Latoya Freeman, a healthcare IT professional by day and an entrepreneur by night, knows what it feels like to be left behind and to be deemed a failure. She recalled the experience of failing the second grade but then being allowed to pass into third grade special ed classes as the pivotal moment when she realized her work had to exceed expectations if she was going to have a chance at obtaining any of her goals. In fact, when one carefully examines her personal and professional career arc, her penchant for working harder than everybody else is very noticeable. A trait that wasn’t necessarily inherent but one who began to manifest when she worked her way from those special education classes into the gifted and talented program. This would continue into her high school years where she would qualify for AP classes until earning a scholarship to Marquette.
Latoya, reflected on her time at Marquette and the internship she ended up earning at Rockwell Automation before she began to emphasize the importance of doing this interview with the Milky Way Tech Hub. After relenting to the pressure of being one of the very few African-American women with an electrical engineering major and working inside Rockwell, she reverted to quitting for the first time in her life. Though it’s not a period of her life she’s proud of, it is why she connects to the Milky Way Tech Hub’s mission to diversify the STEM fields. After experiencing what she describes as isolation and knowing what it’s like to feel totally disconnected from the culture at Marquette and Rockwell, she relates to Nadiyah Johnson’s and the Milky Way Tech Hub’s initiative to help implement more diversity and inclusion within STEM.
However after an introspective period in her life following her decision to drop out and quit her internship she met a mentor through a series of events, that introduced her to IT at a healthcare organization, she chooses not to name. Latoya continued in that role for eight years before transitioning to Aurora. It wasn’t long before the same principle of working harder than everybody else drove her to learn and gain the knowledge of a systems and business analyst. It was her way of ensuring she could not become expendable and the knowledge in both areas enables her to be able to consider all possibilities when troubleshooting and considering all outcomes for her clients. It’s been a ten year journey to earn the respect she now has in the healthcare IT field.
The reputation and status she has earned has also afforded her the opportunity to invest in an online platform, entitled Legal Shield. Legal Shield helps people to gain access to attorneys for a much cheaper price. The initial investment into the platform became attractive because of the combination of the IT factor and her belief that everyone should have access to an attorney, no matter their economic status. She’s especially, keen on the idea of black men having equal access and protection because of the current state of the criminal justice system. Latoya also did not shy away from commenting on how important it is to engage the youth as a method of preventing them from getting lost in a broken system that historically, hasn’t treated them equally.
Latoya, encourages youth from under served and under estimated communities, to “out work the work” and to not attempt shortcuts, nor to shy away from long days and a lot of hours. She also was adamant about the need for reaching back for the next generation as mentors and not leaving them to fend for themselves, while trying to navigate their way into STEM. She also left open the possibility of assisting Nadiyah’s and the Milky Way Tech Hub, in a variety of ways, if called upon. Latoya wants all to know that despite working with innovative and cutting edge technology, she believes in the old school mentality of “it taking a village” and “the all hands on deck” approach of ushering in a more diverse generation of STEM employees.