This week, we sat down with our IT Sector Center Account Manager, the multi-talented Joaquin Barry, and talked about his Chicago roots, his entry into the tech field, and much more!

Q: You’ve been a business owner, a chef, you have an MBA, a PMP certification…so you’ve had quite a range of professional pursuits! What led you to pursue a career in technology?   

A: I was majoring in accounting and I developed a program that amortized tables for taxes. The program became very popular, so I began to sell it…little did I know that wasn’t exactly legal! Anyway, from that pursuit, I got into the hardware side of technology and continued to grow. In the beginning, no matter how prepared I was, it was hard to get opportunities. However, I was fortunate to have champions on my side who vouched for my qualifications, my education, and my experience. I think finding your own champions is important.

Q: As someone with so much experience and time in the tech field, what are your hopes for young people of color who are pursuing a career in Information Technology?

A: Equality in pay, equality in positions, equality in access to everything in IT. I hope that young people of color can educate themselves and move into data analytics and other opportunities with higher visibility. Also, at the intersection of black history, technology and goals/aspirations in the future, I hope they push the envelope. Don’t be afraid. Everyone learns from failure as so many people have done in the past, we are resilient. The workforce will embrace you – it’s embraced me.

Q: What are some activities you participate in within the community?

A: Well, growing up in Chicago in the 60s, I still remember when the West Loop was known as Skid Row, and I still see places that currently need support, like Tent City. And so, this always sticks with me. This is why I’m so involved in my community, for those that are invisible, so, whether that’s something like helping out with a meal, some clothes or even helping with conflict resolution skills at the community center in Bronzeville.

Q: Is there anything you would like to share regarding Black History through the lens of the workforce?

A: Black History month has shown me we all have struggled, but its where we are in our struggle currently…we must win the battle with our minds, and through that we will become better human beings. Also, don’t mistake privilege. There’s still a long way to go. As we engage in the workforce, we need to meet people where they are. Everyone has a story to share, and sometimes we just need to listen.