Part time skater and full time techie, Torion Johnson knows all about the time it takes to master your passion. For the past few years, he's spent time perfecting his software and hardware skills, making waves and building connections within the Kansas City tech community.
WHAT MADE YOU PURSUE A CAREER IN TECH?
I believe it stemmed from my love for video games, which then branched to my love for electronics. I grew curious about how these things actually worked on the hardware and software side, which led me to pursue this career in tech. Just the thought of being able to build something from an idea is amazing to me.
"MY PASSION FOR TECHNOLOGY AND KNOWING ALL THE POSSIBILITIES I COULD ACHIEVE IN THIS FIELD KEEPS ME HIGHLY MOTIVATED."
HOW DID IT FEEL STARTING OUT WITH LITTLE EXPERIENCE? WHAT KEPT YOU MOTIVATED TO KEEP GOING?
For me, having little experience was nerve wrecking because you want to do well, but at the same time you’re excited to start working on a project! I feel like as long as you’re willing and open to learning, you’ll thrive in this field. I love learning, and in this field, there’s a plethora of material to learn due to all the new things developers are creating on a daily basis. My passion for technology and knowing all the possibilities I could achieve in this field keeps me highly motivated.
HAVE YOU FACED ANY BIASES BEING A MINORITY IN THE TECH INDUSTRY? IF SO, HOW DO YOU OVERCOME THESE?
Fortunately, I haven’t faced any biases with being a minority in this field yet. The owner of the company I currently work for is an East Indian woman! The team here is pretty diverse and well-rounded. It's actually the most diverse team I've ever worked on so far, and I love that about this company. So far everyone's been nice and open to learning each other's different cultures.
HAVE YOU FOUND ANY MENTORS ON YOUR JOURNEY? HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT MAKING THOSE CONNECTIONS?
BEING FROM KANSAS CITY, IT'S COMMON TO HEAR OTHER BLACK MILLENNIALS COMPLAIN ABOUT WHAT THEY FEEL IS A LACK OF OPPORTUNITY. DO YOU AGREE?
I don’t personally feel there’s a lack off opportunities for young Black professionals here in KC. It depends on the person honestly. From the tech perspective, they actually look for minorities. You have to have the drive. What has helped me overcome and find my own success is my will to be great and succeed in life.
WHAT FUN PROJECTS HAVE YOU GOTTEN TO WORK ON WITH THE NEW OPPORTUNITIES COMING YOUR WAY?
I worked on an app called League Ally for the new Hy-Vee Kemper Arena. It was made for organizations to book times to use their basketball courts and etc. Recently, I’ve got on a project with Cerner. We’re building a web application for their clients to customize their dashboard for their customers to make appointments, check-in, etc.
AT WHAT POINT IN YOUR CAREER SO FAR DID YOU FEEL LIKE, "WOW, I'M ACTUALLY DOING THIS. I'M ACTUALLY REACHING MY GOALS AND SUCCEEDING."
As soon as I got hired on full time. I just had my first meeting with the Cerner team I’ll be working with, talking about everything we’ll be working on. I can’t be more excited for my future and all the experience I'll obtain. I'm excited to make more connections.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST IMPORTANT KEY TO YOUR SUCCESS?
Never give up and keep a positive attitude. I think the hardest part about entering the IT field is getting in. You feel like having little experience goes against you, but you just have to find that company that's willing to work with you and help you build that experience. Once you’re in, you can pretty much go wherever. At one point, I actually had to decline positions, which I didn’t expect. I just had to get my foot in the door.
WHAT ARE YOUR LONG-TERM GOALS IN TECH?
My long-term goal is to one day become a lead, lending my knowledge to the future up-and-coming programmers, and then eventually become a senior director of an IT dept.
"YOU DON'T HAVE TO FOLLOW THE NORM.
LIVE YOUR LIFE FOR YOU AND NO ONE ELSE."
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A YOUNG BLACK BOY INTERESTED IN GAMING, COMPUTERS AND OTHER STEM RELATED THINGS?
I would encourage him to be himself and not to let anyone else's opinions become a fact. You don’t have to follow the norm. Live your life for you and no one else. I was never the typical Black dude. When I lived in Louisiana I was the only Black skater, but I did it because I liked skating. I've always been smart and liked math and science. People would try to compare me to being a White guy because I skated, but I ignored it and began surrounding myself with people who enjoyed the same things.
Photos by Myles Vann