business.  At one point in time, hustle was used to describe attempts to make money by fraud or deception. So maybe you imagined the swindlers and finessers of the world.  If you grew up during the 70s, you may have even pictured the Shiggy dance of the disco era.


What may have been hard to envision is hustle as a mindset. Hustle culture is a mindset that fuels individual and collective efforts for enterprise, social justice, and evolution.  Hustle culture exists on a spectrum.  For some the hustle can look like non-existent self care practices, sleep deprivation, forgone relationships, etc. This brand of hustling sometimes creeps up when you’ve forgotten how to move in love, of yourself and others.  


Hustling is, after all, an act of love.  It is a state of flow, that requires systems to keep it running and space to innovate.  It calls on us to pour into ourselves so that we can pour into our passions and communities. At the other end of the hustle spectrum, there exists a brand of hustling that prioritizes efficiency and mindfulness of the present moment. The process of working to build a business or lead a movement requires that we move with clear minds, so we can respond appropriately to demands on our attention (and patience, let’s be real).


Sure, we can believe that hustle culture represents grind and total sacrifice.  Or we can redefine it for ourselves. In navigating the challenges of pursuing a goal, we can choose to prioritize wellness in a way that will enable us to work multiple jobs, maintain relationships, build new ones, and feel good while doing it. You manifest and control the hustle.


#TechHustleCulture

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I've Been in the Lab

By kheperah Davis-Ray

I've Been in the Lab
Now imagine it’s 11 PM on a Friday night and while many of your homies are busy snapping flicks at the club, you and your best friend just secured a spot with an outlet in a 24-hr Starbucks, and are discussing the next set of deliverables for both your personal and client projects. After a quick stand up meeting to check in you both set out on your computers designing the next iteration of a mobile app you’ve been working on for a number of months. A couple hours later when that task is finished, you find yourself daydreaming either because of the lack of sleep or the strong musty smell of the place crowded with homeless people looking to stay warm overwhelming your senses. In your half-dazed state, an idea quickly pops into your mind about something your friend said earlier when you were brainstorming and you grab your sketchbook to start prototyping it while pitching the opportunity to your friend. Excited you both agree that the idea is solid and book a couple weeks to establish a working model before taking it to the next level and presenting to potential investors. The clock is striking 3 AM but you’re running on pure creative energy and chuckle at how late it is. At school, you’re forced to pull some all-nighters but here in the Lab with your homie time becomes timeless because your imagination, creativity, and collective motivation is carrying you on. The work you’re doing is done by choice and while some projects are getting you some much-needed bread, the reality is you’ve been quite happy doing this with your homie even without the cash. With the right people next to you work becomes less of a chore and more of an excitement. You look over at your homie who is starting to nod off and propose that Y'all head back to the crib which you’ve also created into a small makeshift office. Driving back through the city at this hour you’re reminded of how much is possible if you keep moving. You make it home and get your rest excited to wake up and continue to grind. You’re happy with your work and everything you’re accomplishing professionally with your team and fall asleep dreaming up even more ideas you can’t wait to create in the world.

What I have just introduced you all to is Dev Jam Labs. We have created a global development studio that empowers and invests in people from our community with dreams, aspirations, and goals in/around technology. We want to create a new type of workspace that is defined by its commitment to professionally developing individuals who are willing to learn and implement for themselves from the beginning. Finding a job that simultaneously provides you with a continuous opportunity to learn while also putting your input into practice on real creative projects is tough right out of school. your input and level of creation or say in a project, although Dev Jam Labs comes to you to inspire everyone that comes aboard to follow their own passions because there is someone who needs those same exact skills but is not willing to learn it. This is where our hustle comes from, we are a team of dedicated, architects, developers and engineers drivent to learn the task that isn’t taught in the classroom. Finally, our culture comes from creating content from a perspective that doesn’t have the voice in today’s technical climate. Our inclusive background shows that we use our culture to create new and inventive ways to make holistic technology. Holistically we will encompass the view of the past and the future that does not encroach on the culture and perspective of others.
More importantly, Dev Jam Labs is a space dedicated for empowering students and small businesses. How many of you all think that you are wasting time being in school? How many of you think you will not be prepared coming out of college? How many of you have had the thought of dropping out? Well, you all are not alone, I have also had the fantasy of dropping out but saw the true reality of my mother getting on my case and potentially threatening to take me out this world like she brought me in. .These are some thoughts that come to mind everyday, although in my desire to change my current situation it has lead to depression, feeling lonely and disconnected even when I am on campus with so many of you all. I remember two years ago where Paris and I swapped ideas and to now see it coming into fruition is beautiful. I remember having consistent conversations with Ayo about how I fill limited in my actions because school is consuming to much of my own time. All of these situations have motivated me to create a space that doesn't exist.

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