By Anna Lardinois, Startup Storyteller
Jessica Cropp knows the Milwaukee Tech ecosystem.
She’s launched several startups and is a two-time graduate of the YES Blueprint program. Now, she is the president of the newly launched Milwaukee chapter of Blacks in Technology (BIT). The international organization has over a decade of experience working on the mission “to ‘stomp the divide’ between Black tech workers and to fundamentally influence and effect change on an industry that has historically not sought parity with respect to Black workers.”
Milwaukee native Cropp was tapped by Milwaukee business leader Que El-Amin and longtime 88Nine Radio Milwaukee media personality, Tarik Moody to lead the chapter. Moody, who is credited with bringing the chapter to Milwaukee, was looking for an experienced leader who could strengthen the connections between technologists in the Black community, and Cropp fit the bill.
Cropp is eager to ensure the Milwaukee chapter of BIT is more than a networking organization. “What really made BIT so attractive to me is to be able to offer actual things that really mean a lot as a Black person in technology,” said Cropp. Some of the tangible benefits BIT offers its members is access to technology training, grants and scholarships to continue technical education, job placement assistance, access to internships, professional development training, and support for entrepreneurs and startups in the Milwaukee area.
President Cropp sees part of her mission to ensure that talented members of the Black community do not leave Milwaukee to work for cities where there is less racial bias against Black professionals.
“I’m not going to lie. I’m one of those many people who are really on the fence of just not wanting to be in Milwaukee anymore because I know what I have in my toolbox and what I can do with that elsewhere,” she said. “But this is home. If I’m able to build up my home and make this a home for other people, I would love that.”
She adds that BIT is “not only Black Milwaukee locals, but we also have some transplants as well, and I want them to be comfortable knowing, ‘I’m in tech, I can truly prosper here. There are truly growth opportunities. And even if I am a diversity hire, I’m not going to be only a diversity hire who is truly not supported or respected. I really want to be treated like anyone else who is in technology, whether I’m a business analyst, a full stack developer, cyber security analyst, network administrator, whatever I am, I will want that same level of respect, and I want to be able to have ethical growth,’” said Cropp.
Milwaukee’s BIT chapter jumped into action earlier this month by awarding training scholarships sponsored by Northwestern Mutual and Udacity. This summer, BIT will support the Summerfest Tech Pitch competition and participate in BITCON 2022, as well as a host of other soon to be announced events.