Kishau Rogers, a Lynchburg native and E.C. Glass High School graduate, is now an award-winning technology entrepreneur on a mission to solve the world’s increasingly complex problems with computer science, systems thinking, and creative intelligence.
She lives in Richmond now but visited the Hill City this past week to speak at the quarterly Business at Breakfast hosted by the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance as part of Black Business Month.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled to bring home Kishau Rogers during Black Business Month,” said Christine Kennedy, COO of the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance. “As an E.C. Glass graduate and the first Black woman in the state of Virginia to raise millions in venture capital to scale her tech startup, we knew she was the perfect speaker to inspire other business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs to go after their vision.”
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More than 80 people were in attendance to hear Rogers, Kennedy said.
Rogers is the founder and CEO of Time Study Inc. Headquartered in Virginia and New York, Time Study offers a platform that uses artificial intelligence to help enterprises understand the impact of how their employees spend their time.
Time Study is used by many of the top hospitals in the United States. In her commitment to diversity in entrepreneurship and STEM, she also serves as an advisor to organizations including Level Up Ventures; University of Florida’s Center for Arts, Migration & Entrepreneurship; Embodiology; and Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Computer Science. She holds a computer science degree from VCU and has more than 25 years of technology and entrepreneurial leadership experience.
Rogers said a lot of her clients use the Time Study platform because they want to identify more profitable activities and billable hours, but also to reduce burnout.
“So for clinical staff, they’re looking at how much time they’re actually spending serving patients as opposed to other overhead activity,” she said. “So our platform was really created to make the time at work more joyful.”
The platform is in more than 75 hospitals today and continues to grow, she said.
Rogers grew up on Daniel’s Hill across from Point of Honor. She has fond memories of bike riding, roller-blading and swimming in the pool at Miller Park.
She graduated from E.C. Glass in 1990 and continues to visit the Hill City about once a month as her parents and two of her siblings still reside in Lynchburg.
“I was always interested in computers,” she said. “I’ve always been an overthinker, an analytic thinker, and I really liked the thinking part of computer science and I still do. I’ve always been really good at math, growing up as well. And back then, math was tightly aligned with the computer science program. So that was my exposure to computer science, was through math, and most students choose their majors based on what people tell them they’re good at. And a lot of people told me I was great at math.”
Interestingly enough, she didn’t get her own computer until her third year at VCU in the mid-1990s.
“It was exciting back then because the first computers had been around for a while, but only a few people had personal computers because they were expensive back then, so it wasn’t a common thing that families had computers in their home unless you had a certain amount of disposable income,” she said.
A graphical interface to coding took off around that time as well, Rogers said.
“It was really a good learning experience because you really were exposed to how things work. So a lot of times now, there’s a lot of point, click, drag and drop, but back then we had no choice but to know how things were on the back end, which I think is still an important thing to teach people,” she said.
Rogers was one of the only women in her computer science program at the time, with maybe two others alongside her, and she and only one other woman graduated. She also was the only Black woman in the program.
She said things have changed since then and she can see more female students enrolling in computer science, but the statistics remain pretty low compared to male students.
“I think some of that happens earlier than college and happens in grade school. Kids are kind of put on a track and maybe the exposure to the computer sciences isn’t as prevalent with women. But I also think that when we think of computers, the way that we expose kids to it is we assume that in order to use computers, you have to be a certain type of programmer and I think women connect to computers a little bit differently,” she said.
It’s not that girls don’t like computers or want to use them, she said — it’s just the community of people who are engaged with computers tend to be boys.
There are groups such as Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code and She Hacks Africa — which Rogers helped to found — that are exposing girls and Black kids to technology and software engineering.
“When I talk about STEM, I always focus on the solution,” she said. “The computer is just a tool and I think we tend to focus on the tool. It’s like teaching everyone to use the hammer because the hammer is the hot thing but what we should be teaching people is how to build great houses and hammers are just one tool to do that. And I think we if we approach the computer sciences like that where we’re focused on the reason you’d be using a computer, I think you will attract all kinds of people.”