What CODE2040 Teaches Us About Building Community

Alexa Roman ·

CODE2040 Fellows celebration

Recently, we joined the CODE2040 community for a celebration of the 2014 Fellows. The evening started with a career fair where Marc, David and I had the chance to talk with the Fellows about what was next.  A few of us had met some of the Fellows at previous events and we had briefly meet Estefania as she works with one of our clients, Good Eggs.  But the career fair was a rare opportunity to speak with them one-on-one.

CODE2040 is addressing a real need to close the gap between the vast opportunities in the technology space and the lack of diversity in the workforce. Right now, the program is focusing its efforts on a Fellowship program for high achieving Black and Latina/o university students. CODE2040 connects them with an impressive list of Bay Area companies and guides them through the application process.  Nest, LinkedIn, Facebook, Code for America and Jawbone to name a few. The organization links each Fellow up with a mentor and provides curated programming on technology and engineering throughout the Summer. In an effort to expand accessible education, CODE2040 asks the Fellows to pay it forward with community service. One of the Fellows mentioned he was mentoring at The Hidden Genius Project in Oakland in his spare time.

In a time when great engineers are a scarcity, CODE2040 is providing an essential bridge. For those of us who are far beyond our college years, we may instinctively turn to friends and colleagues to find engineering talent. But this is the exact problem that is driving the diversity gap-we’re only looking in our own backyards. If we want to foster a diverse workforce, we have to take the time to seek out people, organizations and communities we’ve never met in order to find the talent we’re seeking.

At the event on Friday night, we learned about the range of interests among the Fellows.  Several Fellows were interested in Android development though many had learned iOS development as part of their internship. A few of them were already running their own businesses and launching products into the market. All of them had resumes longer than mine and they were filled with detailed questions on the programming languages we use, our coding style as well as our ability to take on new graduates.

CODE2040 Career Fair

This last point is key because it points to an oddity in the market — the gap between the new graduates and the demand for Mid to Senior level talent. While our team is small at Carbon Five, we are now able to provide a launchpad for interns and early career engineers. There are three things which enable us to do this — an inclusive culture, pair programming, and a program Ken has started called The Junior Jump.

As we look out for our next teammate, we’ll be keeping in touch with these bright Fellows. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them hires us before we have a chance to hire them. Above all, our hope is to continually expand our Carbon Five community. In this expansion, we look for critical thinkers who share our inclusive values. We look for purpose, willingness to learn new things and an ability to articulate the why. We are seeking to find the best talent out there, not just the best talent that comes across our desks.

Let us know if there’s an organization you think we should pay attention to by writing me or adding it to the comments below.