Getting to Know the "Ladies In Tech At Turner" (LiTT): An Interview with Shavonn Brown

Welcome to the second installment of LiTTeral, Turner’s interview series featuring the Ladies in Tech at Turner (LiTT). LiTT is an organization and community that supports women technologists at Turner. Their mission is to increase retention and recruitment of women in tech through compelling and authentic programming and engagements.

Today LiTTeral brings you Shavonn Brown, interviewed by fellow LiTT member Maigh Houlihan. Shavonn is a senior web developer at Turner, who was also recently announced as one of the winners of the Spring 2017 ATL Thinks!

Maigh: How long have you worked here?

Shavonn: I have been here—this time—for a little over a year. I was here before four years ago on a six-month contract working on NBA. When it ended I was like, I’ve got to get back to Turner because I really like working there. Everything is so nice. That’s coming from a contractor, not even a full-time employee with benefits, and I still thought it was awesome. I actually met my boyfriend here.

Maigh: You did?

Shavonn: Yeah.

Maigh: So you're full-time now?

Shavonn: Mm-hmm. I came back on contract and then someone left the team and I was like, "Hey, can I get in that role?" And I got it.

Maigh: Good for you. So have you always been a developer?

Shavonn: Yes.

Maigh: You're pretty young. You're a baby.

Shavonn: I am not a baby. I just look really young. I taught myself some code when I was 15. I had two kids in my early twenties.

Maigh: Justice and ...

Shavonn: Arianna.

Maigh: Pretty names.

Shavonn:  Thank you. Shortly thereafter I decided to become a police officer, but that didn't work out well.

Maigh: Was that in Atlanta?

Shavonn: Clayton county. I graduated from police academy and got really worried about dying. So I was like, well ...

Maigh: Your kids ...

Shavonn: Yeah, that was a large part of it. And it was weird to have a gun in my house.

Maigh: So it wasn’t a good fit.

Shavonn: Yeah, I had stopped going to school because with the police work it was too much. So then I went back to school and worked retail for a while, but I couldn't maintain my grades so I left school again. I got my first office job through a referral of a friend of a friend. So that's how my career began.

Maigh: That's awesome. And here you are.

Shavonn: I'm in a senior position now.

Maigh: That's pretty badass.

Shavonn: Ingenuity.

Maigh: That's right. So you've been full time about a year?

Shavonn: Yeah.

Maigh: So I will give you two fun facts: If you ever get a flat, security will help you change your tire. And if you walk out late, security will walk you to your car.

Shavonn: Well I try not to be here late. I live in Roswell and I really hate traffic. The first time I worked here I used to live really far, in Jonesboro at my mom's. Traffic had me so stressed out my body would hurt all the time.

Maigh: So what do you do now?

Shavonn: I leave early so I don't have to worry about it.

Maigh: Do you ever van pool?

Shavonn: No.

Maigh: I think about it, but I haven't.

Shavonn: I don't trust it. I have kids and if something happens to one of my kids, how do I leave? My kids always have doctor appointments. I have a cancer survivor and I have a girl who's had two foot surgeries, and now we've got braces, which is a whole other thing in itself.

Maigh: Justice had cancer?

Shavonn: Yeah. Actually, working at NBA saved my life. I was working at MFG.com, which was my first office job, and I heard about the Turner job. I didn’t think I could get it. I don't have a degree, but I went in there and, honestly, I lied my ass off. There was stuff I really didn't know, but I was like, "Yes, I know that." And I got the job. I was making the most money I had ever made in my life. Six months later my son was diagnosed with cancer.

He had a lump under his arm. They biopsied it and he was diagnosed with lymphoma and started treatment. I was flipping out because I was like, "Oh my God, how am I going to do all this?" My kids stayed down with my mom and I was staying up here in a rented room so I could be close to work. I didn't have a car and I was going to have to take him to treatment every Friday, plus other appointments. So one weekend, my boyfriend at the time took me buy a car and I drove my son every week. And then I was like, well, I'm never going to be able to move out of my mom's with my kids on this salary. So I put my resume online. I did a phone interview for NBA with Julia Wester and she liked me. My recruiter called to say I got the job and I started crying in my car. I was like, "You have no idea what this means." Because the medical bills, in spite of insurance, were piling up. So after I started here, it was all good. About a month before my contract was over, he stopped treatment. He was cancer free.

Maigh: Little stud muffin.

Shavonn: Yeah. I was able to move to Buckhead and had my kids in a good school. We were living in a nice area, a nice apartment. We were good and that was all because I came here.

Maigh: That's awesome. Wow!

Shavonn: Yeah ... I really, really like my job. I like the sites, the property itself. I love my team—I like everybody on my team, which I think is rare.

Maigh: You're with NCAA.

Shavonn: Yeah, I work with Chip Harlan.

Maigh: So do you do for fun?

Shavonn: I code a lot, which is silly. I’m also in college part-time. I still don’t have a degree. I've been taking two classes a semester for the past three years. I'm a junior now. I actually didn't graduate from high school. I stopped going to school because I got pregnant my last year. The school that I went to kind of shamed you out of staying, so I went to an independent study school. I'm very good at teaching myself. Then I had my baby and then I couldn't go back for a while, and then I had another baby, so I was like, well screw it. I'm just going to stay home and take care of these children because childcare was so expensive that for an hourly job, you'd just be working to pay for childcare. I thought it was important to stay home with them.

Maigh: How long did you stay at home with them?

Shavonn: Four years. My son started kindergarten and my daughter just started pre-K when I went back to work. It was awesome to be able to do that with them. I got a GED when I was 24 and started college.

Maigh: What is one thing you think people should know about you?

Shavonn: I don’t quit.

Maigh: You're not a quitter.

Shavonn: Never quit anything. I might say I'm going to quit, but I won't do it. Can't do it.

Maigh: That's a good trait. Grit. Okay, so favorite food?

Shavonn: Cuisine or dish?

Maigh: Both.

Shavonn: I love Mexican food. And the steak at Stoney River.

Maigh: Is that the name of a restaurant?

Shavonn: Yeah.

Maigh: Are you outdoorsy?

Shavonn: I like the outdoors. I go day hiking, but don’t stay overnight outside with bugs and stuff. No way.

Maigh: Are you a sports fan?

Shavonn: WNBA.

Maigh: Okay. Is there a favorite team?

Shavonn: Atlanta Dream. I’m a fan of the Braves and Hawks, and I was a fan of the Thrashers when they were here.

Maigh: Any advice for somebody just coming to Turner or just starting out in IT?

Shavonn: Open your damn mouth. Do not sit in a meeting and be quiet when you have an opinion just because you're young and have less experience. There is no reason why you cannot say exactly what you are thinking if you can articulate why.

Maigh: That's key. I also think—you have this trait but you don't even know it—it’s important to seek answers.

Shavonn: Yes.

Maigh: A lot of times in meetings it's not just giving your opinion but asking the question.

Shavonn: Yes. That's also very important. When I first got here, people were talking about stuff that I didn’t understand. But you don't want to just sit there and know nothing. That's not going to get you anywhere. I'm always asking questions. There's nothing wrong with asking. Always say something. I used to think, "Oh you're young or people think you're stupid because you're kind of pretty." Stuff like that. I still get shocked faces when I tell people what I do. I'm like, Really? Are we still doing that?

Maigh: Yeah. We are still doing that.

Shavonn: I've actually worked in marketing.

Maigh: Yeah, because you're pretty.

Shavonn: That's stupid.

Maigh: Yea, you couldn't possibly be smart. That's so funny.

 

To catch up on the first LiTTeral story, click the link below:

Issue #1 - Maigh Houlihan