Tech Hoopla was founded on February 28, 2019 by Jackson, Mississippi native, IT professional, and former collegiate basketball player Genina Johnson (also known as GG). Through Tech Hoopla, she merges her passion and background in both athletics and IT to create programming that exposes participants to and inspires and engages them in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) activities, opportunities, and careers.
She’s a graduate of Jackson State University where she received both a bachelors (2003) and masters (2007) degree in Computer Science. She has 11+ years of experience as a Software Engineer for a Fortune 200 company in Omaha, NE. She also was a member of the Jackson State University women’s basketball team, followed by playing a season of professional basketball overseas before returning to the states to earn her masters degree in Computer Science. She also attended Lanier High School in Jackson, MS where she graduated third in her class while participating in multiple sports: basketball, volleyball, and softball.
Growing up in west Jackson in a lower to middle class income neighborhood, opportunities in organized athletics and training were few; and education, mentors, resources, and opportunities to learn about STEM and college prep were even fewer. Realizing that she was a product of an under-served, under-resourced community, her parents reached out to every outlet to their knowledge – family members, co-workers, AAU teams, college basketball camps and leagues around the state, ACT prep, etc – to expose her to variants outside of her community to help grow her talent and knowledge. While in high school, her mother once inquired about her participating in an ACT workshop advertised in the local newspaper to students in her school district but was told that the workshop was only open to students that attended certain schools in the district. However, no ACT prep programs were being offered at her school at the time. These are the types of challenges that she faced frequently that could cripple an entire community of youth with limited access to resources.
Her high school, Lanier, was the first high school built for African American students in the city of Jackson and remains nearly 100 percent black. It’s also the oldest high school still in operation in Jackson, opening in 1954, during desegregation of schools during the Civil Rights Movement. Throughout the years, Lanier has struggled with funding and the lack of resources and support needed for the teachers and staff to meet the needs of the students. The dedicated, united alumni of Lanier work extremely hard and push to help create a level playing field for its students.
In her 11+ years as an IT professional at Union Pacific Railroad in Omaha, NE, she also served as a college recruiter at HBCU’s for the company. For the majority of her career, she was the only black female computer programmer in the IT department. She also witnessed the struggles and isolation that many black interns from HBCU’s experienced and the feedback provided by their managers and peers throughout their internships. Our goal at Tech Hoopla is to develop programming that provides guidance, training, and a network of peers to better equip these interns and future young professionals to succeed and smoothly transition into the workforce, while also expanding the pool of qualified IT minority talent.
The circumstances that she has faced are not unique to many and by far not the worst; however, it is imperative that we bring about awareness of the issues, explore the causes, and strategically implement solutions to help resolve some of the problems in our community. She realizes how powerful of an impact that faith, family, the community, opportunities, and positive, relatable mentors have on our youth and how they react to what life throws at us.