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Ajamu Wesley’s calling was made clear early in life, when at the age of eight he was introduced to computer programming by his mother. Her 30-year tenure at IBM gave Wesley unparalleled insight into the corporate world and advanced technology. Later, armed with a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science from Cornell University, the 35-year-old plays an integral role in building and developing social software products in IBM’s Lotus software division. These products provide business professionals with seamless integration between enterrpsie security and Web. 2.0 networking technologies. Wesley helped develop Lotus Connections (which is like Facebook but for the corporate world.
He received the Golden Torch Award from the National Society of Black Engineers for his efforts in information technology in 2007.
BlackEnterprise.com spoke with Wesley his responsibilities as a senior software architect and some of the hurdles African Americans face in the science and technology sector.
BlackEnterprise.com: What are some of the challenges African Americans face in the science and technology fields?
Ajamu Wesley: There are stereotypes around kids who looked like me that they may not be good at math, science or technology. This can confuse African-American children into expecting less of themselves or believing some goal is out of reach.
How did you overcome those challenges?
I was influenced by my parents, and I had a natural aptitude for computers.
You work on Lotus Connections software at IBM, which is geared towards small businesses. How does the program help growing companies?
Lotus Connections is a social networking product for businesses. Sites like Facebook and Twitter allow people to connect. Lotus applies [that] concept to businesses by allowing professionals to network and share information in a secure environment. It was IBM’s fastest growing software product last year.
What role do you play in helping with the continued evolution of this software?
I am responsible for building and leading the development of the core services. I spend a lot of time ensuring the product helps professionals to connect securely.
Lotus Connections is a suite which includes a set of core services for supporting a person’s homepage, profile, and groups. Along with the core services there are a set of tools for sharing information like blogs, wikis, file sharing, bookmarks and activities.
What are the three keys to your success?
One of the things that helped me is to develop a plan and then execute it. Spending time developing a career plan forces you to identify your personal goals, do an honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, and specify the path you need to take to reach your goal.
Another focus has been on building a good reputation. Your reputation can work on your behalf when you aren’t around to do so yourself. I do my best to ensure that any projects I’m associated with are successful and make a positive impact.
I have also found that being willing to help others, like through mentoring, can also help.
How are you going to take your career to the next level?
I’m excited about my career path.