Be Future Ready #NAFNEXT

Be Future Ready #NAFNEXT

Phillip O. Berry faculty

On Monday, July 20th, I had the honor of sharing my journey to being Future Ready at the NAF NEXT conference in Anaheim, CA. NAF (formerly the National Academy Foundation) is a national network of education, business, and community leaders who work together to ensure high school students are college, career, and future ready.

As a high school student at Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology, I had the opportunity to attend the NAF Academy of Information Technology where I got my start in Computer Programming. During my senior year, I had the opportunity to travel to New York for a NAF Gala honoring Harold McGraw III, Founder & CEO of textbook maker McGraw Hill & Company, Andre Aggasi, award winning tennis player, Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox, and Kenneth Chenault, CEO of American Express.

I’ll never forget that Gala and now I will never forget NAF NEXT. This was by far my largest speaking engagement to-date, and I am very grateful for the opportunity. I was able to see current faculty and students from my Phillip O. Berry, which was great to have their support.

Phillip O. Berry faculty

I received a lot of good feedback from the talk, so I decided to share it. I hope that through sharing my experience, you are inspired to Be Future Ready.

Shoutout to my stylist, The Prada G, for making sure I was flawless :)

3 ways to Be Future Ready

Phillip O. Berry faculty


Today, we are here to talk about the future. What does the future hold for our students, and what does it mean to be Future Ready?

For many, being Future Ready means concentrating on what is to come. However, for me, being Future Ready means building relationships, remaining positive, and giving back to those who helped you get to where you are.

My start was in the NAF Academy of Information Technology at Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was at Phillip O Berry that I learned the value of building relationships with others. I have several female mentors from my academy — women who despite not having me in their class went out of their way to foster my talents and interests, spurring in me a drive to succeed and continuously improve. Seven years later, I still maintain strong relationships with these mentors and have shared many of life’s milestones with them.

An African Proverb states that if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together. So when you are preparing to Be Future Ready, don’t forget about those who are around you and have supported you from the very beginning. You will need them during your journey.

In addition to building relationships with others, to be Future Ready, you must remain positive about what lies ahead. As a senior at North Carolina State University in Computer Science, I knew that I wanted to attend a PhD program after graduation to continue solving research problems as I had in undergrad. I applied to three PhD programs that had the curriculum of my interest; however, I did not get into any of them. I did not let the closed doors keep me down, because I knew there was a greater purpose for me. I was advised to obtain a masters degree first, so I applied to two masters programs, and I was accepted to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Through this experience, I learned that life never works out how we plan it; however, we always finish where we should. While at UNC Charlotte, I helped plan the National Society of Black Engineers’ first National Hackathon. I did my first technical talk located at Facebook for the Symposium of Usable Privacy and Security — a subject matter I had just discovered while in my grad program. I interned at Google, Bank of America, and Apple, where I am now. It is for that reason that you must remain positive in order to be Future Ready.

Although being Future Ready yields professional success, it also inspires you to give back to those who helped you. With a friend and fellow NAF alumna, I have started working on a scholarship fund for students at Phillip O. Berry, called the Tech Flight Foundation, which celebrates, motivates, and empowers underrepresented minority students to create technology. I also founded INTech Camp for Girls, a one-day camp that inspires young women to innovate in the technology field. Both of these initiatives have helped me remember my past while embracing my future.

My story is just one example of how a NAF education prepares students to be Future Ready. I look forward to taking this powerful idea with me to encourage forward movement in my peers and in the young women I work with. I challenge everyone in the room to look back at how you became Future Ready and use the knowledge from your past to build strong relationships, remain positive, and share your expertise with the next generation of innovators and leaders.

Phillip O. Berry faculty

Originally published at