HerStory Moment with Dr. Erika Tate

It’s Women’s History Month and this month the HerSuiteSpot blog will feature interviews with women leaders and entrepreneurs that talk about how they found their SuiteSpot in our HerStory Series. We recently sat down with Erika D. Tate, PhD, Founder and CEO of Bluknowledge LLC to learn more about her and how she got started as an entrepreneur in this HerStory Moment. Here is what we learned:

When you began your career many years ago, did you ever imagine that you would have a leadership role in this profession/organization?           

Not at all. I started my career as a computer engineer in Silicon Valley without much knowledge about technical career pathways. Through a series of discoveries and pursuits in education and research, I came into my own as an entrepreneur who designs and studies learning experiences in schools and communities and uses my research skills to support mission-driven organizations and efforts to change the world for good.

Who is a role model that you look up to?            

I am very much inspired by the late Zora Neale Hurston. In addition to being an author, she was a researcher who studied communities with rigor and respect. When sharing her reflections and findings, she made sure to honor the voice of those she studied. And I love that she knew her calling and was confident in her capabilities. This allowed to persist through challenges and stay committed to her craft until the very end of her life. Because of this, her stories became a gift to the world.

What are the benefits to having women in leadership?

“When women are in leadership positions, it creates space for more voices and broader perspectives. Women in leadership usually have the power to amplify the needs AND desires of women. I’m not saying that women in leadership speak for all women. But the more women in leadership, the more women who are speaking.

Because women are daughters, mothers, sisters, and aunties, they can bring more attention to family — whether caring for children or other loved ones, and how policies affect how women show up at work and in their families. They can highlight and address gender disparities that have affected them or those they know and love. Women in leadership can give us more models of compassionate and inclusive ways of leadership and mentorship.”

What has been your most significant barrier to leadership and how did you handle it? 

“Visibility. As an entrepreneur, I am the leader of my organization, Bluknowledge. I shape the vision, establish the culture for my small, yet growing team, and monitor and manage how we progress toward our goals. I definitely believe in my ability to be a leader in the space where equity, learning, and technology intersect, but sometimes it feels as if my leadership gets limited to my team, clients, and collaborators.

So, I took some advice from my business coach (Marsha Guerrier) and created my own platform to make visible my leadership. I create weekly video messages to share my vision, strategy, and progress with a wider audience. I write articles and design resources related to instructional equity. I produce and host a livestream show that showcases equity work and those who perform it and broadcast to a larger community. Slowly, steadily I am growing my reach, my leadership and most importantly, my impact.”

What is something that you are immensely proud of?   

“I’m proud of my ability to persist even when challenges are trying to take me out! It’s like a superpower. But I also feel pride in a very specific fearlessness that I have about trying new things (using new technologies, sharing my emerging thinking, asking people I kind of know to help me, etc.) in very public ways.

My rationale? The worst thing that can happen is that I learn not to do it again. And hey, now I know one more thing to share with others!”

What qualities make a great leader?     

“Courage to share their ideas and thinking with others and to speak up and out against wrongdoing and injustice,

Passion for what they’re doing and leading so they can persist through challenges, which are inevitable,

Ability to encourage and accept feedback from others,

Strong belief that people can learn and change with personalized support and encouragement,

Inspirational because they have to do more than talk about change, they have to compel people to change their thinking and actions.”

What do you believe will be the biggest challenge for the next generation of leaders?  

To break through the noise! We are bombarded with information, ideas, and possible solutions every minute of every day. The next generation of leaders who are committed to making the world a more just place must figure out how to manage media and message in ways that didn’t exist before. And they have to make people feel like they know and trust them while everyone else is doing the same. Because what remains true over time is that people change when people they trust ask them to and make it worth their while!

If you could try another job for a day, what would it be?

I would be a journalist/data visualizer who travels the world!

If you could give your 18-year-old self a piece of advice, what would it be?         

Any advice would have probably been helpful. I was so brand new! But if I was to choose one piece of advice, I would encourage my 18-year old self to be more open with people about my emotions. In terms of happy emotions, I was definitely a bringer of joy! But when situations or relationships became intense or less positive, I struggled to articulate that and often closed the lines of communication, which sometimes ended relationships that could have added value to my life.

What is your favorite book or what book are you reading now?               

I am currently reading (listening) two books: Little Gods by Meng Jin and Brag Better by Meredith Fineman. And I just finished Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie.

Where can we find you on your day off?              

Hiking or riding my bike, in my backyard with husband and kids gardening and eating grilled meats, or binge-watching dramas (by myself if I can make it happen!).

More about Dr. Erika:

Dr. Erika D. Tate is the energetic, passionate, and inspiring founder of Bluknowledge LLC, a learning firm that advances equity in schools and communities. For over 20 years, she has worked to positively change education and community health through research, design, and evaluation. Her learning brand, LoravoreⓇ Learning by Bluknowledge, empowers school and community educators to design and deliver equitable and effective learning experiences.

Dr. Tate has an excellent reputation for designing and delivering interactive, community-building, and practice-changing K-16 professional development across the country. She has published and presented on topics related to equity, STEM education, digital learning, and instruction and assessment design, including a book chapter on Designing Science Instruction for Diverse Learners. Recently, she has launched Remix EQ Live, a livestream show that amplifies equity through a mix of information, interviews, and inspiration.

Dr. Tate earned her ScB in Electrical Engineering from Brown University and her PhD in Education in Mathematics, Science, and Technology, from the University of California, Berkeley. She is encouraged by my loving husband, Richard and two energetic toddlers, Katherine and Elijah. Together, they enjoy backyard gardening, cooking and cooking shows, travel, and exploring nature, science museums, and zoo.

Connect with Erika, click here.

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