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Shannon Morales: Convening a Tribe

The concept of convening is about bringing people together, but for Shannon Morales, her entrepreneurial pursuit was ignited by a feeling of not belonging and not being valued in the workplace. Today, her company, Tribaja – a word that combines “tribe” and “trabaja,” the Spanish word for work – exists to convene diverse tech workers with opportunity.

For her work in creating a talent marketplace and community for under supported tech talent – or a tribe – we’re honoring Shannon with the 2022 Nucleus Convener Award.

The Nucleus Convene Award is sponsored by tristate capital

What are some of qualities you look for in companies you’re considering partnering with that are indicators job seekers won’t have the same experience as you?

We look for intentional companies that have a track record of continuously trying to improve upon workplace culture, diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies. We like to work with companies who hold themselves accountable and are proactive in their approach rather than reactive.

Specifically, we want to work with companies who look inward first and make necessary adjustments based on their own employee experiences. That employee feedback creates a valuable roadmap for companies to create the kind of culture we want to support. Once they do the work internally, that’s when we come in. We want to be the last stop in their DEI strategy – not the first.

Like any entrepreneur, you've encountered a number of obstacles along the path to launching and growing your startup. Do any of these stand out, and how did you overcome them?

Early on I struggled to get stakeholders – clients, investors, and internal team members, to see the bigger vision. I realized that it’s my job to create that vision and demonstrate that vision so others can see it. An idea can be abstract, and I learned that as an entrepreneur, I need to bring it to fruition. As I build Tribaja and you can see it in action, more and more people are becoming passionate about what it is and can be.

What do you see as the next gap that needs to be bridged in workforce, and what can companies do right now to address it?

The biggest gap I see right now is not having enough opportunities for entry-level candidates. We talk about the tech talent shortage all the time, but there isn’t enough being done to cultivate the earlier talent. There are limited options for candidates who have the interest and the certifications when so many companies are looking for 2-3 years of experience for their ‘entry-level’ positions. We have all this talent waiting to be utilized and we need to advocate for them and particularly those coming from non-traditional pathways.

  • Tribaja Dallas Tech Mixer in August 2020
  • Shannon and Tribaja user Aniece Thompson

Is there a success story from someone impacted by Tribaja that stands out to you?

We had a Latina in tech contact us because she didn’t feel valued at the company she worked at. We connected her with a startup focused on women’s empowerment, where she just reached her one-year anniversary. If it wasn’t for Tribaja, she wouldn’t have known about the company. Job seekers, particularly in tech, often focus their attention on big companies where they can get lost in the sauce, and we’re able to open their eyes to startups.

Another example is a young woman who we placed at an 18 month apprentice program at a local tech company who hired us as an exclusive partner to help refer candidates of color. Upon the conclusion of the apprenticeship, there wasn’t an open position with that company, but she’s quickly secured a job with JP Morgan Chase and later another position (for a higher salary) with Mass Mutual. Since that initial apprenticeship placement, she’s never had a problem getting a job.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I’m most proud of taking a chance on myself and going fulltime with self-employment. I reached a point when I wasn’t fulfilled enough in my corporate job, and I took a chance on myself in 2020 before the pandemic. I used that time in quarantine to build the company knowing that if it didn’t work out, I’d have to go back to a corporate environment. At the end of the day, I had to make a decision about what I wanted to risk: losing a corporate paycheck or regretting taking a chance on myself.

What headline to do you want to read about Philadelphia in 10 years?

Philly is a place where talent can not only start, but grow a tech career.

Shannon speaking on a panel at a Tribaja
Shannon speaking on a panel at a Tribaja private executive roundtable event in Miami, August 2022

What is your superpower?

I’m a visionary. I’m a dreamer. I don’t believe there’s anything I can't do. I can manifest it and create an idea in my head and bring it to fruition. I’m a dreamer of what the future could look like and not afraid to act on it.

As a kid, what did you want to be?

Where I am right now – an entrepreneur.

Join us on September 28th as we honor Shannon Morales with the Nucleus Convener Award.

2022 convene award sponsor