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Q&A with Digital Sales Pro Tasha Levy
It’s competitive to find that perfect tech gig, whether you are into content, a coder, or more of a business type. You need to have the right degree, make the right connections and commit to being a lifelong learner. I had the opportunity to talk to Facebook’s Tasha Levy, who works out of the Chicago office in sales as the Multicultural Lead. She’s part of Facebook’s Global Marketing Solutions team, which helps top brands across the United States looking to engage African-American Affinity audiences. Tasha previously worked for AOL, BlackVoices.com and Interactive One. We asked her about her career, what drives her and what she recommends for students and career-changers seeking to follow in her successful footsteps.
Many people want to work in the tech space. What kind of background do you need to break into the field?
If you’re a student, let’s say you’re in high school, let’s start there. An affinity for science, engineering, or math, and those type of fields, are a great start for the technology phase, although it can be broader than that. There are business opportunities and a lot of different type of fields. But the majority of the possibilities are technical in nature. So programs that are related to science and math at a local level are helpful. And for college students, if you’re a student interested in engineering or math, those fields align well with technology. Then, as an adult, if you’re not in the field, but you want to get into it, start joining some organizations that support technology so that you can learn about what your skill sets are and how they can transfer over to technology. If you don’t have the resources to join these organizations or to join numerous organizations, then some organizations have volunteer opportunities where you can go and volunteer for their event for free. Doing that allows you to learn about the technology field from a formal standpoint. But informally, it allows you to create a network within that space.
Tell more about building relationships. How should someone go about that?
I think building relationships should be in the top three things that they do. Yes, they should learn their formal instruction, but they should network because it has tremendously helped me in my career. The last three or four positions that I was able to get came from networking and personal relationships. Yes, you have to have the experience, or the background, or the education. But what separates you from other people with that similar background, or similar experience, is your network. And maybe knowing someone within that particular field who can give you advice, to help you navigate some of the opportunities that perhaps you may not know about, but your network might.
Are you involved in any organizations yourself?
Yes. Here in Chicago, I’m a member of the Chicago Interactive Marketing Association. When I was a student, I was part of the National Society of Black Engineers. When I was in High School, I was part of INROADS, which is for children who were interested in business or engineering.
Walk us through your career.
I attended the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, and I majored in industrial engineering. And out of school, I worked for EDS (Electronic Data Systems) and at General Motors in La Grange, Illinois, as an industrial engineer. Actually, it’s Caterpillar now, but it was General Motors at the time. I worked there for four years, and then I decided that I wanted a career change and wanted to do something different. So I went back to the University of Illinois, where I got an MBA in marketing. After graduating from business school, I got at BlackVoices.com, which was owned by the Chicago Tribune. I worked in marketing and sales. When AOL bought Black Voices, I went over to join the sales team at AOL. After that, I went to the Weather Channel here in Chicago and worked in sales. And then I went to Interactive One, which is part of Radio One Corporation, where I was the vice president of Midwest and West Coast advertising. And now here at Facebook as a Multicultural Lead, focusing on African-American Affinity sales.
What drives you? Are you more passionate about sales or technology?
You know, I think I’m passionate about both. I’ve always had an affinity for technology, which is why I initially majored in engineering. I have a natural inclination to keep learning. Which is why I like digital, it’s constantly changing. I’ve had careers where I work in multicultural and where I’ve also worked in a more general market. But I am passionate about multicultural marketing. And I love the Tech space. Just the constant changing and the newness that technology allows you to learn because it always changes.
Black Tech Mecca
Black Tech Mecca, based here in Chicago, is a data-driven think tank founded by Fabian Elliott for the Black Tech community. They recently put out a report called the 2017 State of the Black Tech Ecosystem. It gives a very thorough accounting of where things stand for African-Americans in tech, where we need to go, and how we need to get there. You can download the report at https://www.blacktechmecca.org. Elliott says that in the near future there will be a report specifically for Chicago.
STEM Panel Discussion on April 6
Young Women’s Leadership Charter School is holding its 9th Annual Girl Power Luncheon at the Drake Hotel (140 E. Walton Place in Chicago) on April 6. This year, Chicago’s only all-girl, public, stem-focused charter school presents a panel of women leaders in STEM fields featuring:
— Anne Pramaggiore, President and CEO, ComEd
— Nelda J. Connors, Founder and CEO, Pine Grove Holdings, LLC
— Dr. Opella Ernest, Senior Vice President, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois
— Caralynn Nowinski Collens, CEO, UI Labs
— Akilah Townsend, Environmental Scientist, Environmental Design International
“I previously worked for AT&T directive external affairs, and I have a keen interest in minority business development. I work at where growth opportunities are coming in this country. What I found was that they’re mostly in the STEM field and that we need to talk to our kids about STEM education and why it’s important to consider going off to study in these fields,” said Kimberly McCullough-Starks, president of the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School’s board of directors and the spokesperson for the event.