After getting dual degrees from Marquette, Nadiyah Johnson, Arts ’14, Grad ’16, noticed something: Her hometown, Milwaukee, was becoming a tech hub.
By Aly Prouty, Arts ’19
She was excited to be part of this shift but disappointed there weren’t many people like her in the picture. “There were very few, if any, Black people and women in these rooms,” she recalls. “There was a persistent lack of representation. I suppose … I had had enough.”
Taking matters into her own hands, Johnson founded Jet Constellations in 2017. Already, it’s become one of Milwaukee’s more influential young software companies. “I do my best to run a for-profit company and, at the same time, communicate this messaging of driving diversity in Milwaukee’s tech ecosystem,” says Johnson, who was named a Milwaukee Business Journal 40 Under 40 honoree in 2020.
Driving that message harder, Johnson created a spinoff, the Milky Way Tech Hub. It hosts workshops, panels, hackathons and design thinking sessions to help entrepreneurs and visionaries. And through a Milky Way partnership with Marquette, students in computer science are gaining real-world experience building pro bono coding for local startups founded by people of color.
Johnson finds herself providing the kind of support and opportunity she found valuable in her student days, when professors helped her overcome doubt and commit to her STEM journey. “Then around grad school,” she says, “I started realizing there were individuals just like me who were interested in computer science and wanted mentorship. That’s when I really started to realize my purpose.”