Design Your Career for Social Good

Dwana Franklin-Davis

Top technologist offers tips to thrive in a changing workforce

In 2020, “if there wasn’t a tech component to your business, those businesses really struggled.” That’s according to Dwana Franklin-Davis, CEO of Reboot Representation, a coalition of leading technology companies. Funded by a Melinda Gates company, Reboot Representation aims to double the number of women of color technologists by 2025. Franklin-Davis was speaking at a career social hour on March 8, International Women’s Day.

The event was the first in a social hour series hosted by the Institute of Diversity Sciences (IDS) at UMass Amherst on the theme “Creating Pathways to Social Good in Your STEM Career.” The event drew 30 students from various backgrounds and majors—including first-year students to seniors majoring in fields as diverse as biology, computer science, psychology, business, hospitality, chemistry, political science, engineering, public health, and environmental conservation.

Donning a shirt emblazoned with “Empowered women empower women,” Franklin-Davis shared the story of her career and offered advice on how students can secure internships, develop their personal brand, and network. One student moderator, Serena Chan  ’21 (Computer Science) expressed, “It’s incredibly inspiring and important for me to hear about a fellow woman technologist’s journey.”

Franklin-Davis offered these takeaways for how to thrive professionally:

  1. To build a successful career, you need to develop your own personal “board of directors”—a chosen group of mentors, coaches, and sponsors who will provide candid feedback that you can trust. They are key to learning about opportunities, areas of growth, and how to handle obstacles, including microaggressions.

  2. Remember that mentorship is a two-way relationship. Bring your strengths to the table. Make sure your mentor benefits from your relationship as much as you do. Ask how you can help your mentor reach their goals.
  3. Lean in, know that your differences are your superpowers, and don’t be afraid to ask questions!

By combining her studies in business management and technology, Franklin-Davis is applying her talents to level the playing field for women of color in technology, a mission she cares deeply about. “Dwana shows how every student can use their college education to design their own career to ensure social impact,” notes Nilanjana Buju Dasgupta, director of IDS and professor of psychology at UMass Amherst.

Bringing together people from different disciplines for a common purpose is a signature of IDS, whose mission is to advance equity through multidisciplinary STEM research. The institute unites faculty, students, staff, business leaders, K–12 teachers, policymakers, and other professionals from nonprofits to conduct research and design evidence-based solutions to promote equity in health, learning, work, and adaptation to climate change. IDS hosts research seminars and funds team projects dedicated to each of these themes.

One of the ways IDS promotes equity is by providing avenues and mentors for students who are traditionally marginalized—women, people of color, and first-generation college students, among others—so they can thrive in their STEM education and workplaces. The IDS social hour fulfills this mission by bringing UMass students into conversation with professionals from a variety of professions and diverse identities who work in industry, government, or nonprofits. Students learn about different career paths, receive advice on how to launch their early career after graduating from UMass, broaden their professional network, and learn how they can advance social good through their STEM career. The institute will host two speakers per semester. In April, IDS hosted Christine Fraser, alum of UMass Amherst, and Senior Vice President of Strategy and Operations at Dell EMC.

In response to a question from student Abigail Guinan ’22 (Biology) about what “social good” means to her, Franklin-Davis said that her battle right now through Reboot Representation is to work for equity in STEM. She is professionally and personally dedicated to lifting others up. She added that she is “her ancestors’ wildest dream.”

Learn more about the IDS “Creating Pathways to Social Good in Your STEM Career” series.

To stay informed about events hosted by IDS, sign up for the institute’s biannual e-newsletter.