Native American Heritage Month: Indigenous tech leaders strive to uplift the tribes |  CRN

Native American Heritage Month: Indigenous tech leaders strive to uplift the tribes | CRN

Cloud News

Wade Tyler Millward

Native American tech leaders from Google Cloud, Clutch Solutions and Second Derivative talk about inspiration from their roots and efforts to bring more Native people into the field.

For Renita DiStefano, CEO of service provider Second Derivative and a member of the Seneca Nation, growing up with women at the center of the community has been an inspiration throughout her career in tech.

Garrette Backie, founder and CEO of service provider Clutch Solutions and member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, said he uses his tribe’s philosophy of making decisions for the benefit of descendants to inform how he runs his business and helps customers.

And Jason Hinds, a Cherokee and head of Google Cloud’s customer engineering organization for North America, keeps a chalk drawing of his grandfather’s grandfather in his office to celebrate his journey.

These three tech leaders are just a sample of Native Americans who hold influential roles in IT and the channel. In honor of Native American Heritage Month, DiStegano, Backie and Hinds spoke with CRN about the influence their backgrounds have had on their careers and the efforts they support to introduce more Native Americans and underrepresented people into the world. field of computing and the chain.

[RELATED: Native American Heritage Month: Celebrating Indigenous Influencers In Tech]

Native Americans in Technology

But as we celebrate these contributions, it’s important to remember how much work remains to be done to create greater equity in technology.

Although more than 600 Native American and Alaska Native tribes in the United States make up more than 1% of the population, Indigenous peoples make up less than 0.005% of the nation’s tech workforce, according to Cisco.

Organizations working to create more opportunities in technology for Native Americans include the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), Natives in Tech, Sisterhood of Native American Coders (SONAC), The Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) and Native American Capital (NAC).

Women a strength in the Seneca Nation

According to his LinkedIn account, DiStefano founded Lake View, NY-based Second Derivative just in September. Second Derivative provides strategic business and technology alignment, information security strategies and portfolio management services. DiStefano is an IBM iSeries information security specialist herself.

She worked at Seneca Gaming Corp. — established by the Seneca Nation — for more than 16 years, leaving in September with the title of chief information officer and vice president of information technology, according to her LinkedIn.

Growing up in Cattaraugus Territory in New York State, DiStefano told CRN in an interview that families were tight-knit and women did everything from canning to beading to leatherwork. and holding community functions. He was taught that the most important person in the room is the speaker. These lessons “became the fabric of my leadership style,” she said.

“We’ve never had to ask for a seat at the table, or legislate for the right to vote, or have a say in what happens within our communities. … this kind of culture is deeply rooted in the principles of respect – respect for women that I just talked about, respect for elders, for the environment, for relationships,” she said. “I learned these things as a way of life, not just as theory on business management. But at an early age from the wisdom of elders. So that, to me, is what we call an advantage. competitive.

Groups to bring more women into cybersecurity and regional organizations dedicated to diversity in tech such as TechBuffalo are making a difference, DiStefano said.

Hiring based on someone’s experience and not an Ivy League background will also help increase equity in the field, she said.

“I’ll hire someone who’s been through adversity all day rather than someone who’s been educated in the Ivy League – not that those two things are mutually exclusive, but someone who’s had to endure and navigate the world, they have skills that you can only learn through life experience,” she said.

The seventh generation

In 2017, Backie founded Clutch Solutions – #385, based in Mesa, Arizona, on CRN’s 2022 500 Solution Providers list. Clutch has more than 1,000 vendor partners, including Microsoft, Dell, Cisco and Lenovo.

Growing up in Michigan, Backie was taught the philosophy of the seventh generation – making decisions that benefit not only people today, but also seven generations to come, he told CRN in an interview. The seventh generation is a principle among many Aboriginal groups.

The philosophy has been with him in his business practice, but he wants organizations engaged in diversity efforts to remember the philosophy. Organizations must be prepared to help Native Americans and other groups underrepresented in tech with complex issues, such as lack of access to broadband and health care, that prevent them from accessing jobs in the technology industry.

He wants changemakers to help Native Americans not because they can win financially, but because it’s morally right, he said.

“We want to be able to deliver, not a box, not a solution, but progress tomorrow,” he said. “When we talk about my tribe, being the seventh generation – what is the seventh generation to come? What are you preparing for? And so the best wish I have is that people don’t because that it’s a good time to do it. They should do it because it’s a good thing to do. And it’s not just Native Americans. It’s any culture out there that has really need a focus, money or no money. We really need to take the time.”

Her father, Robert, died earlier this year. Backie’s father financially helped the tribesmen to attend college. Backie continued his father’s efforts with a scholarship through Clutch Solutions, he said.

“We as a company have now taken this idea and named it after my dad and made it into a scholarship where we can go to tribes that may not have this position and this place and who did not do it on their own account. – but yet there are people who are qualified to be able to have a better education.

Remember where you come from

Hinds, who grew up in East Texas, told CRN in an interview that Mountain View, Calif.-based Google has an Aboriginal and Indigenous networking group whose efforts include a donation to National Digital. Inclusion Alliance, mentoring Native Americans and showing young people how they can have a successful career in technology.

“This is a group that for the first time in my career I felt like we were actually starting to make a difference in this area for the people I grew up with,” he said. he declares.

Efforts like Google Fiber’s push for internet connectivity in rural areas are also helping to diversify the tech talent pool, he said. For employers looking to help, recruiting from public schools, historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), Indigenous schools, and outside of Ivy League schools should help with equality.

“We are very, very early where we need to be,” he said. “And it’s going to take a lot of effort, but we’re getting there. And the focus is in the right place. And that’s one of the best parts of my job today.

Hinds has worked at Google for about three years and has been in his current role since January, according to his LinkedIn account.

He focuses on designing joint solutions and implementing platforms for connected devices, web applications, containerized applications, hybrid cloud, multi-cloud, machine learning, enterprise applications legacy, high-performance computing, security, and more. Its solutions are based on Google Cloud Platform, Google Workspace, Android, Chrome and other Google offerings. He works with partners and strengthens Google’s presence in the channels.

He previously worked at EY for about a year in the company’s cloud digital consultancy, leaving in 2019, according to his LinkedIn. Hinds worked at Microsoft for more than 11 years on and off, most recently leaving in 2019 as senior director responsible for the US Azure business. Central and Western regions for the tech giant’s financial services wing.

And Hinds worked at Amazon Web Services for nearly two years, leaving in 2016 as a senior manager responsible for the Specialization Solutions Architecture team supporting AWS’s global sales organization, according to his LinkedIn.

Everywhere he went he kept a picture in his office of his grandfather’s grandfather – ᎠᏓᏟᏒᎢ ᎠᏫᎢᎾᎨᎡᎯ, pronounced in English as A-da-tli-sv-i A-wi-i-na-ge- e-hi and roughly translated as “Running deer. The photo is meant to show pride in his heritage, he said.

“No one should be ashamed of where he comes from because his experiences shaped who he is and how he got to where he is today,” he said.

    More about Wade Tyler Millward

Wade Tyler Millward

Wade Tyler Millward is an associate editor covering cloud computing and channel partner programs from Microsoft, IBM, Red Hat, Oracle, Salesforce, Citrix and other cloud providers. He can be contacted at

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