S1:E2 Michael Brown, founder of Juneteenth Conference


Find out more about the Juneteenth Conference

Follow Michael Brown on Twitter @browniepoints


Nikema Prophet: [00:00:00] Hello, my name is Nikema Prophet. I am the host of the Our Voices podcast. This is our very first episode after Episode Zero, which was just me talking about what my plans were with the podcast. And today as our guest, we have Michael Brown.

He’s the founder of the Juneteenth Conference and he’s here to talk to us. Would you like to give a quick intro?

Michael Brown: Oh, sure. So yeah, as you mentioned I’m founder of the Juneteenth Conference, which was a funny sequence of events. It was the middle of the pandemic, George Floyd and the fallout from the events around George Floyd’s murder was happening.

I think a lot of the energy came because people were locked in their houses and were [00:01:00] paying attention for the first time and like it just zoomed throughout the US and like I was I was thinking, I was just sitting there in this moment. It was my first anniversary at Microsoft.

Like it was a odd sequence or confluence of events because it should be a time of celebration. For me, I was like reflecting on what I did, but like it’s like how can you celebrate during this time period with what’s going on? And I just happened to be watching TV and.

The Juneteenth episode of Blackish came on. I’m like, oh, yeah, Juneteenth is coming up. I’m like and it, I kinda sat with that and thought about how, even with the first Juneteenth celebration, it was a memorial of a momentous [00:02:00] occasion for them. But of course everyone knew there was more work to do, but they still took the time to celebrate and.

I guess reflect on where they have been, where they’ve been since that moment. And so I thought like in the same way, we should be able to take a time to even in the midst of all this turmoil to recognize our success. our achievements and to celebrate and then also to, gird up for the rest of the battle

And that was like two weeks before Juneteenth, and I had no idea how it would happen, but the community came around, the community wanted it, and so we were able to successfully launch it in that timeframe. So it was [00:03:00] exciting for me.

Nikema Prophet: That’s amazing that it came together in just two weeks.

Like I, I never knew that , but yeah. So this is the first episode. I apologize in advance for the awkwardness or the inexperience, but this is my first time hosting a podcast also. So everything is new. the point of the podcast was to ask people to tell me a story. So I already have a little bit of an idea of the story that Michael’s going to tell us, but I’m really interested in learning more.

So if you’re ready, we can go into the storytelling portion of the podcast.

Michael Brown: Yeah. So I guess my story. It starts when I was back in 1985, I was eight years old and my my grandmother [00:04:00] brought a computer for well for the family. Like she had seen me at the, we had gone prior to the Museum of Science and Industry and they had a big exhibit around

computers and how technology was going to change the workforce and everything. Back in 85 . And she saw how like fascinated, like the museum is like this huge I don’t even want to count the square feet. It’s so many, like that room itself was probably about four or 5,000 square feet and there were like so many other exhibits and rooms and locations in the museum, but we spent so much time there because I was just so engrossed in it.

So she saw how it captivated me and got my first computer and that was more or less love at first sight for me.

and, growing forward, like I learned [00:05:00] how to program ended up loving the loving the craft, loving the opportunity that technology brought to me. I realized as I entered my professional career that not everyone Like me, had that same opportunity, where they had a computer in the house from a young age.

And, to further tell my background, like I grew up in Chicago. My coming of age years, my teen years were in the middle of the Chicago drug war wars, The neighborhood I lived in was called Terror Town. To give you an idea, it’s like there’s a rapper who’s out there now who who like proclaims that’s where he grew up.

And, I don’t doubt it, but [00:06:00] like it’s, we were situated basically near turf. Turf wars is basically, and, it was bad. My school, I remember my in elementary school, we were using like outdated books like, like we had. Books that were handed down from prior, prior classes in front of us.

And like you look at the date, there were like 10, 15 names on it, prior to me. I’m like, okay. And like growing up, you see all of this as normal because that’s what you’ve been exposed to. It wasn’t until I grew up, grew up, had a family, and really prioritize whenever we moved making sure a good school district was, it was [00:07:00] like and as I was entering into my professional career, really when I was in college, I managed to get a scholarship into a prestigious univers- college. It’s, they don’t do, they only do undergrad, but it was a liberal arts college.

And it was my first exposure to like wealth, like I, that was, like the teacher, the schools had a minority orientation program, but it wasn’t so much that I was a minority that made me feel left out or external. It was the difference in social class. It was my first time being around rich black kids, like I could under, [00:08:00] I understood rich white kids, it was typical, like I went to a prep college prep high school.

And so I understood how to interact with them, how to, what to expect in that environment. But, I just couldn’t relate and it was weird. It really felt, made me feel isolated. In terms of being around rich black kids because they couldn’t understand me. I couldn’t understand them. And it was it just confused me a lot.

You know what I’m saying?

Nikema Prophet: Can I interrupt for a second? Yeah. When you went to college , this college that you had the scholarship for, was it to study computer science or something else? .

Michael Brown: So that’s an interesting story. So like I. Technology for me was love at first sight and like when, in eighth [00:09:00] grade they ask, oh, what do you want to, what do you want to pursue as a career?

I’m like, I wanna be a computer programmer. And my mom was like, why do you want to be a computer programmer? You can’t make any money doing that.

Nikema Prophet: Oh, wow.

Michael Brown: And realized that her experience she’s a boomer , so like computing and her, when she was younger, when she was actually starting her career, computing was more or less secretarial work.

So it’s so she didn’t understand or grasp on to the fact that technology would become what it has become today. It’s like a sea change. It’s interesting because I got to. during the dawn of the internet and see how things were before and things are after.

It’s no one could have [00:10:00] predicted that we’d have, access to the world’s knowledge in our pocket before.

Yeah. They used to tell us like, you’re not gonna have a calculator with you all the time, so you better learn how to do the math in your head.

No, we have a calculator, we have everything

Nikema Prophet: Super computer

Michael Brown: the camera.

Nikema Prophet: Yeah.

Michael Brown: Calculator. Our, my phone is strong, is more powerful than the first computer I bought in college. And it’s just funny thinking about how, what, how the progress of technology, like basically our phones are more powerful than mainframes back in the sixties, it’s and it’s in our pocket versus a full room. But yeah, no, I did not go to college intending to do computer science. I was like [00:11:00] I did I enjoyed Greek and Latin in high school, being in a seminary, and I continued, I was like, okay, I wanna do classical studies.

And like when it came time to take our, I had to do work study as part of my my financial aid package. And I was like, okay, I could work in the in the cafeteria. I could work in the library or I could do student help desk. And so I did student help desk and one of the managers was like, why aren’t you taking Comp Sci?

You know so much about computers. I’m like, I don’t know. I’ll try it out. And so I transi, I ended up transitioning my my

Major to, or my focus to be Comp Sci. But I didn’t finish there. I like ended up leaving [00:12:00] before I got my degree. That’s why I’m like X years old trying to complete my degree. Right now, I’m I’m actually enrolled in WGU for a for a Bachelor’s in Computer science. Ultimate goal is to take my master’s in, focused on AI and language processing.

And I want to tackle the challenge of creating an artificial intelligent American sign language interpreter. So it takes in so many aspects of technology like natural language processing, video, computer vision [00:13:00] and so much stuff like that so many elements and inputs have to come in to understand

and make a good interpreter. And I think I, I don’t want to like necessarily be the first, but I want to contribute to producing that because for me technology is always about building bridges and being able to do more . And I think that’s a big bridge we can enable, like thinking of a deaf student being able to be in class and, communicate, sign language and be able to participate in class as if with no barriers, like I said. So that’s my big dream.

That’s amazing. I didn’t know that you didn’t already have a [00:14:00] computer science degree.

No, no. I will tell people that in a heartbeat because I always get, like there was someone talking about that just recently. Oh, the people who dropped outta college, they’re going to be angry when their career stagnates.

I’m like it’s been 27 years for me. I’m not seeing the stagnation yet ,

Nikema Prophet: wow.

Michael Brown: I think like technology is a field that

it is possible to succeed with without traditional, without the traditional path into it. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do is support people who wanna want to go into technology and who aren’t on the straight and narrow path because that’s, it wasn’t straight and narrow for me either,

I felt that hesitation when you said [00:15:00] it’s possible because my mind was going towards the idea of a meritocracy, which

No. Yet it’s not,

I don’t I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna say that at truth to it, I think if you’re saying it’s the pipeline issue, maybe you need to tap into some different pipes .

Nikema Prophet: So with the little bit that you’ve given us so far, I already have found. You have many lives, like you mentioned seminary mentioned, what was it, Terror Town?

You’ve got street cred. So what I don’t know, I don’t wanna get in the way of your story if you’re onto something, but like how did you get from help desk to where you are in your career right


Michael Brown: Okay. Yeah. Like I I definitely did enjoy. No. I don’t wanna say I enjoyed it because I was working [00:16:00] with a bunch of

pretentious kids who thought that, because I was working for them, that, they could talk and behave however they wanted. But no, I went, my first role before I, I did an internship at the school, which was the first time I ever made anything over $10 an hour.

It’s like I didn’t know what to do. We were staying stuck on campus all summer. And it’s a small town. The closest town was like two hours away, and that was Albany or major city. And so we’re stuck we’re stuck on campus all summer with way more money than I ever had before. And I spent it all buying magic cards all summer

But [00:17:00] no it was we were building websites for nonprofits, for the school and alumni association specifically for me. And, I’m like, okay, I guess my mom was wrong about not getting paid because… and the next summer I did an internship with a hospital, a hospital network that in Chicago as a associate network administrator, like I was actually helping helping users with login issues, storage issues.

So I did, I went from help desk to network administration and then got a full-time offer from that. I’m like, okay. Not [00:18:00] done with my degree, but pay and get more in depth, or I can make more than I ever made before, than anyone in my family was making at the time. I said, okay, I’ll take option B and, I think I, I skipped out of town just ahead of being expelled anyway.

So yeah, I, I did that, but I always wanted to, push more into into into software development itself. Like I start, like I ended up a few jobs later actually getting my first software role. And it’s funny, it was for a a startup that was basically

What would it would be like a Zoom almost. Like It would, [00:19:00] the idea was to do live, live video webcast. Between like communicating with people. So and we were really early. If we had actually succeeded, we would’ve been the first in the space. Unfortunately the CTO of the organization was a scam artist.

So like he wrote, he said he wrote up this, . Well, he didn’t write up anything. He copied someone’s thesis paper and said, yeah, I’ve made a I’ve made an encryption and compression algorithm that will make it the most secure video stream ever. So we’re building up the, the application where, you know we are using real networks sdk, [00:20:00] which.

if you . I don’t think, I don’t think… They have a I believe a building in downtown Seattle still, but I don’t know anyone who uses them anymore. But we were using Real Networks SDK to create a streaming platform, basically. And so the client took away, like creating the, a stream on using the real media server.

It was like a production operation. So like we, we made a client that simplified that and a front end server that made it all easy to set up that connection from one person to another. And we had a friends list where you could say, click on, I could click on your name and set up a video.

like that. [00:21:00] We had it working. And while we’re demonstrating this to the CEO the CTO makes this comment like, oh yeah. It’s using my algorithm right now and I’m confused because I was working with all of the code. So I had done all of the code and not once did I write a compression

or a call to a decompression in the code. So how is it using your algorithm? Like you can’t just sneak it in there and, it just magically work. At some point we have to like, operate with it. So I’m not saying this cuz I’m like, man, terrified because I’m like, okay, if this guy, I just didn’t know what to do or to say because it, it was like obvious dude was [00:22:00] scamming.

And eventually he picked up that, that I knew , that he was on something. And so he made up this whole scenario where he started yelling at me and threatening me. And he is yeah, if you don’t get out here, I’ll call the police. Wait, what? . And so he told the rest of the team that I was threatening him and yelling at him.

And I’m like that’s not what happened. And, one of my coworkers we’re still in touch with each other. He’s wow, man. That is the. Craziest thing I’ve ever been through. I’m like, I don’t know it. No one, he’s like, I’ve told people about this and no one believe believes me . But yeah, it was like it went from being so promising to yeah, blowing [00:23:00] up because

dude was more intent on keeping a scam alive than like, “hey we’ve got something working. We can actually make a run with this.” But yeah, and then like I became somewhat of a journey man after that, and the hard thing for me is I. I have a sleeping disorder, and what is this thing called?

Sleep apnea. And it requires medical in intervention to, to care for it. And one thing about the US health system is that without insurance, you’re not really able to afford it. . And a lot of companies when you join them, they’re like you’re on [00:24:00] probation, so you don’t get access to the plan yet.

So by the time probation is over, they’re like you’re falling asleep. I’m like, yeah, because I have a health condition, and I can’t take care of it because I don’t have the money or the insurance approved yet. Yeah. It’s, it is, it’s a chicken and egg. And it, it’s difficult to deal with with health or other disabilities in America’s workforce because, it feels like the only value people see in you is how much money they can make

off of you. And once, it’s like I pushed myself to, to be at the pinnacle as a consultant, cuz [00:25:00] like I eventually went into consulting, not because like I wanted to be my own boss. It’s because at that point, the main reason to not be a consultant is for job security, but I didn’t have any because of my health.

And so I said, okay, if I’m not going to make that trade off for something that I don’t get in return. I’m just going to be like, pay me . So like as a consulting, like your rate, you get paid a lot more. Of course you don’t get the the job security, but I didn’t have any anyway, so since I didn’t have it, I said, okay, I’ll just get the take the higher pay.

But it’s difficult because again, as a consultant, no one’s going to say, oh yeah, that thing you did. It works so well. It’s so great. [00:26:00] What have you done this week? It, it was, it became a really bad cycle and it was depressing for me. It’s like I almost ended up being in technology

went from like my dream job to like almost being a trap. It’s I felt like, what else can I do and make the money that I make. And it was, the answer is always nothing. It’s and like I have a, like I grew a family and I couldn’t just oh, let me switch careers now, so I don’t know.

It’s, it’s been a journey, and eventually as a consultant, I ended up moving into doing CL work in the cloud and that drew Microsoft’s attention [00:27:00] and like suddenly realize, okay, employment in general doesn’t suck. It’s just. Finding the company that actually does what they say.

It’s so many times I’ve heard we invest in our employees and , it’s just talk and there, this is the only time, this is the only career or job I’ve had that I felt that was true.

Nikema Prophet: Yeah. When you were talking about that first startup and the CTO being like wilding out. It just made me think about how insecure it can feel to work at a startup.

If you were to go back do you think that if you knew that the big company experience could be what it is, that you would’ve pursued it earlier?

Michael Brown: Oh yeah. So make no doubt I [00:28:00] pursued Microsoft since I was in college. It’s

Nikema Prophet: oh wow.

Michael Brown: I actually applied here five times and got a no five times.

The sixth time Microsoft reached out to me and , it sounds so wild. But I was like, I went through the first interview and they’re like, oh yes, we’d like to invite you up for for a round of, technical interview. I’m like, I told my wife. I’m like, I don’t think I should go. And she’s Why won’t you go? I’m like, because you know it’s going to be a no again. Why? Why would I want to put myself up for that? It’s and she’s you get a free trip, at least to Seattle. You love Seattle. And I’m like, but it’s not free. Cuz I gotta pay. I get paid hourly. , if I don’t work, I don’t get paid.

So it [00:29:00] costs me money to go to Microsoft. And she like, no, just go. You’ll have a good time. I know you’ll enjoy yourself. It’s fun. I think almost like the fact that I was going there with no, no, no expectations that I would get the offer. It made me more calm and relaxed and I was able to shine through and the

I guess they liked me , but no, I also feel like I experienced a lot of, the typical gatekeeping in my prior interviews, of course, like having to do the white whiteboard coding quiz, it’s like, I don’t know. I just, I understand. [00:30:00] No, I don’t, I’m trying to understand it.

It feels more like that the whiteboard coding and those technical screens are more of a eliminator, like you have way too many good candidates, so you have to find a way to, to winnow it down.

But, it’d be great if that was, if there was no bias involved. But there’s always bias, like in terms of what questions are asked, how many questions are asked what do you consider a good answer? Because you could get to an answer, but it’s not the one that the interviewer was thinking of. I had, like I, I answered one and

the guy was like, Hmm, interesting. I’m like, oh yeah. How would you approach it? He’s I’d do it such and such. And I’m like, oh, yeah, I didn’t think about that [00:31:00] because I was writing on a whiteboard. I didn’t tell him this, but I’m writing on a whiteboard on a problem that just was presented to me, and it’s I have no compiler. I have no Google. I have to figure this out on my own, on the fly in front of a stranger who’s judging me. Go figure . And so, like I’ve had colleagues with a little less melanin than us who said, yeah, I’ve never been asked to do a whiteboard coding

Nikema Prophet: oh wow.

Michael Brown: We had an interview and they gave me an offer. I’m like, oh, must be nice. Must be nice.

Nikema Prophet: So what was it that kept you coming back though? Cause you did 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 interviews before that.

Michael Brown: So each time the first time was, like for internships [00:32:00] and one, one of the intern, tech recruiters came to campus and I went and interviewed with him and he was like, okay, we’d like to bring you on.

of course that didn’t work. Cause and I’m like, okay that’s the internship. I think each time after that someone had invited me to oh, you should interview for this role. It was never like me, like trolling and saying, oh ooh, I’d to do that. One time when I was an mvp for WPF.

Someone mentioned, Hey, we’re doing, we’re hiring for the for the WPF Designer and Visual Studio team. It was called Cider back then. You should come in because, this is your space. I’m like, yeah, I should do that. And so I got interviewed and [00:33:00] it’s okay so at one point in the interview, And I remember every question that I’ve been asked in the interview.

So one question was implement a no, “i to a” turn a integer into a string, or was it “a to i”? It was”a to i”. Cuz I I could do that “i to a”. Implement “a to i”, turn a string into an integer. Or was it “i to a”? It was “i to a”. And I froze, I couldn’t even think of like where to start.

And I was like, my mind was like, oh, it’s something to do with bits and so maybe I need to do some bit manipulation. And the guy’s just looking at me and he is, Okay, and of course, like [00:34:00] it didn’t even dawn because like I had solved “a to i”, which, turned a string into an integer and “i to a” is just a reverse of that.

So like “a to i” you take the first letter, turn it into its number representation, multiply it by 10. Add the next letter to it, blah, blah, blah, until you get to the end.

Nikema Prophet: Oh, it’s just now coming clear to me, what the problem is.

Michael Brown: And so the reverse of that is you have let’s say you have 19,411.

You look at the first digit.

So there are two ways you could do it. The long way is you divide it out until it’s less than zero, right? Divide by 10 until it’s less than zero. So now you know how many digits to multiply by, and then you say, okay, multiply it by 10, [00:35:00] you get the one and then multiply it by 10 again. 19 and multiply it by 10 again, you get, and just do that using modulus.

Nikema Prophet: Okay. I thought I understood that question, but I would have no idea.

Michael Brown: Yeah.

Nikema Prophet: What to do .

Michael Brown: Right! And so this is what I’m being asked to do on the fly on the whiteboard

Nikema Prophet: on the whiteboard

Michael Brown: and my brain just froze, it’s like, oh my God. And another time I was invited by a former colleague who I worked with, and it was his team, the team that he was on, he then controlled the team who was interviewing and yeah , it’s, it was an interesting event.

Let me say that.

Nikema Prophet: If you could redesign the Microsoft interview , how would you find candidates that [00:36:00] are suitable?

Michael Brown: That’s funny because I was part on a project called Rosa that we ran in our organization. So the funny part about Microsoft, everyone from the outside Microsoft looks like just this big giant company.

Internally, it’s like an umbrella company with like maybe a dozen or 20 or so self-contained companies. They work together. They coordinate, they affect each other. There’s a big ecosystem there, but,

They all have their own different like culture. Their own different style of work, everything. So our organization was called [00:37:00] CSE, commercial software engineering. And during that same summer, a group of black employees in CSE came together and said, we want to focus on making our hiring practices more inclusive.

And I joined that effort and one, we had a number of recommendations. One of them that has turned into a pilot program throughout the company. One recommendation I gave was like given an option of a rather than, whiteboard coding and a series of five interviews, five, one hour long interviews that start that I’ll start with,

tell me about yourself. So people don’t understand, like for the interview. , I’m just meeting [00:38:00] you . So I want to get like a quick introduction. I’ve, at the end of the day I’ve told five people about myself and about what I’ve done and answered questions about random points on my resume that, and it’s like I said maybe we could consider a panel style

interview where I don’t have to waste my time doing, repeating myself five times over. Like it’s intimidating, cause now you’ve gotta be a, you’ve gotta be good at talking to a total stranger. You gotta be good at technology. You gotta be, you’ve gotta have so many skills to shine in the interview and.

for instance, I have not once had to write I to A at Microsoft, [00:39:00]

Nikema Prophet: right?

Michael Brown: Go figure. I haven’t had to implement my own queue or implement a queue using stacks or any of those questions that have been asked over . Like I, I thought, one thing we could do is provide a take home assessment.

And of course that’s gonna lean toward people who have the time. But I also think it would take the onus of On the spot demonstrations.

Nikema Prophet: Yeah.

Michael Brown: Of tech technical skill off of, off. So it’d be an option rather than this is how we do it, this is an option, you can do it in a panel style or you could do it via via the series.

Of interviews and so that’s, that, that’s how I would approach it. And even [00:40:00] better than that is like if someone has source code on GitHub or something that they’ve done just to talk through that make of the decisions they’ve made how they would change it, not necessarily having to

to create something new based on the spec, but you’ve got something that you’ve already created and talk about it. Like demo, that’s what we care about is can you talk about a technical solution and explain it to, to another per- a peer in your field. That’s what it boils down to.

And removing some of the stressful agents of the. of the interview processes is what I want to do.

Nikema Prophet: can you share like what you do in your current role at Microsoft?

Michael Brown: Yeah. [00:41:00] We we work with customers to help them basically get a jumpstart as they transition to the cloud. So it’s, I would almost call it like a sales engineer.

A customer says, Hey, we want to do this. We have this initiative, and we help them prototype it, but we also work with the customers. So rather than doing it for them we actually embed into their teams and build the solution with them so that they, by the time we step away, they have an understanding of it.

and can’t, are capable of of maintaining and growing it from there.

Nikema Prophet: That’s a really interesting role and it’s not one that we talk about a lot in our tech [00:42:00] twitter streets . I think there’s a lot of focus on learning how to code for web development and we talk a lot about that, but yeah, I’m excited to hear more.

the different kinds of roles that we could have in our tech careers.

Michael Brown: Oh yeah.

Nikema Prophet: Also, I cut you off earlier at the beginning when we were talking about the Juneteenth conf. Did you want to go into more detail or history on that or about what’s in the future version?

Michael Brown: Oh, sure. So we’re still executing the plan to host host our first in-person conference in Chicago. I sent out a, I sent out a tweet, like an email and blast to, to find volunteers to help do it all. Because, [00:43:00] basically what happens is like a bunch of people come together when it’s time to do the to do the conference.

and then they disperse. And it’s like I gotta gather ’em all together again. It’s like it’s tragic because sometimes people give their work emails and my emails campaigns bounce off because they’re no longer with their old company. And that’s sad. But no I think I’m excited because, Chicago’s my hometown and Chicago pride is a big thing.

It’s I love being able to show off my city and I wanna show it off to, to the conference. We got some great submissions great speakers who are coming through. And I just want [00:44:00] to continue the continue the celebration that we started in 2020.

For me, like I’m looking at the conference right now as a fundraiser as well for the organization. Because, I started I started the idea of a of a internship program for, and we’re looking at doing it for high school students and the idea being that we can, we could, work with them to expose them to technology careers and not, and you know of course there’s the fact that it’s not, like you just mentioned, it’s not just coding.

There’s ux, there’s, graphic design, project management, so many other roles that go into to [00:45:00] creating software. And you know, a lot of people just assume oh, I’m not math inclined, I’m not technology inclined. And that’s, there, there are other spaces to fit in there.

And the idea is to is to give them not just a bootcamp, but almost like a like I said, an internship where we provide ’em a stipend. And so that, like I said, I’m thinking a lot about how would I like to have been helped as a younger person, like getting more exposure to what’s possible in tech.

If I had known more about it, even in high school or younger, I would’ve been able to say mom, it’s not just, it’s not just like what you thought it was. There’s so many other opportunities. But [00:46:00] being able to provide them with knowledge and resources about the field as well as , being low in a low income child.

Being able to have money in my pocket from a

From a activity that actually would lead to a, professional development would’ve been amazing. It’s and we’re landing on around a thousand a month for the student. Plus a plus a technology package. Give them the computer, look, give them, stuff they need to get started.

So there’s nothing in their way, because [00:47:00] a lot of people assume that. For if you’re working at McDonald’s, that’s just for like pocket change, or, and it’s that’s not the, that’s not the reality, it’s like people are support their kids. A lot of my friends, a lot of my friends working in McDonald’s, and my when I was in high school as well they were doing it to to help the family, that was going into the family pot and it’s The, we’re trying to make as much impact as possible, with the stipend, with the training and of course with mentorship, and by the time they’re done with high school, they’ll have enough knowledge of the career and of the field.

I think even before high school, I think. After their first year, of being in the [00:48:00] program, I think they should be able to transition onto actual paid projects. And that’s the next step, is to look for partner companies to to to help us in terms of finding finding paid work for the interns under guidance, of course.

Nikema Prophet: What I like about that is it addresses the so-called pipeline problem, which we know is not really the problem. But it also to me it feels respectful towards the intern. Like you’re getting them involved on this level where, Hey, we picked you, you belong here, we’re gonna pay you for your work.

There’s insecurity and yeah, I guess insecurity will suffice, but for people [00:49:00] who are like my age, who are switching into this career and coming from a non-technical background, people feel like they don’t belong and then you’re treated like you don’t belong, and then you’re treated like you’re lucky to be here.

Yeah. So I like the idea of getting people used to the idea that they belong and that they are going to be paid for doing their good work.

Michael Brown: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Like I said, it is, like I said, as, as much as possible. It’s what would’ve helped me at a younger age.

Nikema Prophet: So is there an open CFP for the Juneteenth comf or is

Michael Brown: it No, we closed it off.

Nikema Prophet: Okay. .

And when does that happen? This year?

Michael Brown: So we are looking at June 15th and 16th because the 19th is a [00:50:00] Monday and the 18th is Father’s Day. So we don’t wanna interfere with that. But we think the weekend before, would be a good opportunity for people to gather and celebrate.

Nikema Prophet: Yeah, so we

actually are at the end of our time, which is like amazing

I’m really glad that you came and like you’re my first guest and I wanted to ask you about your background and also. Do you identify as a nerd or a geek? And which one, if any?

Michael Brown: So I’ve definitely I was called a nerd quite often as a kid, so like I was the kid who was getting as in science and math and , but no

But I also I’ve embraced geek culture as well. It’s like you see my my array of [00:51:00] board games and magic cards. I’m both .

Nikema Prophet: What’s the difference? Do you know? Is there a difference between nerd and


Michael Brown: I think nerd is… I was definitely a know-it-all, and and flaunting my know-it-all in this, and I think sometimes nerds have social interaction issues, I was nerdy, definitely.

But, like geek, I think geek is around cultures. It’s like I’m a board game geek. I’m a comic book geek. Like I’m like having a bunch of fun with with the MCU because all of the stories I’ve read when I was younger are just like coming on screen now.

It’s like, ah, but. Yeah, I think I think [00:52:00] that’s the sole difference between ’em, it’s like about you could be a geek without being a nerd. You could be a nerd without being a geek, or you could be a nerd and a geek .

Nikema Prophet: Very cool. But yeah, thank you so much for joining me. I don’t even know how to end this thing, but that, I guess that is the end of episode one with Michael Brown.

Michael Brown: Yeah, that was great chatting with you.

Nikema Prophet: Hey, this is Nikema from the future. This was the first podcast episode recording for the, our voices podcast. And I really didn’t know how to end it still working through. The learning process of. All of this. But, yeah. Thank you. Thank you for listening. If you made it this far and [00:53:00] extra special, thanks to Michael Brown for being

my first guest. Even though, um, they will be coming out kind of out of order because I published. An episode. Before this one will be. Um, that we recorded on Twitter. So, but this was my first interview. So super special episode. And thank you for being here for it.

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