[Season 2]

Best Revenge is Your Paper -Episode 026


Episode 26 – Best Revenge is Your Paper

Hosts: Dr. Jeremy Waisome & Dr. Kyla McMullen

Guest: Pamela Gibbs

Website: http://www.pamelasgibbs.com

Instagram: @pamelaDisrupts

Twitter: @pameladisrupts

LinkedIn: Pamela Gibbs

Description: From a young age, Pamela Gibbs wanted to know all the things. As an avid reader, her interest in solving the great mysteries of the world and speaking truth to power led her to pursue a career in research (and to spending a lot of time being grounded). It comes at no surprise that she ended up pursuing degrees in several disciplines, giving her a set of broad perspectives and experiences. Today, Pam is pursuing her doctoral degree while working in human factors engineering at Walmart. In this episode, we discuss family, business, banking, diversity, tech, Beyoncé, and more. Join us as she shares what inspires her to continue to learn and grow and how that’s shifted through the years.   


Bio: Pamela Gibbs has over a decade of finance, sales, business strategy experience along with 5+ years of technical expertise in the field of computer science. Her background is very diverse, she is currently working as a Technology Design Researcher for Walmart, and completing her doctoral studies in Information and Interaction Design at the University of Baltimore. Prior to that she completed dual bachelor of science degrees in International Business and Marketing as well as a Masters in Business Administration from Penn State University. Combining her technical and business knowledge, Pamela looks forward to helping dismantle some of the barriers to access regarding education, technology, and finance that impact underrepresented groups- particularly black women, while continually shattering the glass ceiling. She currently serves as a member of the Board of Trustees for the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, where she uses her platform to inspire and fuel the current and future generation of women in technology.  She is a proud wife, mother, member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated, and lover of all things Beyoncé.



Corporate-ish. Identity, Retention: Her Passion, Our Mission.-Episode 025


Episode 25 – Corporate-ish. Identity, Retention: Her Passion, Our Mission.

Hosts: Dr. Jeremy Waisome & Dr. Kyla McMullen

Guest: Dr. Denae Ford Robinson 

Website: http://denaeford.me

Twitter: @denaefordrobin

LinkedIn: Dr. Denae Ford Robinson


If you visit Dr. Denae Ford Robinson’s website you’ll learn a lot about her. One of the first things you’ll see is that she’s focused on dismantling barriers in computer science. And so are we! Denae is passionate about understanding how identity plays a role in retaining underrepresented people in tech, with a specific research focus on cognitive and social barriers in socio-technical ecosystems. We talk a lot about this and the strategies she’s seen that make a difference, including mentoring, which is just one of the many ways we seek to broaden participation in computing at iAAMCS and NCWIT.Though she’s taken her talents to industry, Denae maintains one foot in the academy. Listen in and learn how you too can pursue publishable research in a corporate environment (which is a big deal for those of us with doctoral degrees).


Dr. Denae Ford Robinson is a Senior Researcher in the SAINT group at Microsoft Research where her research lies at the intersection of Human-Computer Interaction and Software Engineering.  Her current research focuses on how empathetic mechanisms can facilitate collaboration for software engineers in online socio-technical ecosystems globally through an extended cultural lens. 

Dr. Ford Robinson earned her Ph.D. in Computer Science and a graduate minor in Cognitive Science, M.S. in Computer Science, and B.S. in Computer Science from North Carolina State University. As a scholar student athlete, she found the joy in computing and let it run from there, literally. Throughout her Ph.D. academic career, she has interned and collaborated with research laboratories including MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Microsoft Research, Stack Overflow, and Facebook Research. Her dissertation research creates and applies a framework for dismantling barriers to participation titled “Identity-Based Signals and E-Mentorship to Support Engagement in Online Programming Communities”, which cites her impactful collaboration with Stack Overflow on the Mentorship Program. 

Dr. Ford Robinson firmly believes that her research is for software developers, so to make sure they find value in it and have the opportunity to give feedback, she writes blogs: http://blog.denaeford.me. She also blogs about her time as a PhD student at http://philosideee.com . More information about her research and papers can be found at http://denaeford.me. 

She has received several fellowships and awards including the National GEM Consortium Fellowship, National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, Microsoft Research Ph.D. Fellowship, and #blackcomputer Fellowship. She was also recently recognized with the 2019 #blackcomputeHER Rising Star Award.

Passionate about pouring into others, she participates in several service opportunities including  serving on the Board of Directors for INTech Camp for Girls designed to inspire young Black, Latinx, and Indigenous girls in computing.

Working Moms Get The Job Done – Episode 024


Episode 24 – Working Moms Get The Job Done

Hosts: Dr. Jeremy Waisome & Dr. Kyla McMullen

Guest: Dr. Gloria Opoku-Boateng

Instagram: @glowhyia

Twitter: @glowhyiaOB

LinkedIn: Dr. Gloria Opoku-Boateng

Gloria Opoku-Boateng met Kyla at the 2018 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference. And Kyla knew we had to interview her to share her unique story. She started her computing education in Africa while her father was working as a missionary. In high school, she and her siblings fell in love with technology. And as a result, Gloria decided to pursue computer science in college. Since she stayed in Africa to get her degree, While she didn’t have to contend with racism, she did feel isolated as one of the only women in her classes. But she persevered and went on to obtain 2 masters degrees and a PhD! Gloria’s determination (like doing 10 internships in her PhD program) is on display throughout this episode. She leveraged all her experiences which makes for an interesting career trajectory. Fun fact: Gloria is a Mom to a 7 week old and as this episode drops Jeremy’s baby girl is now 7 weeks!

Bio: As an African-American, wife, mom, sister, and woman in tech, Gloria is not your typical black woman in computing. She grew up a missionary kid who lived in different parts of the world. She is currently in a research leadership/manager role at Amazon Web Services; leading UX and design research teams for some of the most technical services Amazon provides via cloud. Prior to her current role, she led research around Capital One’s AI/ML Platform and Identity Services. She has also worked with corporate tech giants like Google, IBM, and Northrop Grumman. Her academic tech journey started with her bachelors in computer science; continued with two masters in applied health informatics and Human-Computer Interaction, and a phD that culminates health, UX research, and vulnerable populations. She is passionate about mentoring and giving back to the community. Over the last several years, she has volunteered in so many ways to teach girls how to code, mentor UX researchers, and served in various capacities with local and regional robotics competitions. With her work and passion, Gloria has been awarded several awards and recognition. She hopes to inspire women in tech with her experience and encourage black women to ‘have it all’ through balance and patience. When she is not at work or volunteering, she is spending time with her family; catching up on her favorite TV shows or book.

Educating the Tech Workforce – Episode 023

Here’s a secret: you don’t have to get a degree in computing to have a career in the tech industry. Our next guest has degrees in physics, optical engineering, and engineering education, but none in computing. Today, she works for the oldest technology company in the world! Dr. Lauren Thomas Quigley’s story gives us the perspective that is often shared in engineering classrooms across the country, that completing a degree in engineering teaches you how to solve problems. It’s an algorithm that can be applied in a variety of different domains. Listen in to learn how Lauren’s degrees propelled her towards her career educating the tech workforce. And hear how her mentorship through the National Society of Black Engineers and beyond helped Jeremy accomplish her goals of completing her doctorate in engineering.

Ask Us Anything – Diversity and Inclusion Edition- Episode 022

In late 2019 we asked our followers on social media what they wanted to know. At the time, it was a chance to encourage participation from attendees at the Grace Hopper Celebration in Orlando in a social media challenge. But after reviewing all of the questions, we realized we should probably dive deeper into our responses. This episode focuses on answering questions related to diversity and inclusion. As Black women, we know what it’s like to exist at the intersection of two underrepresented identities in tech. We leveraged our experiences to share our take on issues relevant to us and the computing field more broadly. Our hope is that one day we’ll see a more representative tech workforce. Until then, we will keep supporting efforts that bring visibility to the need to improve the culture and climate to help broaden participation in computing in a sustainable way.

Do our answers resonate with you? Tell us how using #ModFigsPod.

The “Secret Sauce” – Episode 021

Dr. Juan Gilbert is passionate about diversifying computer science and the professoriate. He is a first generation college student whose parents instilled in him the value of education. Juan purposefully chose to be a scholar-athlete but by serendipitously became a computer scientist. His attempts to avoid graduate school obviously didn’t pan out and we are so grateful. Learn more about how he developed his model for recruiting underrepresented students, and in particular, black students and how he translated that into the Institute African-American Mentoring in Computing Sciences.

Blazing Trails: Catch this Smoke – Episode 020

Dr. Nicki Washington is unapologetically dope. She literally wrote the book. No, seriously! Her book entitled, Unapologetically Dope: Lessons for Black Women and Girls on Surviving and Thriving in the Tech Field, is just one of the many reasons you want to know this Modern Figure. She is a trailblazer, and is working tirelessly on ensuring pathways into tech remain available to the next generation of the black tech workforce. Nicki is also one of our favorite people to follow on social media. Her fiery passion shines through whether she’s speaking on current events or just taking an internet troll to task for challenging her expert opinion.

Lessons from a 14 Year Old Tech Boss – Episode 019

At 14 years of age, Jeremy and Kyla couldn’t have imagined being the CEO of a tech company. Today’s guest, Moria Bowman, has been working on businesses since she was 10! Growing up in an entrepreneurial family inspires her drive to create and sustain her companies. But she has no plans to involve her other siblings. As a homeschooler, her time is a bit more flexible than other kids her age. This gives Moria time to invest in her company. Zinger, is a ride-share app designed to protect its users from danger. Listen in and more about this young tech boss and what she’s doing to improve safety on the road.

Securing the Bag with Digital Swag – Episode 018

Jasmine Bowers is a doctoral candidate researching digital finance privacy and security at the University of Florida. She’s known since 11th grade that she wanted to be Dr. Bowers but navigating how to get there has been an unexpected journey. She’s seen quite a bit of success publishing and presenting her work, and finding ways to incorporate hip-hop titles per her research advisor. Finding ways to better communicate privacy policies is so important, and usable security is what she’s passionate about. Hopefully, through her doctoral research mo(bile) money won’t mean mo(re) problems! We also learn about the ways in which she’s found ways to set goals and manage her expectations.

Ask Us Anything – Higher Education Edition – Episode 017

In late 2019 we asked our followers on social media what they wanted to know. At the time, it was a chance to encourage participation from attendees at the Grace Hopper Celebration in Orlando in a social media challenge. But after reviewing all of the questions, we realized we should probably dive deeper into our responses. This episode focuses on answering questions related to higher education. It includes suggestions for students in high school and college. We also talk about the resources we use, organizations to leverage, and advice about research. We dive into what it’s like being Black women in academia, as well as intersectionality and what that means to us. We even had a surprisingly deep question from Jeremy’s brother, @ScooterMagruder. What do you think about our answers? Use #ModFigsPod to respond.

Holding Space and Interrogating Privilege – Episode 016

Dr. Colleen Lewis is our favorite ally for underrepresented populations in computing. Though she is a white female, we felt it was important to bring her on to the podcast to showcase how she has leveraged her privilege to dismantle racist systems and structures to improve the experiences of others. In other words, she’s BEEN at the cookout, and now she’s on our podcast. Her work is at the intersection of computing and education, where she focuses on issues related to gender and diversity. You can often find Dr. Lewis at conferences presenting a workshop to help educators recognize and respond to bias through research-based scenarios, or as we refer to it: “Microaggressions – The Game.” This episode is filled with gems around effective strategies for feeling included if you don’t fit within the normative depiction of a computer scientist. There’s also a sweet segment about her friend named Irene, who introduced her to the world of computing. Our takeaway from this episode: get yourself an Irene! Or better yet, a Colleen.

Big Goals & Big Data – Episode 015

Would you say no to the Alvin-Ailey Dance School? Dr. Renata Rawlings-Goss did in the name of science! Though she was enrolled in a competitive performing arts program during high school, a PBS commercial inspired her to pursue an interest in astrophysics. Her undergraduate experiences at Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University ultimately catalyzed her desire to pursue graduate school. Though she is a biophysicist by training, Dr. Rawlings-Goss currently serves as the founding Executive Director of the South Big Data Innovation Hub where she helps industry leaders leverage data science to identify solutions at the regional and national level. Learn about how she translated her skills into the discipline of computing through research.

Pink & Green Robot Queen – Episode 014

Modern-Figures-Season-2 (8)

Episode 14 – Pink & Green Robot Queen

Hosts: Dr. Jeremy Waisome & Dr. Kyla McMullen

Guest: De’Aira Bryant

Instagram – @DeeGotRobots

Twitter – @DeeGotRobots

Web – www.deairabryant.com


 De’Aira is a graduate student conducting interdisciplinary research focused on helping children through social robotics at Georgia Institute of Technology. Listen in as she discusses what it’s like to be a “high profile graduate student” traveling the world, sharing how we can leverage artificial intelligence, human-computer interaction, ethics, and machine learning to improve outcomes for society. Her experiences now are a long way from those she had in her hometown in South Carolina within the “Corridor of Shame.” Her unconventional route into computing is hilarious but shows just how important mentorship and community is for Black women in computing.


De’Aira Bryant is a third-year computer science Ph.D. student in the School of Interactive Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Her research areas span the fields of human-robot interaction, artificial intelligence and cognitive science. As a graduate researcher in the Human-Automation Systems (HumAnS) Lab, her studies explore the possibilities for interactive communication between children and social robots. She is especially passionate about the fair and ethical use of AI for social good and the protection of vulnerable populations.

Prior to attending Georgia Tech for her graduate studies, De’Aira graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of South Carolina with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and a minor in Mathematics. She is a recipient of the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, the National GEM Consortium Fellowship, the SLOAN Minority PhD Fellowship and the Lillie J. James Computer Science award.

Hailing from the small town of Estill, South Carolina, De’Aira is also an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. She has demonstrated a long history of service work and is particularly involved in a variety of computer science and robotics outreach programs. De’Aira even recently gave a TEDx talk entitled “Paying it Forward with Social Robots.” In the long term, she dreams of pursuing a career in academia to further inspire and promote computer science education for all students.

In charge, INTech, and in grad school – Episode 013

Imagine taking a leap of faith to start something new when you secure in your perceived dream tech job. Khalia Braswell took the reins of her career to pursue her dream of creating a organization that serves her community and it is thriving. And now, she fulfilling a new dream of obtaining a doctoral degree. Learn how she navigated the twists and turns she encountered along the way.

Squad Goals – Episode 012

Join us as we chat with Isa Watson. She talks about her childhood rooted in curiosity, kindness, and humility, fostered by her parents. Hear about her experience transitioning from the HBCU community to an Ivy League. Though she began as a Chemistry major, Isa skillfully navigated Silicon Valley, and is now the CEO of a Tech Company called “Squad”, which raised nearly $4mm in venture capital funding and has scaled rapidly. She has always been a believer in the importance of community at all stages, and her story will inspire you to do the same.

Started from the Java, Now We Here – Episode 011

n this episode, Dr. Kyla McMullen takes a seat on the opposite side of the podcast table to become a guest for the day. Dr. McMullen talks about her journey into computing, although she could not have cared less about school as a student. Today, her work in 3D audio is being used to augment interfaces in virtual and augmented reality, as well as gain insights on spatial audio perception. Tune in as Dr. McMullen tells her own unique super-shero origin story.