May 2024

College Degree Not Always Needed for High Paying Tech Jobs

Someone once told Tracye Mingo, “Don’t get mad when you are underestimated. Be glad. Because they will never see you coming.” That person was her father and number one mentor. Tracye carried those words throughout her career in technology, ultimately becoming the Vice President of Technical Operations at Comcast California.

For parents eager to see their children pursue a career in STEM, Tracye’s story is especially inspiring because she was able to pursue a high-paying career in technology without obtaining a degree from a four-year (or longer) college. This saved her significant time and expense, and enabled her to seize opportunities to propel her career forward quickly.

As a Black woman in Technology, Tracye defied the status quo, harnessing courage and fearlessness to take nontraditional paths to success. From growing up in the South Side of Chicago with limited access to equitable education opportunities to experiencing racial bullying in the suburbs, Tracye learned to face challenges with resilience, determination, and support from her family.

Tracye was usually the only African American woman in the room. She began her Comcast journey over two decades ago as a customer service representative and worked her way up to management and director roles, thriving in spaces where she was the only woman of color.

Join us as Tracye shares her experiences with breaking barriers and creating representation in a traditionally male-dominated industry.

How did you become interested in technology?

I was in college at the time for Pre-Med and simply could not afford it anymore. I had to leave school and go back home and regroup. I took a job a Comcast so that I could pay my tuition at the local community college. That was around the same time the Internet started taking off and I developed a keen interest in technology. I was successful in my role as an agent and was asked to train new hires. This gave me the opportunity to leverage the technical skills that I developed in my role and refine them. I had a keen understanding of how the telecommunication infrastructure was designed and I had to continue to expand my knowledge so that I could teach it. After moving into a supervisor role in tech support, I developed a passion for leadership in technology.

What advice did you receive from your parents to help be in a leadership role?

My parents guided me to strike a balance between fighting for change and doing so with diplomacy. My father was thoughtful, smart, and intuitive. My mother was a fighter; she is a spitfire. I learned from her to not accept the status quo and to challenge things that are not right. You’re not always going to win, but you will always learn how to be better prepared for the next round.

Along with your father, you had a mentor in your colleague John Thompson. How did his mentorship help you find your voice in the tech industry?

Sponsors and advocates are important because they often see more in you than you see in yourself. John encouraged me to move into spaces where I did not think I belonged because of the limits I put on myself due to my experiences growing up. I was fortunate to have a leader who served as a coach – he saw my potential and inspired me to get out of my comfort zone.

What motivates you to be a fearless leader?

My people, my team. You can’t be in leadership and operate from a place of fear. It’s important to support my team and advocate for them to remove obstacles so they can do their best. This doesn’t mean I am not afraid, but my motivation is bigger than my fear because there are hundreds of people’s livelihoods at stake.

How do you cultivate courage in yourself and others?

When I am afraid, I think about the worst possible thing that can happen then, I make a plan for that, a safety net. So, if the worst does happen, I have a solution. The more you practice doing this, the more confident you become and the more you realize the worst never happens.

What are some of the greatest achievements you have had in your role?

My team went through many changes due to restructuring prior to me landing here. They were hard-working but tentative. I spent my first year unlocking their confidence, leadership ability, and fearlessness. Now it is a world of difference. With that comes a tremendous improvement in KPIs, and it validates my belief that if you take care of your people, they will perform and the business results will come.

How does it feel to be part of a company that invests in their local communities?

Comcast makes an impact in our communities, including our very own teams. Comcast creates lives for people. The opportunities afforded to me, and the openness to uplift people from all walks of life, made a life for me that I would not have had otherwise. That is the story for a lot of us. On top of the great volunteer work we do throughout the year, that direct impact is special to me.

Do you participate in any community organizations?

I am the Executive Sponsor for the Women’s Network Employee Resource Group at Comcast, and I joined the Black Women’s Project in Oakland. I also sit on the board of the Ecologic Outreach of Chicago, which is an organization that teaches At-Risk youth about Urban farming, healthy eating and cooking.

Why is representation important in the tech industry?

I learned how to thrive when I was the only woman of color in tech spaces, so I understand the importance of representation in the workplace. Recently I met a little girl when our team volunteered at the San Francisco Boys & Girls Club in Hunters Point. She pointed out that her hair was like mine and she was curious about what I did for a living. I explained to her how I helped provide the Internet in her home. I could see a light go on within her. Often, we say, “you have to see it to be it,” and I had that kind of moment with this young girl. She might see more possibilities for her future because of the representation that I am honored and privileged to provide. That moment was very humbling because it embodied that idea that “representation matters.” It is important for young people to see themselves in others. It helps them understand that their opportunities are limitless.

What advice do you have for young women of color pursuing a career in STEM?

Many times, women are afraid of STEM because it is male-dominated. Don’t hold back your uniqueness, your femininity, and your way of thinking. Men and women at times think differently and approach problem solving differently. There is no right or wrong. When different perspectives intersect, you can find the best ideas and solutions! You need a level of fearlessness and understanding that it is ok to be scared and do things anyway. You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to be ready to get started.

By Brad Kava

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