As a recipient of General Assembly’s Opportunity Fund Fellowship, it is a privilege to fulfill my responsibility to give back by volunteering 100+ hours of my time to the tech community. Working in partnership with All Star Code, a non-profit initiative that prepares qualified young men of color for full-time employment in the tech industry, I look forward to assisting in their efforts to provide mentorship, industry exposure, and intensive training in computer science.
Last Saturday I attended my first All Star Code workshop, “ Design a Startup In a Day.” It was invigorating to see a collection of teenagers of color – all with an abundance of intelligence and passion – come together around one idea and begin working towards a common goal: to build a business from scratch in one afternoon.
As a teen, it’s tough not to wonder “what will everyone think if I say ___.” While there was certainly some trepidation at the beginning of the workshop, it was quickly offset by fun icebreakers. An effervescent public speaking coach got the group of young men to open up, while also teaching them about the benefits of good eye contact, a strong handshake, and confidence when speaking to a group.
Once everyone broke off into smaller teams, and roles such as CEO, head of Business Development, and head of Marketing were assigned, the previous air of self-consciousness was replaced by the spark of excitement as each young man worked excitedly on his project.
The groups were tasked with synthesizing their newfound programming and business skills to create the blueprint for an MVP (Minimum Viable Product), along with a corresponding investor presentation. The flow of ideas on the part of the students was matched by the enthusiasm of the mentors, including myself, who were eager to provide the crucial guidance that helped bring much needed focus to their ongoing planning and discussions.
The tech community has bandied about different reasons for the dearth of women and black faces within its ranks. Broadly speaking, the reason for each story might actually have the same origin: people like working (and hanging out with) others who look like they do.
Those in hiring positions and leadership roles are not often female or a minority. As it relates specifically to African Americans, I think the lack of diversity is perpetuated by a feeling that tech might not be “for” us, because we don’t associate black faces with software engineering jobs or C-level roles in tech companies.
As a Nas Opportunity Fund fellow, I doubly appreciate GA’s efforts to end this misconception. Partnerships
Jarett Sims is a WDI student and recipient of General Assembly’s Nas Opportunity Fund Fellowship for Blacks & Latinos. He attended All Star Code’s Design a startup in a day workshop, and will be volunteering with All Star Code after graduation.