Laticia Carrow Top Mainframe Influencer 2024

Laticia Carrow is a government contractor Capacity Management Analyst at DDC ITS, an IBM Z Champion, and a TechChannel Rising Star. Her career is one of personal and professional transformation based on curiosity and perseverance and a testament to the importance of mentorship.
Laticia’s mainframe journey began at an unlikely place, a department store in Washington, DC. At the time, she was deeply enmeshed in her 20-year career as a licensed cosmetologist and stylist. Carrow and her friend tried the retailer’s new, “magic mirror,” which allowed customers to try on makeup products and recommend foundation colors virtually. Looking in the mirror, Laticia paused and asked aloud, “What if you could do that with hair?”

Laticia couldn’t get the idea of a technology-enabled mirror to preview hairstyles off her mind. A friend encouraged her to learn to code and make it herself. Empowered with a link to a coding tutorial, she watched, learned, and dabbled in HTML, mostly surprised by the complexity of app building. Laticia asked a few more questions and eventually suspended the idea when it became too demanding of a side project.

A New Opportunity

When the salon Laticia worked at closed, she moved to Texas to be closer to family. Laticia applied for and received a grant to retrain for new job skills. There were two options: medical or technology. She chose technology without knowing anything about the specific program. “Never in a million years did I ever think I’d work in this space – or be in mainframe!” she shared with a laugh.

Her retraining included official coursework, but it wasn’t enough— or fast enough—to satisfy Carrow. Eventually, she used social media to find and follow scores of technologists in the mainframe space.

“It was a steep learning curve,” Laticia said, “Emphasis on steep.” She watched mainframe influencers’ videos, read their posts, sent direct messages and emails, and focused on understanding the strange new world.

It was not easy. It doesn’t happen overnight. I’m still very new and always learning.

What does she attribute her success to? “I happened to get really good at it because I liked asking questions and listening to the answers,” she says. Laticia persevered through training for three years before accepting her current position as a government contractor working in mainframe technology. And then, as occasionally happens, she experienced a series of fortunate events.

One of her mentors suggested she try the course “Master the Mainframe.” It was not her favorite school course, but she saw its value and attempted it—three times, actually. “Oh, I was horrible at it, I was so bad,” she chuckles. “But the third time I did it, that third time—it all clicked. I kept saying, ‘Oh! that’s what they’re talking about!’”

She mastered the course and met others early in their mainframe education journeys. She joined the Slack online platform and found a community of enthusiastic mainframers who welcomed her curiosity. “Next thing I know, I’m meeting all kinds of folks!”

In the past couple of years, Laticia attended the Diana Initative conference, a summer hacker camp, two SHARE events, and DEFCON. She worked with Dr. Cameron Seay, Colin Pearce, and Geoffrey Decker on the Mainframe Learning Consortium. She describes the time as “a roller coaster ride that was so much fun!”

Laticia Takes on YouTube

One of the joys that emerged from her fortunate events is a YouTube Channel called, “Tish Talks Tech“.  She started the channel with doubts. On one hand, she wanted the channel to answer all the questions she’d had when training. She knew she wasn’t the only one. But on the other hand, she thought, ‘No one is really going to take me seriously.’ She initially launched the channel with a few fits and starts and eventually put it aside.

Then, news source TechChannel reached out and said they wanted to interview her as one of their 2022 Rising Stars. Her first response: “What are you talking about?” She did a video interview with them as part of their series and was inspired. During the interview screening, she thought, “I am one of them! I guess maybe I should start advocating and telling folks this is real.”

It was the jump-start she needed to pick back up making content for her channel. Laticia’s channel continues because she wants to make educational videos and because it’s needed. “I’m not quitting my day job or doing it for the likes. My audience is the people looking for a nudge to change their careers.”

Advocating for More Careers in Technology

Laticia shared her passion for advocating for career opportunities in technology. She’s proud that her daughter is studying computer science and that Tish can offer insight and direction.

Focus on your abilities, not your limitations.

“I try to make people who aren’t familiar with technology as a whole have the opportunity to become familiar. It’s why I do what I do. I’m not an expert.” In her role as an IBM Champion, she emphasizes the importance of showcasing real people and their experiences, as well as the value of diverse perspectives and skills within the industry.

Reflecting on her unorthodox path to a mainframe career, Laticia offers several pearls of wisdom:

  1. You can do it. Anyone can do it. “You can do it even if you’re over 30 and don’t have a degree.” You don’t need anyone’s permission to change your life.
  2. You need to want to learn. “Don’t underestimate the importance of persistence and personal dedication.”
  3. You need a community of colleagues, cheerleaders, and even people known only on social media platforms.
  4. Focus on your abilities, not your limitations. “There are all kinds of flavors to tech, and they all reach back to the mainframe ecosystem.”

Though her journey in the mainframe is still in its infancy, Laticia’s drive and passion to encourage others has impacted the community on the whole. Laticia calls herself a “cyber auntie” to a number of technologists who ping her with questions.

If she had one wish, Laticia would have every freshman in high school take a course on mainframe technology. “The more you know, the more you can grow. You gotta get these skills!”

Looking Forward

She’s not at liberty to discuss her job details but today Laticia works as a government contractor doing technology work that’s in the nation’s best interests. With three years as a technologist under her belt, what skills from her training are part of her everyday life? “Everything,” she says, and “The reward is immense. It’s like the 4th of July at work every single day.”

You can find Laticia on her Tish Talks Tech YouTube channel.

Penney Berryman, MPH (she/her), is a digital marketing storyteller at the intersection of culture and technology. Owner of Copper Sage Consulting, Penney blends creativity and results-driven expertise to craft captivating narratives.

Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *