As CEO of Coded by Kids, an education program for inner-city youth, I talk to a lot of people — potential partners, budding entrepreneurs, devs looking to volunteer.
Often, when I speak with technologists about their work and what drives them, they don’t bring up making an impact. I believe that’s not because making an impact isn’t important to them, it’s because they are unsure how they can effectively use their skills and talents to do so.
That’s one reason we’re launching a new teaching fellowship. A structured fellowship gives us the ability to harness the skills and expertise of technologists looking to make a difference. The paid, one-year fellowship will get technologists into the classroom, teaching software development and design to middle and high school students who aren’t getting this kind of education in their schools.
The fellowship is also our way of attempting to create a space for people of diverse backgrounds to come together and learn about each other.
As a black man in technology, I have found myself in uncomfortable social and professional situations that occurred when people of different backgrounds didn’t understand one another. At best, a lack of cultural understanding causes discomfort for the parties involved. At its worst, it can result in more serious situations, such as racial discrimination and decisions based on bias.
For many of the students we work with, our programs are their first interaction with the tech community. For many of our instructors, our programs are their first real interaction with minority children from low-income communities. We want to bring our children and technologists together and give them a space to learn from and about each other.
The other big reason we’re launching this fellowship is because we’re growing. The only way to implement more programs is to increase our teaching capacity. Over the past few months, our most frequent topic of discussion has been the best way to successfully and sustainably grow our team of instructors. The Coded by Kids Teaching Fellowship is our solution for internally growing our pipeline of instructors. We also see it as a way to attract tech talent to Philadelphia and retain that talent by integrating them into the communities in which they work and live so the tech scene grows with the rest of the city and not in spite of it.