Welcome to GlobalForce Insights! Our official blog, where we will highlight the work GlobalForce Tech Consulting and our partners are doing to effect change and solve problems in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities through innovation, safe and secure technology solutions and processes. In our inaugural post, GFTC CEO & Principal Consultant Qyana M. Stewart celebrates GFTC’s recent second anniversary. She reflects on her journey as an entrepreneur committed to inclusive solutions and a stronger, healthier, and more equitable society.
What is an entrepreneur?
I recently conducted a Merriam-Webster dictionary online search for the definition of the word “entrepreneur.” I have been thinking lately about my own experiences and was curious to know how Merriam Webster’s definition matched mine.
Merriam-Webster definition: Entrepreneur – One who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.
I stared at the screen for what seemed like hours, thinking to myself, “this definition doesn’t address any of the experiences I’ve accumulated over the past two years.”
It does not adequately describe:
- The high-highs and low-lows that come with running a business or a startup.
- The deep loneliness one experiences when doing something outside of the norm – how going against the grain from what everyone else is doing can be incredibly isolating and exhausting.
- The tremendous sacrifice entrepreneurs make, giving up their personal lives, losing connections to friends and family, and throwing themselves wholeheartedly into the unknown.
- The unrelenting loss of sleep.
This definition doesn’t really scratch the surface at all. Insert record scratch: If Merriam Webster’s version doesn’t define the word well, what does?
Over the past two years, I have made some dramatic changes in my life. In January of 2019, after five years of professional struggles in tech – what I refer to as “the dark years,” I decided I had enough and quit my job as a product manager at a behavioral health software company. I had only been there for six months. My exit is the stuff of company legend and one that really tickles me when I think of it now. However, what is most important is that I had had enough – I quit, or more like, I chose me.
Far too often, women are told, either directly or indirectly, that we aren’t in control. That we aren’t good enough, powerful enough, that we need to be led – shown the way by men. I’ve always rejected these notions, but readily admit that when you’re beaten over the head with them repeatedly, even the most resilient person breaks.
I had no idea that I was assuming a new title before I even quit my job, one that I would ultimately learn to embrace – entrepreneur. I founded GlobalForce Tech Consulting, LLC, in 2018 while working full-time at said job. I had one client and was generating revenue before the company even had a name. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing or how I would do it, but what I did have was a vision and an indestructible belief in myself. Fighting year, after year, to make a round peg fit into a square hole was obviously not working, and that struggle was killing my soul – it was killing me. My voice was on mute the five years I worked in software. It was stifled and dying to be set free. It was desperate to speak loudly and boldly, be heard, listened to, and sought after. It wanted not validation but rather, confirmation of its right – to be.
What made those years dark is what I have come to learn since then. What happened was not unique to me but is part of a systemic culture of how women, especially women of color, are treated in the tech industry. There are tons of stories we’ve all shared about these experiences, and I’m incredibly proud of the movement that’s taking shape in support of women and their stories and even more proud of the communities that are rallying around us with encouragement, support, and allyship.
GFTC is officially two years old, and I could not be more ecstatic to bear witness to all our accomplishments during this time. In the past two years, we improved mental health treatment access for teens and young adults by developing a behavioral health mobile app, challenged media networks to think critically about diversity, inclusion, and accessibility when developing digital products through our work with Hearst Television, and, last month, actively contributed to discussions with members of Congress about the importance of broadband access for all Americans. We then celebrated a big step in expanding technology access with the most recent television white space decision from the Federal Communications Commission that will provide broadband connectivity for millions of underserved Americans and will bring us another step closer to closing the digital divide.
Over the past two years, we have remained steadfast in our commitment to ensure that other’s voices, those doing hard work to bring technology solutions to the most underserved, are heard loudly and clearly. We have worked to uplift fellow entrepreneurs, especially women, through mentorship here in the Washington, DC-area, and across the globe (more to come on that!). It is fitting that we celebrate another milestone – the launch of the GlobalForce Insights blog – during Global Entrepreneurship Week. Here, we will talk about the work we are doing, the challenges we’re facing, and the opportunities we’re creating as innovators with a commitment to more just and equitable technologies and technology industry overall.
Every day I wake up with passion, excitement, deep appreciation, joy, and, more importantly, with the knowledge that I made the right decision – to shed the weight of those dark years for this new and improved version called freedom! This freedom allows me to continue building GFTC, GlobalForce For Girls, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and minted, an EdTech platform (stay tuned for more information on both in a future post). In the words of LL Cool J – We are doing it and doing it and doing it well!
So, what is the definition of an entrepreneur?
Here’s my definition: Entrepreneur – A person with immense vision, passion, and resolve that assumes all the personal and financial risks associated with managing an innovative business or venture that exists to solve complex problems with the expectation of a sizeable and scalable return.
Perhaps it is time to reach out to Merriam Webster for a discussion.