NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Dr. Fallon Wilson defied the odds stacked against her and took a roundabout way to a career in the technology field.
Now she’s making a splash in Music City as the CEO and co-founder of Black in Tech Nashville, which helps develop people of color as leaders in the tech world.
Wilson’s success in life comes despite an underprivileged upbringing in inner city Houston, Texas.
“When you grow up poor, it can be very challenging to have a sense of identity,” Wilson said. “You’re always worried about necessities.”
Bucking all statistics, Wilson graduated as the valedictorian of her high school and was accepted into the honors program at Spelman College, which is where she says she found that sense of identity.
“Pretty much that changed my life…because I grew up in a home where women were not necessarily seen as the strongest,” Wilson explained. “Going to an all African-American female school in Atlanta, you learned about black female empowerment, how to cultivate your voice, you learned about history and you learned that every woman should have a voice.”
Dr. Wilson took that notion, and a full scholarship, to the prestigious University of Chicago, where she received a master’s degree. She then focused her PhD research on how schools address gender-based violence against girls.
So how did she shift from that work to co-founding Black in Tech this year in Nashville?
“If I had to say the thread that connects all of the circles of work I care about, it’s always about creating spaces for people like me and the spaces I’ve had to be able to create new worlds,” Wilson said.
Black in Tech Nashville helps cultivate careers in technology through networking and workforce development, funding for startup companies and public policy efforts.
“I think it’s time for us to lay the foundation in Nashville for people of color to really begin developing the mindsets, the skills and the networks to really grow a tech economy,” Wilson said.
Wilson said she owes so many of her achievements to reverends Dr. Renita Weems and Martin Espinosa of Ray of Hope Community Church. She said they took her under their wings and into their family.
“She wants more out of life than was given to her,” Espinosa said. “One day we’ll look up and Fallon will be running something so large, and we’ll be able to look back and say we remember when she came to us unexposed to a lot of things and we exposed her to a lot. She learned so quickly; she’s bright, she’s extremely brilliant and love her a lot.”
“My godparents were able to step in and give me the level of parenting and resources my biological family could not,” Wilson said. “When you invest in people’s human development and their human spirit, there’s nothing I could do to ever repay them.”
In just 10 months, Black in Tech Nashville has nearly 350 members.
The organization hosted the first city-wide forum on tech inclusion in August at Belmont University with more than 200 participants.
Black in Tech has just been nominated for an award by the Nashville Technology Council.