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On Mentorship and Representation in Tech

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This past weekend I had the opportunity to volunteer for the Black Girls CODE ‘Code A Brighter Future’ Hackathon in San Francisco. The event targeted girls in grades 6th through 12th with some of them having no coding experience to others that have been coding longer than me! The phenomenal BGC Team and volunteers came together for a three day weekend focused on engaging the girls and getting them excited about building an application that positively impacted their community. The girls had BIG ideas and it was very rewarding to see their ideas come to life!

Each group was assigned a mentor who worked with them throughout the weekend. I loved this model because it is SO important to have someone in your corner, encouraging and guiding you. As a young person trying to break into a field that doesn’t necessarily cater to you, having a reliable mentor is fundamental to success. This was further validated (and very touching) when one of my girls thanked me for being a simply being positive influence and continually reiterating that ‘you can do it!’ It was so gratifying to watch as they experienced their ‘a-ha!’ moments. My team wanted to integrate google maps into their application. When we got the map to actually render to the screen, everyones faces lit up! I saw that as their application became more real that their engagement level increased. This experience was proof that mentorship, representation, and exposure is integral to increasing diversity in the field.

It also made me think about where I would be if I were exposed to tech at an early age.

I graduated from UC Irvine with a degree in political science. At 18 years old, though, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I just chose a major that I felt would keep me engaged during classes. I didn’t find my passion in the field and graduated still unsure of what career I wanted to pursue. About a year later, I attended Dev Bootcamp, and the rest is history. Ok, not history — but I already wrote about that here: looking back at Dev Bootcamp.

As a junior developer with a non-traditional introduction into the tech industry, it is important for me to continually reach out and support others who are curious about the web development. And I’m excited that I’ve already found a little cousin who’s ready to build an app with me (yay)! Young people need to see that people that look like them are willing to help them. I first learned this from Dr. Willoughby-Herard at UC Irvine. She lived what she taught, inspired, and mentored too many students to count as she truly set the standard for mentorship in higher education. It is this standard that the tech industry needs.

In thinking about increasing diversity in tech, I would all to ask themselves:

  • What have I done?
  • What am I doing?
  • What more can I do?

Kudos to Black Girls CODE and similar orgs who prioritize increasing the number of women of color in tech. That is one part of the battle. What are tech companies going to do to keep them there?

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