Behind the Click: DeAnna Davidson, President and CEO of Tracen Technologies

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LdC: Describe your position/responsibilities there?

DD:  As President & CEO of Tracen, my primary responsibilities these days center around business development, strategy development, and overseeing operations execution.  Coming up with strategies for marketing and selling our products and services, developing proposals for various opportunities, and overseeing the financial and HR aspects of the company from financing and cash flow to product pricing, employee compensation and benefits, and contract negotiations.

LdC: What’s a typical day like, if such a thing exists?

DD:  My answer t0 the previous question is really a fancy way of saying I spend of lot of time exchanging emails, talking on the phone and writing documents.  Throw a little number crunching in there and pretty much you’ve got my work day.

LdC: It could be said that you were a forerunner of STEM, what do you think of current efforts to get more females involved in these areas?

DD:   As the mother of a son and two daughters, I am very interested in the ongoing efforts to get more African Americans and more girls involved in STEM.  We are big proponents of education in general and have encouraged our children to take advantage of the opportunities our local school system offers particularly in the areas of math and science.  My two oldest were in the Math and Science Specialty Program offered at their middle school and my son is currently in the Biotechnology Specialty Program offered in high school.  Who knows what careers they will ultimately choose, but regardless of what it is, a solid foundation in math will be a huge benefit along the way.

LdC: Do you think there is any stigma still linked to African-Americans and educational excellence in science and math among the younger demographic today?  If so, what might be your suggestions to begin to change their view of themselves?

DD:  I’m not sure there is as much of a stigma as when I was growing up; I was definitely an oddity in my neighborhood.  But, I will say I still don’t think we’re at a point where it’s considered cool to be a ‘math geek’ or into science.  Particularly with all of the fun and interesting things that can be done with technology these days, I think hooking kids into math and science by attracting them with technology will help build an interest in those topics.  And it’s really critical that kids have parents who are on board with making some sacrifices to have their kids participate in some of the opportunities currently available to them.  For example, the high school my son attends is outside of his regular school district so we have to transport him back and forth to school.  Definitely worth it for him to be able to participate in the program.  As an 8th grader, I remember my parents taking me to SAT prep classes on Saturday mornings.  While I realize that’s not necessarily what all kids are going to want to do with their Saturday mornings, the point is that we as parents have to be willing to be involved and support and promote educational excellence in our children ourselves.  It starts at home.

LdC: Has race/gender ever played a challenging part in your career, if so please describe how you have overcome?

DD:  Both race and gender have played a challenging part in various parts of my career.  I’ve encountered situations where you almost can’t believe you’re really having the conversation.  For example, very early in our careers, my husband and I were both working for the same large government contractor.  Even though we had the same degree from the same university with comparable grades, I was offered almost $8,000 per year less.  I decided to pursue the opportunity anyway and prove myself as a valued employee.  During the year and a half I was there, I received awards and accolades from the customers as well as a bonuses for outstanding performance.

I approached my supervisor about the fact that I was underpaid and he initiated a human resources survey to validate I was underpaid and by how much.  Based on the results, he proceeded to tell me that while I was underpaid, the company would not do anything about it anytime soon.  According to his explanation, the main reason for waiting was because my husband had been given one of the highest raises in the division.  Imagine my anger at being told I was not going to be compensated according to my own merits because they’d already compensated my husband!  Needless to say, I didn’t stay very long after that.  I found a great opportunity working with a mobile startup that needed and valued my skills and ability.  My main advice to others is the path to achievement is plain and simply about actively and aggressively pursuing your passions.  Forget what people say you can or can’t do, make a plan to get where you want to go, and pursue it relentlessly.  When you encounter adversity, consult the plan and alter as necessary.

LdC: What’s your greatest hope for your career as well as African-American women in technology fields?

DD:  My current career goals are around building a solid company and a lasting legacy in mobile technology leadership and corporate integrity.  From a broader perspective, I’d like to see more African American women step out into technology leadership roles and, even more so, venture into entrepreneurship.

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