• Anita Mogaka

Nadiyah Johnson is Changing the Landscape of Milwaukee’s Tech Startup Ecosystem

Born, raised, and educated in Milwaukee, Nadiyah Johnson was first introduced to the limitless opportunities of tech by her father who encouraged her to try her hand at computer science.

Since graduating from Marquette University with a Bachelors in computer science and Masters in computational science, Johnson has been engaged in STEM fields through research, academia, corporate and now in the tech start up space.

Over the course of what she now calls her STEM journey, Johnson has seen a pattern of lack of representation in the field. “In 2017, I heard that there was significant effort put forth to turn Milwaukee into a tech hub,” Johnson said. “I would visit events around this effort and be the only Black person there. This pushed me to start my social impact software company which aims to address the lack of representation in STEM, particularly Milwaukee's tech startup ecosystem.”

Johnson’s software company, Jet Constellations, formed the Milky Way Tech Hub initiative as an effort to create a tech hub that mirrors Milwaukee’s diverse population. “This is a grassroots effort led by the people and fueled by strategic partnerships,” Johnson said. “Our most recent and significant partnership is with American Family Social Impact Institute. They are working with us to empower diversity in the startup ecosystem in Milwaukee.”

But things haven’t always been easy for Johnson. “Toward the beginning of this journey, I was not as confident. But I’ve gotten past those barriers with a little bit of grit and a lot of grace from God,” Johnson said. “Now I'm able to navigate these barriers by leveraging my tribe that I've found along the way and constantly reminding myself that I not only belong but I'm needed here.”

Johnson’s work ethic and grit continues to be prevalent in her work through the Milky Way Tech Hub Meetups, monthly events where people who are interested in becoming involved in STEM or are already heavily involved in STEM come together and discuss various topics and strategize on how to further drive diversity in Milwaukee's tech ecosystem.

Additionally, on November 16th, 2019, Johnson will be hosting a pitch competition, The Milky Way- Tech For Good Pitch Out, to inspire people of Milwaukee to leverage technology to uplift the community.

Johnson moderating her 2018 Startup Week panel, Changing the Culture of Stem

While this work may seem like a heavy lift for most people, Johnson says she’s learned to not allow people to project their limitations on her. “People say ‘You can't do both, you can't run a business and work a 9-5,” Johnson said. “I constantly have to remind myself that the limitations that people have set for themselves does not apply to me. I remind others by proving them wrong.”

Johnson continues to prove the naysayers wrong and has been featured in TMJ4, Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, MKE Tech, and The Moguldom Nation.

You can stay connected to The Milky Way Tech Hub through Johnson’s blog, Slack community, and podcast, Down to Mars.

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