GLAAACC Women in the C-Suite honoree Sheila Marmon

In celebration of Black women who have persevered and broke through the tech industry’s glass ceiling, the Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce hosted its 6th Annual Women in the C-Suite.

Four women who beat the odds and operate successful businesses in the seemingly impenetrable technology industry “spilled the tea” and shared their tips and triumphs to a capacity crowd at the London Hotel in Hollywood in early November.

GLAAACC Chairman Gene Hale welcomed the crowd and said that he and GLAAACC’s Board of Directors created the Women in the C-Suite Conference to recognize Black women whose contributions to the greater economy often go unacknowledged, as well as to provide a space for women to uninhibitedly network, exchange information and share best practices.

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“During the pandemic, 41% of all African American businesses across the country went out of business permanently. Seventy-five percent of those were women-owned businesses,” Hale said. “There’s work to be done and we’re here to help.”

Keynote speaker and GLAAACC’s 2023 Women in the C-Suite Trailblazer Honoree Sheila Marmon is founder and CEO of Mirror Digital, Inc. an interactive media and advertising company focused on connecting brands to the growing U.S. multicultural market. Marmon’s 15 years of experience in new business development, digital media development, strategy and planning has made her a leader in digital marketing.

Women in the C-Suite moderator Celeste Alleyne (far L) talks to technology leaders (L -R) Nielle Cook, Jola Washington, Cassie Betts and Qiana Patterson. (Courtesy photo)

In her keynote address, Marmon stressed that in business and in life, pursuing your passion is more important than the passion itself.

“The common thread to success is launching your business and going for it,” Mormon said.  “If you don’t go out in the world and try to make it happen, if you don’t shoot your shot, you can never win because you are not even in the game.”

Microsoft Director of Executive Engagement and External Talent Celeste Alleyne moderated Women in the C-Suite’s panel of four technology executives.  Alleyne leads Microsoft’s internal “talent agency” ensuring the company’s senior executives and external talent (celebrities, hosts, thought leaders) have a positive and successful event experience – both digital and live.

Alleyne led the four panelists through a series of questions regarding overcoming challenges, how to select a sponsor, the tech economy, code-switching, brand building, and the role of artificial intelligence.  Each executive conveyed key lessons learned on their journey to the C-Suite.

Panelist Cassie Betts shared her story of going from homeless at 19 to becoming a leading advocate for women and minority-owned businesses. Betts is a self-described serial entrepreneur and the founder of Made in South LA, where she trains youth and young adults to become software engineers.  She also hosts the KBLA 1580 AM radio talk show, “Talk tech to me.”

Betts said she has been aided in her career by women who saw her drive and championed her many ventures.   “I feel like if you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing and you keep it moving it forward, they will come to you,” Betts said.   “Success is not about the dollars in your account. It’s about completing the goal that you set for yourself.”

Nielle Cook founded Avercom Virtual Solutions, an information technology consulting and design company focused on digital conversion using customer data and social media monetization.  Cook advocates for black women to focus on their bottom line.

“I found that what was most helpful for us was revenue-focused everything. Revenue first for everything that we do,” Cook said.  “A lot of the pathways that work for traditional businesses don’t exist for us. We have to throw that away and create our own playbook.”

Women in the C-Suite panelists and organizers were, from left, Angela Gibson-Shaw, Celeste Alleyne, Jola Washington, Crystal Hale, Gene Hale, Sheila Marmon, Lily Otieno, Cassie Betts, Qiana Paterson, Nielle Cook, Jessica 0-Davis, Chanel Frampton, and Naomi Scott. (Courtesy photo)

Infotrack business consultant Jola Washington works with clients to help them focus on strengthening brand awareness and cultivating custom loyalty through digital marketing and branding. Washington said expanding business is about finding your target market.

“Find those moments to insert yourself into what your tribe is doing,” Washington said.  “You have the knowledge, share it, and a lot of times that will end with getting a new client.  Also, find those individuals who will champion you.”

Qiana Patterson, managing partner at Nayah, invests capital in early-stage companies and venture capital funds.  Prior to her 20-year career in the tech industry, Patterson was a public school teacher.  She said women have to claim their rightful share of the economy.

“Ninety-eight percent of every single dollar moving through our global economy is managed by white men.  We have to collectively work together to move and push through that,” Patterson said. “My biggest lesson is, speak loudly. Speak the truth. State facts. And do not ask anyone for permission.”

GLAAACC’s 6th Annual Women in the C-Suite was made possible by Southern California Edison, SoCalGas, U.S. Black Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Small Business Administration, Verizon, Honda, AT&T, McDonald’s, Californians for Energy Independence, California Water Association and Valero.

To see pictures of GLAAACC’s 2023 Women in the C-Suite, visit