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From Cybersecurity to Cultivating Greens: A Tech Professional's Journey into Gardening

May 25, 2024 10:43 AM | Anonymous

In conversation at the end of a meeting, we discovered that one of the digits on the BlackGirlsHack leadership hand was a green thumb. April Richardson, our Deputy Chief Technology Officer, excitedly gave details on her latest project. Glowing as she discussed what she was growing, I was inspired by her passion and intrigued by the parallels to cyber. We asked and she graciously accepted to be interviewed and share her story with the squad. Please read the questions and responses below to learn more. - Rebekah Skeete

Professional Journey: Can you share with us your journey in the technology field and what inspired you to pursue this career path?

April: I started working on my associates degree in technology a few years after high school. Working my way up to a Master’s in Information Technology & Management with a concentration in Cybersecurity. I’ve had 13 years of working in this fast paced ever changing industry. Looking back, hindsight is 20/20, I see pivotal moments in my life that put me on this path, from my dad purchasing the first PC in my family, a Tandy 3000, and me trying figure out how to get on this “internet” everyone was talking about by connecting the telephone cord to the PC, playing with PCs and Barbie software and webtv in middle school, to meeting my boyfriend at the time, now husband, who knew about building PCs part by part, this and several other moments sparked my interest and lead me to technology. 

Passion for Gardening: How did you discover your passion for gardening, and how do you balance it with your demanding tech career?

April: I've always liked playing in the dirt. Being around my grandmother, I would always be in somebody's garden gathering food. It’s very interesting to see a tiny seed grow and later provide so much nourishment, and still very fun to play in the dirt. I’m still finding the balance between the two, but gardening helps to release the stress and anxiety that my tech career may bring. I guess gardening helps me recenter, to be a better tech professional.    

Gardening and Tech Synergy: Do you find any parallels between your work in technology and your gardening hobby?

April: Yes. Anyone in technology will understand planning and design, problem solving and especially continuous learning, just to say a few. It’s all the same for gardening, you have to plan and design your garden for what you want to eat, for the positioning of the sun, plants that want different levels of moisture or nutrients. Problem solving if plants look unhealthy, and always learning about new techniques, or even learning about new plants that I haven’t ever grown.We talk of the deadlines in tech, it's the same in gardening, if you missed a certain timing with the weather it could make or break the opportunities you have to grow and enjoy certain fruits and veggies. It's many parallels between technology and gardening.  

Impact on Well-being: In what ways has gardening impacted your well-being and productivity at work?

April: It’s been able to help calm anxiety and stress of the tech grind. Gardening has been an escape at times, it helps me reset and gain clarity with issues I’m dealing with at work. Gardening is my real passion.  

Favorite Gardening Project: What has been your most rewarding gardening project to date, and why?

April: Really, starting to garden has been the most rewarding project. Also, expanding my garden to include more garden beds, adding more fruit trees, perennials, and starting a Youtube channel to step out of my comfort zone to share my growth and mistakes with people has been rewarding. I’m still amazed how plants grow, I love to cook and eat them, and love to share it with others.    

Tech in the Garden: Have you incorporated any technological innovations into your gardening routine?

April: Yes. Scheduling planting times and plant spacing with apps that are available has been the most fun tech innovations I’ve included in my gardening journey, also utilizing watering gadgets to automatically water my garden helps me to conserve water.  

Community Involvement: Do you share your gardening interest with your colleagues or community? If so, how?

April: I do, especially my harvests. My great aunt and cousin have been my gardening companions, helping me, learning together, sharing our finds and gardening gems. My husband is becoming the tree guru, learning how to take care of the trees we plant. I definitely follow many professional and novice gardener’s on Youtube and other social media platforms to connect, learn, and share. I hope to start a small seed exchange with some people in my area soon.    

Sustainability Practices: How do you incorporate sustainability practices into your gardening, and do you see any crossover with sustainability in tech?

April: Yes, this is one of my favorite topics in gardening. It’s several sustainable practices that I utilize in my garden, from composting, rainwater collection, conserving water, native and non-invasive planting for my area, and using organic products. There are crossovers with tech, used to become more efficient in gardening, such as tech to help reduce water consumption, or lighting meters to assist with proper plant placement. I’m growing to have the understanding that creating an ecosystem that supports all of nature creates the best harvest.  

Advice for Aspiring Gardeners: What advice would you give to someone in the tech industry looking to start gardening as a hobby?

April: I would give the advice to find something that you like to eat, buy the seeds or the plant and some potting soil from your local box store, grocery store, or anywhere that sells these things and just plant it, see how it grows, watch, learn, and see how you grow! 

Future Aspirations: Looking ahead, what are your aspirations both in the field of technology and within your gardening endeavors?

April: I’m looking to grow my technology career more in cybersecurity, AI, and Cloud. My goal is to utilize the money and knowledge from my tech career to expand my gardening endeavors, which will include more technology used in my gardening projects, especially AI, to help me grow and expand while I balance the two paths. 

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