Today’s communities are rapidly innovating at a rate that most can not keep up with and has brought with it an ever-increasing demand for a highly specialized and technical workforce capable of communicating effectively, designing meaningful experiences, managing new technology, creating secure solutions, and new ways of working. In 2019, LinkedIn’s analysis of job postings determined that the most in-demand skills were in technical categories like UIUX, Blockchain, Sales, Artificial Intelligence, and Business Analysis.
Growing up, Dishaun Phillips never thought much about getting involved with tech.
“I was intimidated, I didn’t have anyone to tell me what I did or didn’t know”
He took an audio engineering course, and upon completing the course’s pre-test for software development, scored a 3% on the initial exam. That failure didn’t discourage Dishaun though, it just pushed him further. Today, Dishaun works as an audio engineer for Just Off Broadway Theatre, and mentors youth interested in getting involved in tech just like he once was. Dishaun also serves as the National Chair to the Society of Hispanic and Professional Engineers working with the NSA, US Marine Cyber Command, JP Morgan Chase, and others on innovation challenges and cybersecurity capture the flag challenges.
Born and raised in Kansas City, Dishaun attended Lincoln College Preparatory Academy in KCMO, attended Missouri Western State University for a year, before transferring to Metropolitan Community College. Dishaun landed his first internship with Code Koalas, a Kansas City-based web development agency. And shortly after that, met Quest and Rebecca from Block Knowledge.
“I knew that being connected with Quest would allow me to take my computer programming and tech skills to the next level. And the first time we sat down, we ended up talking for two hours straight.”
The highlight of being involved with Block Knowledge?
“Getting to be a part of the community more. I joined Quest for meetings at city hall, sat down with the Mayor’s team, got to give my opinion on opportunity zones, digital divide, workforce development, and opportunities to see what was going on in my city”
One example of this was Dishaun’s introduction to the Opportunity Zones project, spearheaded by the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City, MO. Upon attending a meeting, Dishaun spoke up in a few of those meetings, sharing his perspectives as a Black man who grew up in the same areas and neighborhoods being discussed for the project.
“That’s the reason I keep Block Knowledge around, Quest and Rebecca care about the community, even though they aren’t from the community they’re serving, but they want to make a difference and help people.”
In the past few years, Dishaun has benefitted from just being around the organization, getting to meet new people, and going out to events and meetings with the team. Even being able to just listen in on phone calls and see how everything works have been beneficial. Deshaun's question for a lot of these projects remains the same: it sounds great, but what’s the actual process and what will the end goal really be?
Dishaun is a fan of the details, and for him, it’s the little things that matter. Because it’s those pieces that lay the groundwork for the future. For instance, Quest, Block Knowledge CEO went to Microcenter on my first day to purchase a new laptop just for me, not a work laptop, but something that I can level up on because my laptop could only function if plugged in only. I have witnessed Quest do stuff like this countless times for others within the community. If he can help, he will pull it from his own wallet and give back.
“Being able to interact with the Block Knowledge classes firsthand, getting to meet the teachers, speakers, and students, all of those small pieces and relationships are the most important part.”
His involvement with tech and web development can be boiled down to his love for what he calls, “The Development Rollercoaster”.
“The Development Rollercoaster is this: you go up, up, up slowly: building and planning and creating an idea. Then you get a win, which is the drop, and that’s fun and exciting. But you get to the next incline, and you’re working your way up all over again, just trying to figure out what you don’t know yet.”
His advice for entering the tech industry or creating your own product? Just know what you want to do. Take the Block Builders program and hang out with Quest, He got the juice!
“What’s your end goal? There’s lots of good information out there to get started, but make sure it’s good information for your goal because there’s a lot of different information out there as well. Just make sure that throughout the trial and error, whatever you started to do in the beginning, you get that (or close to it) at the end.”
Block Knowledge’s Startup Studio is a Kansas City-based venture builder sponsored by JP Morgan & Chase, Kapor Center, and Kauffman Foundation. In the past five years, Block Knowledge has worked to support, incubate, and launch more than 102 companies. Block Knowledge has assisted these companies in locating an additional $5 million in funding through local funds, grants, angel investors, and community resources. We have assisted one founder in exiting their company through a Merger & Acquisition.
As a startup studio, we are committed to providing resources to founders struggling to validate their business ideas, launch a new product, and or raise funding. Block Knowledge places an emphasis on assisting founders from diverse and underestimated communities.
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