April 19, 2024

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Black History Month Spotlight: John Imah’s Rise in Tech

Courtesy of BPM-PR Firm

As Innovation & Tech Today celebrates Black History Month, we are thrilled to spotlight an individual breaking barriers and shaping the future of tech. 

John Imah is a Nigerian American entrepreneur and tech innovator. Making waves comparable to Elon Musk, John operates behind the scenes with a trailblazing approach. Securing executive roles at industry giants such as Snap, Meta, Samsung, Twitch, and more, John has co-founded and successfully exited two companies before beginning his current venture.

Below is our conversation with John. He explains how his role in reshaping the tech industry, the influence of his Nigerian American background, and which historical figures in Black history have made a lasting impression on him. 

Innovation & Tech Today: Given the statistics on African American representation in the tech industry, how do you see your role as a changing face within this landscape?

John Imah: As I navigate the tech industry, my journey as an African American has evolved into a deeply personal mission to champion diversity. Each achievement along this path isn’t just a professional milestone for me; it symbolizes hope and possibility, serving as a beacon for future generations. It’s a testament that the tech world is accessible to all, transcending barriers of background or color. This role of change agent is more than a job—it’s a calling, where the goal is to lay down the foundational stones for a more inclusive tech landscape, one where every young dreamer can see themselves reflected.

I&T Today: What challenges have you faced as one of the African Americans in executive roles in companies like Snap, Meta, Samsung, and Twitch?

Imah: Holding executive roles at Snap, Meta, Samsung, and Twitch presented a spectrum of challenges, each a lesson in resilience and leadership. Among these, ensuring my voice was heard and that my seat at the table was deserved, not just given, was pivotal. 

For instance, early in my role at Meta, I led a cross-functional team on a critical project that was under intense scrutiny. The challenge wasn’t just in the project’s complexity but in demonstrating my leadership amidst seasoned veterans skeptical of my unconventional approaches. By committing to excellence, encouraging open communication, and highlighting the unique strengths of each team member, we not only succeeded but also set a new standard for collaboration within the company. 

This experience wasn’t just about securing my place as a leader. It was about paving the way for those behind me, showing them that hard work, vision, and humility can break down the tallest barriers. Acting as a role model, I aimed to inspire my team not just to meet expectations but to exceed them, creating a culture of success and innovation.

I&T Today: How has your Nigerian American background influenced your character, work ethic, and approach throughout your journey in the tech industry?

Imah: My Nigerian American heritage is a rich mosaic of values, beliefs, and traditions that deeply influence my character and work ethic, instilling in me a relentless pursuit of excellence and a profound respect for community and collaboration. 

This dual heritage guides my disciplined, goal-oriented approach to life, particularly in how I start my days around 4-5 a.m., embracing the quiet of the early hours for clarity and planning. It’s a time dedicated to strategizing on achieving both immediate and long-term objectives, free from the day’s distractions. 

This routine is a testament to the values of hard work, perseverance, and relentless goal pursuit instilled by my heritage. It underscores my commitment to innovation and leadership in the tech industry, pushing the boundaries of the possible and redefining what it means to lead with integrity and vision.

Courtesy of BPM-PR Firm

I&T Today: How do you see your role evolving in the coming years, both in the tech industry and potentially in your fashion-related endeavors?

Imah: Looking forward, I am excited about the possibilities that lie at the intersection of technology and fashion. I envision leveraging AI and other cutting-edge technologies to forge new paths in creating inclusive and personalized consumer experiences. 

This isn’t just about merging two industries. It’s about reimagining how we connect with one another, how we express our identities, and how we celebrate diversity. The prospect of mentoring the next wave of leaders and advocating for a tech industry that mirrors the diversity of our world fills me with an immense sense of purpose and anticipation.

I&T Today: As someone breaking barriers in the tech industry, what strategies or initiatives do you believe are effective in advancing diversity and inclusion?

Imah: Achieving a more diverse and inclusive tech industry is a journey that demands dedication, creativity, and action. Mentorship programs, inclusive dialogues, and equitable hiring practices are essential, but they are just the beginning. These efforts must be underpinned by a genuine commitment to change and a willingness to challenge the status quo. The satisfaction that comes from seeing tangible progress, from knowing that your actions are making a difference, is unparalleled. It’s about creating a legacy of empowerment and innovation where everyone has the opportunity to contribute and succeed.

I&T Today: Are there particular figures from Black history who have inspired you in your career?

Imah: Reflecting on the impact of pioneers like Katherine Johnson and Mark Dean fills me with admiration and gratitude. Their stories are not just historical footnotes. They are vibrant reminders of the power of determination, intellect, and courage in the face of adversity. They inspire me to persevere, to continue breaking down barriers, and to never lose sight of the impact one individual can have on the world. Their legacy is a constant source of motivation, urging me to strive for excellence and to pave the way for others just as they did.

I&T Today: As we celebrate Black History Month, what message would you like to share with aspiring entrepreneurs, especially those from diverse backgrounds, who may face unique challenges in the tech industry?

Imah: As we celebrate Black History Month, my heart is full of hope and encouragement for aspiring entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds. Embrace your unique story, for it is your most powerful asset. Let your perspective be the lens through which you view challenges and opportunities. The road to changing the industry landscape is undoubtedly filled with obstacles, but remember, it is through facing these challenges head-on that we forge a path toward a more inclusive and equitable future. Your journey, with its ups and downs, is what will inspire the next generation to dream bigger, aim higher, and achieve greater.

African Americans remain underrepresented, comprising only 5.27% of tech professionals and 9.01% of technicians, with a mere 1.92% in leadership or C-level roles. John’s journey, rooted in his first-generation immigrant experience, exemplifies resilience and determination. His mantra, “aspire to inspire before you expire,” reflects his commitment to inspiring people of color to enter the tech sphere.

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By Lindsey Feth

By Lindsey Feth

Managing Editor, Innovation & Tech Today

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