Representation and inclusion have become more than buzzwords in the tech space as companies make a concerted effort to diversify their talent pools. Taking into consideration the fact that approximately one in two foreign-born blacks in America are from the Caribbean, it comes as no surprise that many of these recruits hail from the region. Holding positions of influence in areas ranging from software development and engineering, to diversity and marketing, these individuals have also invested their time and talent in the regional tech ecosystem, TechBeach Retreat, which seeks to spur an entrepreneurship and innovation revolution throughout the region. Here are several Caribbean-born tech professionals who are making their mark at some of the world’s leading tech companies.
Nikkia Reveillac - Head of Research at Twitter (T&T)
Trinidad &Tobago national Nikkia Reveillac entered the tech industry to “disrupt” herself. Now, she’s part of the team that’s shaping the user experience at Twitter. As Head of Research, Reveillac is charged with helping the multimedia platform develop products and policies that facilitate healthy conversations among its 330 million monthly active users. “I love helping to tackle big, hairy, complicated challenges and leveraging insights about people and other societal dynamics to unearth opportunities to grow,” she says of the role she believes places her at the forefront of shaping culture.
Marlon Nichols - Co-founder/Managing/General Partner, MaC Venture Capital (Jamaica)
As the Co-Founder and Managing General Partner at MaC Venture Capital, Jamaican national, Marlon Nichols accelerates and promotes early-stage entrepreneurs and companies “on the verge of their breakthrough moment,” he says. From a successful career in enterprise startup and management consulting, Nichols discovered his passion lay in having meaningful interactions with forward-thinking individuals and applying cutting-edge technologies to solve problems. “I've learned that venture capital is a way to help create the world I want to see and technology is a powerful tool if used for positive change.” He advises those interested in pursuing a similar path to: “Just do it. Work on challenges that truly resonate with you and build relationships along the way. The worst thing we can do is look back and think "what if," so bet on yourself and pursue your dreams.”
Davyeon Ross, Co-Founder of ShotTracker (T&T)
Trinidadian Davyeon Ross’ 20 years in the tech industry has yielded a variety of impressive titles, but most notably he is founder of not one, but two successful sports startups. The former college athlete created Digital Sports Ventures, a multimedia content platform that was acquired by the Digital Broadcasting Group in 2011. He then leveraged his knowledge of basketball and his tech expertise to co-found ShotTracker, a revolutionary sensor-based system that tracks over 70 unique athlete performance stats in real-team. Today, ShotTracker has attracted over US $40M in funding from investors; secured partnerships with major ball brands like Nike; Wilson and Spalding; and is used by college basketball teams across the United States.
Stephanie Alexis Smellie - Head of Creator Partnerships, Spotify (Bermuda)
Bermuda-born, of Jamaican parentage, Stephanie Alexis Smellie serves as the Head of Creator Partnerships at Spotify, where she works with platforms and brands to enrich the audio streaming service’s offerings to its artists. Smellie was driven by her fascination with how “innovation and digital media has shifted culture, changed the way we interact and unlocked new opportunities for monetization,” she says. She reminds those working toward careers in the tech industry that: “There is room for so many other roles, from sales to marketing and HR, that may fit your skillset. Getting your foot in the door is the most important step. You don't have to shoot for the biggest tech companies in the industry. It may mean working for a start-up or a lesser-known platform. However, getting the experience [of] working in a fast-moving innovative environment will set you up for success.”
Subira Willock - Business Success and Thought Leadership Marketing Manager, Facebook (T&T)
Trinidad and Tobago’s, Subira Willock, helps brands master the power of Facebook as the social network’s Business Success and Thought Leadership Marketing Manager. Willock and her team produce content that helps businesses of all sizes better understand how to leverage the platform to connect with their customers and grow their business. Willock, who serves as a member of TBR’s Global Advisory Board, believes that education and experience are great equalizers. She advises Caribbean nationals aspiring toward a career in technology, to “be intentional about what you choose to study and the jobs you take to build your career, because those choices contribute to the story you tell to unlock the doors of big tech.”
David Fowler - Partner Software Architect at Microsoft (Barbados)
Gaming introduced David Fowler to coding at a young age, and his interest in technology has never waned. The Barbadian is one of the creators behind SignalR, a Microsoft product used to build real time web applications. “That was a game changer for me personally,” Fowler says of that milestone moment in his career. Like others in his shoes, he wants to make the tech industry more accessible to people of colour and he is actively working to get more big tech companies to recruit from the Caribbean, starting with Microsoft and UWI. Ultimately, he hopes to make a meaningful contribution to the industry in a way that changes the way people think about composing software.
Kamilah Taylor, Software Engineer at Gusto (Jamaica)
Jamaican Kamilah Taylor is one of the founding mobile engineers, and tech lead, for the financial products team at Gusto, a platform focused on simplifying payroll, benefits and HR for small and medium businesses. In the past year, she was part of the team that launched Gusto Wallet, a suite of financial health benefits for employees. “I understand what it means to have financial insecurity, and it’s been amazing to be in a position to help build tools for this underserved group of people,” says Taylor. Beyond her role at Gusto, she is also a founding member of the global tech ecosystem, Tech Beach Retreat, and serves as technical advisor for Skinary, a female-founded, integrated health tracking app.
Cavel Khan - Chief Revenue Officer, Tumblr (Jamaica)
Jamaican national and advertising-industry-wave-maker, Cavel Khan joined microblogging and social networking website, Tumblr, over a year ago, as its Chief Revenue Officer. Here, he leads the team responsible for the sales, operations and marketing efforts geared toward increasing revenue opportunities. Having been inducted into the 2020 American Advertising Federation Hall of Achievement, he takes particular pride in being able to serve as an example for younger Jamaicans with aspirations of joining the tech workforce. “My goal is to lay an easier path for folks who are not yet in this industry, to be able to enter the industry and thrive,” Khan says. “My advice is simple, do the work to find the opportunities that exist in the marketplace ... Find companies who are leading the charge on distributed work and connect with them.”
Matthew Talma - Engineering Manager at Airbnb (T&T)
Matthew Talma got into the tech industry to build games, but he’s since shifted gears and now serves as an Engineering Manager at popular accommodation rental platform, Airbnb. The Trinidad & Tobago national leads a team of engineers spearheading the growth of Airbnb Experiences and values “the ability to impact people's lives in a meaningful way at scale.” Outside of Airbnb, Talma has launched several products both in the US and T&T, including a brand new Amazon shopping experience designed for television; the movie ticketing app Ticktr; and M Carnival Manager, a cloud based Carnival band manager software that enables online costume sales.
Danielle Skeen - Senior Sales & Strategy Manager at Microsoft (Jamaica)
Danielle Skeen’s desire to contribute to building the future led her to a career in tech. “The world is only becoming more and more digital, and I wanted to play a role,” says Skeen, whose position as Senior Sales & Strategy Manager at software giant, Microsoft, is centered around strengthening and expanding demand for the company’s products and services on a global scale. Beyond the work she does at Microsoft, the Jamaican national is also contributing to a brighter future as co-founder of &Noire, an e-retailer bridging the gap between consumers and black-owned brands; and she is owner of Caption-It!, an app that provides ready-to-use captions for users’ social media posts.
Gerald Jean-Baptiste - Video Producer at YouTube (Haiti)
Gerald Jean-Baptiste is on a mission to democratise who gets to tell their stories using digital media. He believes in “giving the power of the most cutting edge technology to as many storytellers as possible, especially for people of color.” Through his role as a Video Producer at YouTube, the Haitian native produces content to help creators and viewers leverage the newest features on the world’s largest video sharing platform. Jean-Baptiste has also co-produced the Google SoulFest music and tech festival; and co-founded Move Up Lift Up (MULU), a creative consulting firm that seeks to empower creatives and entrepreneurs through professional development and knowledge sharing.
Nicholas C.M. Fuller - Director, Hybrid Cloud and AI Research, IBM (T&T)
Trinidad and Tobago national, Nicholas Fuller, leads IBM’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) research agenda as the company’s Director of Hybrid Cloud and AI Research. In this role, Fuller focuses on using AI to improve the developer experience, enhance application security risk posture and increase application availability. His favourite part of the job? Developing ideas all the way from concept to solutions that “solve specific business problems” and impact the market. Fuller was led to a career in technology by his “passion for science, technology and discovery, and the application of these to the advancement of humanity”. He encourages Caribbean residents who are passionate about tech to pursue their dreams: “If science and technology ignites a passion in your inner being, listen to it, follow it and don't let various obstacles, perceived or real, hinder your interests and pursuits.”
Indeed, these Caribbeans nationals and members of the diaspora are proof that with purpose, passion and drive, we can make an impact. If you know someone of Caribbean heritage who deserves to make this list, share their story with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.