Indigenous Facebook Product Designer Inspires Young Natives to Break Into Tech

Privilege places us at different points in life — but doing the most with what you have, being resourceful, being optimistic and patient with yourself — that can be life changing,” Danielle Forward told Native Business. (Courtesy Forward)

A member of the Cloverdale Rancheria of Pomo Indians (Makahmo Pomo) in northern California, Danielle Forward grew up in a resource poor environment, she shared with Native Business. It took Forward 10 years to earn her BFA because she had to work to support herself through school, including financing that venture herself.

Her financial barriers to a tech education may have slowed down her career pursuit — but Forward never allowed those challenges to stop her. 

She’s now several years into working at Facebook as a product designer. In April 2020, Forward transitioned from Product Designer for Connectivity to Product Designer for Social Impact — with a new focus on bringing communities together during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond. She helped design tools for www.facebook.com/covidsupport, a link which will direct you to your local community to support area fundraisers, offer help or request help. 

Forward is also the founder of Natives Rising created to “help move Native folks enter the tech industry with the support I never had, and to think about broader internet connectivity initiatives for rural indigenous in North America,” Forward shared.

According to the site, Native Rising’s mission is to promote visibility of Native American and indigenous people in the tech industry, as well as improve accessibility and exposure to the tech industry through mentorship, networking, and potential job training opportunities. 

Essentially, Forward is giving other Natives the support she wished she had when she was breaking into the tech world in Silicon Valley. 

In addition to her primary role at Facebook, Forward is a lead for [email protected], an internal group of indigenous employees and allies at Facebook whose mission is to build its indigenous community and celebrate and discuss indigenous cultures and news.

Forward offers this advice to young Natives: “Ten years ago I’d never imagined that I would be making a project like Natives Rising or that I’d be working at Facebook as a Product Designer. Yes, there were definitely financial challenges, which is why it took so long to earn my degree. It took me ten years to earn my bachelor’s degree. Have patience. Make a plan, and follow it. Learn the truth of what happened to your tribe. And if you do, I promise you, at the end—you will be better, you will rise up—and you’ll bring your whole family up with you.” 

READ MORE: Fast Forward: Facebook Catches a Rising Star

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