Sherrell Dorsey - Writer and Founder
Posted on March 22 2017
Today's interview is with the incredible Sherrell Dorsey, celebrated tech writer and founder of the Plug Daily, a daily source of tech news dedicated to highlighting the important voices of black founders and leaders.
Sherrell's passion for tech stems from learning to code at 14. Today, she interviews and writes about high-profile founders, investors and analyzes business trends at the intersection of tech, innovation and leadership with a focus on diversity. Her work has appeared in a wide range of top publications including Fast Company and The Root.
Here's her story:
Newnham: What were you like growing up and who/what were your inspirations?
Dorsey: I've had an entrepreneurial spirit since I was a kid working in my aunt's hair salon. I watched her build and grow her business, deliver excellent customer service, shop for supplies, as well as deal with the good and bad attitudes of her clients. She was a trained computer scientist, worked at NASA, and departed to run a business making people feel beautiful. Those early days were particularly formative for me, helping me to value both intellect, integrity, and excellence in execution.
Whether it was organizing college essay writing classes as fundraisers in high school to pay for prom, or teaching private tap dance lessons to raise money for college, I've always had a knack for pulling the pieces together and delivering value to my clients. My family is not traditionally entrepreneurial so anything outside of the norm was supported but not championed. I was still encouraged to complete my university education to "get a good job". But I was much more fascinated by engrossing myself in the work and study of entrepreneurs creating cool things and changing the world. I read avidly, followed the careers of folks like Bill Gates, Earl Graves, Mary Pugh of Pugh Capital Management, and a few others, trying to figure out how they became successful on their own terms.
Newnham: When and how did you first get interested in tech?
Dorsey: My grandfather is a true gadget fanatic. He made sure that all of his grandchildren had computers in their houses. So we grew up on MS DOS and continued to upgrade as the technology advanced.
In high school, I entered a coding and internship program with the Technology Access Foundation. Two days a week, I learned programming languages like C#, Java, ASP and dabbled in network administration. In the summers, I'd complete a 12-week internship at Microsoft. Participating in the program showed me a world where I could become a creator. It taught me how to build things, navigate corporate environments, and the importance of self-worth as a person of color, and as a woman, within an industry dominated by white males.
Newnham: The Plug is an important newsletter – what is its mission and where does that mission stem from?
Dorsey: I launched ThePLUG with the goal of creating a technology presence that paralleled that of publications like Wired, Tech Crunch, and Recode, but that has an emphasis on highlighting diverse innovators, startups, and investors. Too often, the quality of our tech journalism is predicated on our sources. If those sources are solely white males or the trite examples of current leadership without any view points of others doing incredible work, we're doing ourselves, and the industry a disservice.
So ThePLUG seeks to fill that void. Currently, we aggregate important and timely news stories from around the web. We'll soon be adding in some original reporting and interviews as we continue to grow. Right now, subscribers go to www.theplugdaily.com to get on our list and we deliver the need-to-know news Monday through Friday.
Newnham; In terms of your career, what are you most proud of and why? What are some of the most valuable lessons you have learned thus far?
Dorsey: I'm most proud of the all of the risks I've taken throughout my career. I've had a non-linear path into tech, hopping from Seattle to New York to Connecticut and now Charlotte. I've left environments that did not serve me well or were toxic, and I've developed thicker skin toward problem-solving in a crisis.
Today, I am most proud of launching my newsletter. I did not anticipate its growth to be what it has been. I merely wanted to solve a problem and contribute value to the ecosystem on an international level. I'm learning a lot about business growth, hiring smart team members, and working with people who know how to hustle smart and can help me think bigger.
Newnham: What are your hopes for this year? From a personal point of view and career-wise?
Dorsey: In 2017, I hope we continue to stay committed to democratizing innovation. This means that we're providing solutions to mitigate issues around disparity in funding and opportunity for people creating meaningful products and services.
From a personal career perspective, I just want to see 2017 mean stronger partnerships, deeper storytelling, and loads more learning for ThePLUG. We're creating something incredible here, and I'm excited to be connected to stellar people joining us for the ride.