'Connecting Black History to a Microsoft Future' honors company's African-American employees

I recently wrote about the enduring impact racism in America has had and continues to have on the poor representation of African Americans in the tech industry. For instance, of the 124,000 people Microsoft employs only four percent are African American. Various programs and institutions such as Blacks at Microsoft (BAM), scholarships, investments in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in predominantly black communities, donations and more reflect that Microsoft is both aware of the challenges blacks face in tech and that the company has the power and responsibility to do more.

Like other companies in the tech industry, Microsoft has faced legal challenges over racial discrimination. In recent years, however, with a core mission of inclusion that spans its products, employment practices and community efforts, it has strived to distance itself from the negative impact of those allegations.

Connecting Black History to a Microsoft Future is a bold initiative that attempts to look beyond the narrow perspective of the "struggle" that often defines African Americans' historic relevance. This program highlights the values, lessons and experiences of cultural and historical relevance that have shaped nine African American Microsoft employees into leaders who are contributing to Microsoft's future.

Highlighting Microsoft's African American employees

Here at Windows Central, we are familiar with names like Panos Panay the Surface creator, Terry Myerson the Windows Chief, Alex Kipman the man behind HoloLens and Dona Sarkar, Windows Insider Chief.

Still, Microsoft is a big company with lots of projects, products, services and most importantly people that make the company tick. Here I will briefly introduce the nine African American employees who Microsoft highlights as it connects Black History with the company's future. As part of this initiative, each employee shares an object of historic value which connects with the values that drive them.

Tina Eskridge, Sr. Director at Microsoft

Eskridge said, "It's important to remember that black history didn't begin with slavery, it started long before." Eskridge shared a family map which showed the land he family grew up on in Northern Georgia. What she loves most about Microsoft are the people, the culture and her ability to work with the community. She has led BAM for the last 3 and a half years and appreciates the opportunity to encourage younger employees coming after her.

Guilbert Francois, Product Marketing Manager

François shared a Haitian flag and emphasized how his parents emigrated to the United States from Haiti before he was born. He shared how Haiti was the first independent country established after a successful slave revolt and how this "first" as part of his history shaped his pioneering spirit for toward achievements.

Yvette Smith, General Manager

Smith shared a book about her family history that she received from her grandmother. The book contains a history of her family's achievements that inspired her to achieve in her career, particularly at Microsoft. Smith embraces Microsoft's global mission to make a difference and is looking for opportunities for she, her husband and daughter to contribute to that mission.

Q Muhaimin, Software Engineer

Muhaimin shared a book, "How to draw what you see," which belonged to her grandfather, an artist, whose confidence and other attributes influenced her life. Muhaimin organizes events with Blacks at Xbox, a community of African American gamers within Microsoft that makes her feel at home. She enjoys the culture and has a lot of fun.

Cierra McDonald Sr., Program Manager

McDonald shared a picture of her great-grandfather, who she lovingly referred to as "Big Daddy" and who she described as the rock her family. McDonald has been with Microsoft for 14 years, and with Xbox for nine. She started the group Blacks at Xbox. She enjoys using her position to educate others on the range of things people can do in the gaming industry.

Caty Caldwell, Program Manager

Caldwell shared the Kwanzaa Kinara which holds seven candles that represent seven principles for living. Caldwell emphasized the importance of black history and the contributions that African Americans are making to the future. She expressed her pride in being a Microsoft employee and her appreciation of Microsoft's efforts to recognize Black History Month.

Sylvester Tate II, Program Manager

Tate shares a $2 bill that was given to him by his grandmother to buy junk food when he was a kid. He saved that bill instead, anticipating how proper investment could yield long-term rewards. Tate's goal has been to work for Microsoft ever since he was 13. He admires historical figures who have used unorthodox methods to bring about significant change. What he loves most about Microsoft is the opportunity to be around some of the brightest minds in the world.

Deen King-Smith Sr., Product Marketing Manager

King-Smith shared a picture that reminds him of his home. He shared that his mother told him, you'll never know where you're going until you know where you came from. He is passionate about connecting people to the things that help people win. He acknowledged the efforts of those that came before him and the opportunities they provide him. What he loves most about Microsoft is impac., "It's a family here," he shared.

Michael Ford, General Manager

Ford shared a picture of his parents, who he recognized as connecting him with history in general and their history. He emphasized his family's motto is "faith, family, education and hard work equals a good life". He embraces Microsoft's vision to help every individual and company to achieve more. Ford is a member BAM.

Connecting to the future

Black History Month is over, but hopefully, efforts to recognize the "hidden history" of contributions African Americans have made and the history-making contributions they are currently making won't end.

Ultimately, perhaps one day history will be taught honestly and inclusively establishing a foundation where hidden history won't need to be highlighted one month out of the year to make it known to the masses. Until then we salute Microsoft for honoring Black History Month by connecting black history with Microsoft's future.

Jason Ward

Jason L Ward is a columnist at Windows Central. He provides unique big picture analysis of the complex world of Microsoft. Jason takes the small clues and gives you an insightful big picture perspective through storytelling that you won't find *anywhere* else. Seriously, this dude thinks outside the box. Follow him on Twitter at @JLTechWord. He's doing the "write" thing!