Building a Supportive Community with Black Tech Columbus

Photo provided by Black Tech Columbus
Photo provided by Black Tech Columbus

We celebrate and recognize Black history and excellence year-round. And, as we launch into Women’s History month, I had the honor of meeting up with Jariatu Mansaray, a dynamic, visionary trailblazer, and one of the co-founders of Black Tech Columbus – a nonprofit social enterprise with the mission to provide the Black community access to and opportunities in the tech industry, while helping remove barriers in their effort to pursue them.

Vicki Bowen Hewes: Greetings Jariatu! Can you share the Black Tech Columbus origin story? 

Jariatu Mansaray: Hello, and I’m happy to! Black Tech Columbus is a nonprofit organization founded in 2018. Doug McCullough, who at the time was the CIO for the city of Dublin, called together 11 Black tech leaders to discuss our shared experiences in the tech industry. We were all going to networking events and conferences and not seeing a lot of people of color in the room, and then having that same experience at work, being one of the few, or the only person of color. We wanted to nurture a community of people who look like us, so we reached out to our collective networks and invited everyone to a happy hour event, and 200 people showed up! The response to our outreach really validated that there was a need for our community to have a space that supported and recognized our diverse talents. From there, we started hosting regular meetups, professional development events, and an annual conference. 

Since that time Black Tech Columbus has grown to around 2,000 members.

And now, we continue with monthly meetups, which usually focus on educating and training about different tech career paths, skills and technologies. 

This year we are excited about expanding our services and bringing back our annual conference that was postponed due to the pandemic. 

Jariatu Mansaray - Photo provided by Vicki Bowen Hewes
Jariatu Mansaray – Photo provided by Vicki Bowen Hewes

VBH: Thank you for that background and for your vision, hard work and resilience – it’s really inspiring to see the Black Tech Columbus community grow tenfold! I’m curious about your experience as a woman in the field. Tech has had a reputation for harboring a ‘bro’ culture. Is that a Silicon Valley thing, or is it also present in the Midwest? 

JM: Tech definitely has a very heavy bro culture, especially when a lot of that culture is driven out of startup culture from the West coast – grinding, hunting and building funding. The Columbus technology culture has prided itself on not being a bro culture, but there’s still work to do to make it an inclusive culture. At Black Tech Columbus, we’re dedicated to creating environments that engage people who think differently, move differently. People who are innovative, who like to take risks, a place where people feel welcome and embraced.

VBH: Is advancing gender equity in the field of tech a priority of the organization?

JM: Absolutely. Of the 12 Black Tech Columbus founders, the majority of us were women. Traditionally, when you think about technology or software developers or technologists and even tech founders, you don’t typically think of women, even though there are a lot of women that are making plenty of strides and have been since the dawn of computing. We don’t get seen in that light. And so we have been very intentional about engaging a variety of underrepresented groups.

VBH: There have been a lot of high-visibility layoffs in the tech industry, how do you interpret that and what do you see on the horizon?

JM: Technology is like any business sector – always exploring new products, new features, new ways to engage with customers, new ways to provide value to users and customers. Businesses are trying to figure out their models and what makes sense. And we see fluctuation in employment just because some of it is still very experimental. 

Ultimately, it can be unsettling, especially if you get caught in the middle and are laid off. I think there’s a natural ebb and flow of being willing to take risks in certain markets. Tech companies are taking big risks, and facing the reality of the economy, that some of those risks aren’t sustainable right now. 

Photo provided by Black Tech Columbus
Photo provided by Black Tech Columbus

VBH: We learn more about Intel coming to the region daily, and the recent news about The Ohio State University software development initiative reflects the ongoing growth of tech in Central Ohio. How do you envision Black Tech Columbus intersecting with that growth?

JM: Central Ohio has been really great about making the connections and making the investment in bringing technology here. From a physical standpoint, we’re in a great physical location for a lot of industry – the region has fairly mild weather, affordable cost of living, and travel is easy in general. Columbus has done a good job positioning the region as an ideal place to bring and foster business. As far as the Black tech community is concerned, we’re advocating for Columbus making investments in DEI and the workforce, the same way that they’re looking at investments in industry. 

VBH: There’s significant growth forecast, with MORPC projecting Central Ohio is on track to reach nearly 3.15 million residents by 2050. What are some of your visions for Black Tech Columbus’ future?

JM  We’re dreaming big because we believe in this work and this mission. We see Black Tech Columbus being a center for innovation when it comes to the workforce – being a pillar of the community, having a strong funding base and strong support for people who are trying to get into and advance within technology. We aim to have strong relationships with the major organizations in our region to ensure that our efforts are aligned and effective, to make sure that the funds are going to the right people and amplifying impact in the community.

We’re excited to expand the types of career paths and contribute to elevating Central Ohio being known as a region for innovation with a reputation of cultivating diverse and talented candidates. And we envision a building, a physical location for people to come to and see and to learn and experience community, feel what it means to be a part of Black Tech Columbus. When we’re together, the energy is dynamic. People want to continually be involved because there’s a feeling of acceptance, understanding and support. 

Photo provided by Black Tech Columbus
Photo provided by Black Tech Columbus

VBH: That makes so much sense, as that work continually builds awareness, engagement and support for the mission. Aside from the revenue earned from consulting and memberships, how can individual donors, civic contributions and corporate sponsorships advance and amplify the impact of Black Tech Columbus?

JM: As a nonprofit, every dollar contributed and every donor makes a difference. We want everyone to know that it’s okay for you to contribute at your capacity. A lot of times people become hesitant because when you talk about diversity, equity and inclusion, and undoing some of the systems that have created inequities that exist right now, it feels very big and overwhelming. We encourage people to contribute at the level of their capacity. Maybe that’s contributing funds toward a scholarship or training. Maybe it’s corporate sponsorship. Maybe it’s volunteering. If the question is in your mind and heart at all, then please give what you can for where you are, and know that it makes an impact.

VBH: How can people learn more – I believe I heard about an event you’re hosting in the spring. Can you share info? 

JM: We’re excited about our brunch coming up in May, and we’re modeling it after the Roc Nation brunch. We want to break the stigma that technologists are what you might stereotype as dry people. I’m a self proclaimed nerd, but I don’t live in jeans and hoodies. I have a very vibrant eye for fashion and a love for creativity, as do so many others in our community. We want to take it up a notch and create enthusiasm, welcome style, energy and excitement about Black Tech Columbus! We’re also hosting our signature conference in the fall, and welcoming sponsors now for both the brunch and the conference – there are many ways to support Black Tech Columbus and be part of amplifying talent, diversity, equity, inclusion and access. Please visit our website, reach out, and follow us on social to learn more!

VBH: Thank you so much for sharing about the important work you’re leading at Black Tech Columbus and your enthusiasm for our community, Jariatu! We can’t wait to see what’s next and we’re rooting for you!

For more information, visit

The monthly social enterprise feature on The Metropreneur is sponsored by Meliora Community. Founded in 2023, Meliora Community is a movement focused on the pursuit of better, together. Sign up to learn more: