Help for the African-American IT Entrepreneur–Interview with Boyd Stephens

Boyd StephensStarting a business comes with many challenges.? Information Technology professionals have their own unique hurdles to surmount when striking out on their own.? recently talked to Boyd Stephens, Director of the Black Data Processors Association?s (BDPA) Entrepreneurs Advisory Group.? Boyd?s primary occupation has been in the IT field for more than 20 years.? Along with being a business owner for the last 13 years, Boyd has regularly conducted workshops for IT professionals who aspire to start their own businesses.?

TNJ:? What are some of the professions that fall under the general IT umbrella?

BS:? It?s a very broad field where there is such a variety of sub disciplines from which to choose.? For instance, one could choose to hone her/his technical skillsets as a database administrator, programmer, network administrator, help desk professional, security, project management, or general technical administration.? On the business home front, there are some wonderful opportunities available for IT based business owners.

TNJ:? You?re very passionate about the IT field…why is this a good field to enter?

BS:? Many advantages of working in IT revolve around the fact that unlike other industries the theory that is outlined in a book or piece of technical literature is very, very similar, and in many cases exactly the way things work in the tangible world.? If I want to be a web developer, I can obtain a copy of a book and learn about web development and there is a high probability that the code that is created will actually work.? The IT industry is not perfect, but it’s an industry where race, age and gender are less relevant. Ultimately, the technology could care less.? Either you can repair, maintain, and manage the systems and technology or you can’t.? Either you can design and program a well written piece of software or you can’t…You can hire a 19 or 20 year old to run your network because she can run your network…Older workers can continue to be employed because they know what they’re doing. Whether you are 19 or 70, your technical prowess can be a very valuable asset.

TNJ:? What?s the most important thing you?ve learned as an IT entrepreneur?

BS:? In business I have had to unlearn so many things that my academic career taught me. One of the first things was/is the idea that if you make a mistake it is a bad thing and that you get punished.? Business is all about mistakes. It’s about making mistakes, learning from them and moving forward with the lessons learned first and foremost in your mind.??The other thing most technical people learn is it’s got to be accurate, it has to be done precisely, and you have to know all of the facts before you move. Following this ideology as an entrepreneur can lead an individual to being quite challenged in business. A better process is for the individual to take the information that is available, make the most informed decision you can and then move forward.? Those two things are so counter to what one typically learns in academia.