Eric Brown: The Once Struggling Student Now Bridging the Tech Divide

Jun 15, 2023

Eric Brown Jr. is a beacon of resilience and transformation in the tech world who refused to let early academic hardship define his future. Once a struggling student navigating academic and social challenges, he was homeschooled, unable to meet the traditional benchmarks of success.

Eric Brown Jr., a technologist, educator and coachEric Brown Jr., a technologist, educator and coach

Today, Eric stands tall as a seasoned technologist with a rich career at Microsoft behind his back, a mentor, and a coach. Moreover, he recently became a Harvard Graduate School of Education alum and received the prestigious Intellectual Contribution Award for Technology, Innovation, and Education.

So, what turned the tide for Eric? It was an unlikely opportunity at Delaware State University, where he was provisionally accepted due to his underwhelming test scores. A particular teacher greatly influenced his transformative journey - Mrs. Reynolds, and his decision to use college as an opportunity to have a fresh start.

“You are a leader, Eric,” Mrs. Reynolds said, thus recognizing Eric’s inherent creativity and encouraging him to carve a new persona in college. This redefinition and Eric’s steadfast growth mindset propelled him toward becoming a technologist with a passion for people and a mission to make technology accessible for all.

A common thread weaving through Eric’s life and career is his unrelenting passion for students. He has spent countless hours volunteering with schools, extending his knowledge and experiences to those walking paths similar to his own, from kindergarteners to collegians. “It resonates with me,” Eric says, referring to his deep connection with the narrative of students, learning, and making tech more accessible.

Known as a non-traditional educator, Eric has brought his expertise to bear in some of the most influential tech circles. For instance, he set up remote learning at Microsoft, Blacks at Microsoft (BAM) Employee Resource Group (ERG), in partnership with DMV (National Society of Black Engineers) NSBE, Jr at Howard University.

Eric places paramount importance on student engagement, constantly exploring the most effective and immersive ways to stimulate learners. He puts himself in the students’ shoes, asking, “What is the student’s perspective? What is the most engaging format?”

Eric teaching 3D design to middle schoolersEric teaching 3D design to middle schoolers

One of the ways Eric succeeds in engaging students is through a tactile approach to teaching. He recognizes the allure of physicality and incorporates it into his lessons. Whether it’s building something in 3D, using legos to illustrate complex concepts, or taking apart computers to provide a hands-on understanding of the inner workings, Eric makes learning a tangible experience.

Eric’s journey toward his Master’s in Education at Harvard started with a pivotal question from a mentor: “If you keep doing what you’re doing, what will you achieve?” This question led Eric to evaluate his role as a technologist and ignited a desire to have a broader impact. It pushed him to leverage his leadership and his knack for technology to serve his community better and increase social impact.

Confronting his insecurities rooted in a provisional acceptance during his undergraduate years, Eric used these challenges as motivation. In his own words, “The obstacle is the way.” He decided to ‘ride the wave of education’ again, choosing to face his fears head-on.

Eric is The Intellectual Contribution Award recipient for Technology, Innovation, and Education at Harvard Graduate SchoolEric is The Intellectual Contribution Award recipient for Technology, Innovation, and Education at Harvard Graduate School

Eric’s pursuit led him to Harvard’s Graduate School of Education with a clear vision: “I want to understand the system that I aim to disrupt.” This mindset inspired him to take a leap of faith and apply, uncertain of the outcome but willing to take the risk. At Harvard, Eric found his perfect fit in the Technology, Innovation, and Education program—a unique blend that matched his interests.

One of Eric's goals is to make complex tech accessible to allOne of Eric’s goals is to make complex tech accessible to all

Life threw Eric a curveball when he was recently laid off, but he took it as an opportunity to rethink his career trajectory. Currently freelancing and aiding various tech projects, Eric is setting his sights on becoming a tech advisor. His goal is not just to contribute to tech strategy but to do so through the lens of equity and inclusion.

Driven by the desire to disrupt systems that don’t support all students, Eric aspires to provide alternative pathways to learning. He sees the potential in apprenticeships and real work experiences, aiming to show others opportunities beyond traditional education.

We often assume that being a mentor or coach means we’re the ones constantly sharing wisdom and directing the course of our time together. However, the reality is that embarking on a journey to support others’ growth can be a profoundly enriching experience for us as well.
Eric Brown, Jr.

Eric’s vision extends to holistically influencing school systems, focusing on shifting policies. “You can be the most charismatic leader, but it’s dependent on the systems you create,” he asserts. Eric hopes to help students exactly where they are by creating programs and influencing legislation.

Inspired by platforms like Khan Academy, he’s interested in influencing individuals and government bodies. He recognizes their potential for vast reach and impact and sees it as an opportunity for sustainable system change. Eric aims to ensure lasting influence and disruption in tech education by implementing more systems.

Capitalizing on his innate ability to deconstruct technology, Eric designed an engaging WeFranch course on building a computer . This program is a step-by-step guide for understanding and building a computer from start to finish.

Leveraging Eric’s decade-long experience in coaching and remote learning, we are thrilled to introduce his course, which is about building a computer and fostering an engaging and immersive learning experience and debunking the “tech isn’t for me” myth.

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