LaShana Lewis - CEO
CEO and Entrepreneur
“People want to tell me that I'm one in a million. But I know I'm one of millions.”
LaShana Lewis wanted to work with computers. Easy enough, you’d think. She thought so, too.
After high school, LaShana attended university to study computer science, but found the experience discouraging. She was surrounded by students who came from more privileged backgrounds and who didn’t look like her. A woman studying computer programming was unusual enough, but less common was a programmer of color. One of her classmates assumed any black person in the field was hired because of affirmative action.
College was a ten hour drive from home and eventually, LaShana’s family couldn’t afford the cost of driving her back and forth. Though she was forced to leave school just a few credits shy of her degree, her professors were confident she could secure an entry-level job as a programmer or a field representative fixing computers. She applied for hundreds of computer-related jobs, but never even got an interview.
“I knew I had the skills, and recruiters agreed, but it didn’t seem to matter. One recruiter literally told me that even though I was able to do the work, I couldn’t be hired because I did not have a degree.”
Instead she spent years in a series of low-wage jobs. At every job she found herself pulled into tech work that should have come with higher pay, or worse, overlooked for jobs she was essentially already doing. Once, as an after school van driver she optimized an in-house database. Another time she stepped into an open teaching position to help out, but was passed over for the full time job. Why? Because she didn’t have a bachelor’s degree.
Her big break came when she discovered LaunchCode, a nonprofit that provides free tech training and paid apprenticeship placements at companies that recognize a bachelor’s degree is not the only way to develop skills. They helped LaShana get an interview at Mastercard, who offered her an apprenticeship and later a full-time position as a systems engineer.
After Mastercard, LaShana went on to become chief technology officer at a company that provides coworking spaces for traveling workers, and director of aerospace IT at a drone-tech company. Today, she is C.E.O of her own company, L. M. Lewis Consulting, where she works to enlighten more companies on the benefits of building a more diverse workforce.
She doesn’t define herself by her education, her resume or in comparison to anyone else. She is an entrepreneur whose core belief is in an individual’s innate capabilities.
“For me, it was about where I am in my head, heart and entire being.”
“I heard throughout my life, ‘wait until you have the right credits, degrees, lifestyle before moving forward. That, in my opinion…seems like Bullpucky!”
LaShana’s story reveals the path of so many STARs whose financial means are limited but who draw on a resource money can’t buy: faith in themselves.
- Partial college completion
- Launch Code Apprenticeship
- On-the-job experience
Top 3 Skills:
- Software engineering
- IT management