Disrupting the classroom - Page 3

Tech companies teach city kids programming skills


Mejia smiled proudly as he showed us his game. He said he wasn't interested in making games while in school, but Mission Bit turned him into a believer. Now he'll study computer science at the University of San Francisco.

Mission Bit's class body is 8 percent African American, 24 percent Latino, and over 50 percent Asian, according to the company's internal data (that's in line with SFUSD's own demographics). Nearly half of the students come from the south side of San Francisco, around the Ingleside District.

The program is still small, but Daugherty says it's designed with scalability in mind. There's potential for these students to one day not only fill tech's diversity gap, but to allow tech jobs to be filled by San Franciscans, born and raised.

But Daugherty says such goals are secondary. The focus is on the students.

"The industry has a very specific agenda about where they want their engineers diversified," he said. "If this is where our students want to go, we'll support them. But there are other paths to take."

Students can use their programming skills in many jobs and industries, he said, not just tech.

Still, the students will have an opportunity to visit local tech companies Square, AirBnb and others, meeting engineers who one day may be peers. Daugherty calls these people "touch points," making social contacts for mentorships and job seeking that blue-collar SFUSD students may not have themselves.

Ultimately, the program "lets you get programming skills without going through the money filtering step of a university," said Anthony Phillips, CEO of Hack Reactor. Counter to the belief in pure meritocracy many in tech swear to, Phillips acknowledged he had help: his brother, a Twitter employee. When Phillips first learned code and started to fumble, his brother told him "you're so smart, but so dumb. Just keep doing it."

So Phillips aims to do the same for the students at HackReactor. He's like a coach in the corner for new boxers taking their aim at advanced coding skills.

"Not everyone has someone there that can say, 'just keep doing it,'" Phillips said.

Now these students do.


even when a more talented white candidate is available?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 17, 2014 @ 2:42 pm

why do you think the white candidate is likely to be more talented? the whole point of this is addressing that issue so that it is a level playing field for all who wish to learn.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 17, 2014 @ 6:13 pm

Of course the subjective nature of the hiring process produces crisp objective discrete outputs that can be evaluated according to an objective reproducible formula.

There are more considerations than just competence along an axis or two when building a tech team. The job involves abstract problem solving, many disciplines can prepare a candidate for that. In building a team, the more, diverse perspectives, the better and more well rounded the product they produce.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 17, 2014 @ 7:12 pm

The more talented candidate is the one who got into a competitive, well paying field in the first place by taking their education seriously, working hard in school and studying a subject that provides employable skills.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 17, 2014 @ 8:31 pm

"Though the Asian population is 30 percent of its workforce, that's still out of line with the significant Asian presence in the Bay Area." You're absolutely right, but not in the way you meant it. The 2010 Census showed that the Bay Area has a population of 23%. So that means Asians are OVER-represented in the tech industry. So there is a significant minority population in tech. That means the companies appear to be hiring the best qualified applicants. If there aren't enough qualified black or Latino candidates, how is that the fault of the tech companies for not hiring "enough" blacks and Latinos?

And problem solving is an excellent skill for a person to have in any field, but if a black candidate can't solve a Rails problem given by a potential employer for a coding position and a white candidate can, who the hell do you think he's going to hire?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 17, 2014 @ 7:40 pm

It's people like Daugherty that are making a meaningful difference in our communities and schools. Years ago I volunteered with minority teenagers, we discussed their dreams, desires, hopes, and opportunities. It was clear they were limited by the environment that they are exposed to. It's programs like this that will give them an opportunity to think outside of their circumstances. SF schools need to implement opportunities like this that are an obvious fit with our corporation that make SF their home in all schools. There is no reason our big internet/ tech companies should be hiring foreign workers from China and India to do the jobs that we can/ should be doing.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 17, 2014 @ 11:04 pm

yall are stupid arguing about the diversity aspect. Essentially, MissionBit is providing coding opportunities to all youth whom are interested no matter what their ethnicity is. There saying that this will in turn help the racial gap in programming. That's it.

Posted by Me on Jun. 18, 2014 @ 8:38 am

card-playing will shame their opponents into demurring.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 18, 2014 @ 9:02 am

right on.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 19, 2014 @ 6:49 am

I think I distinctly remember Splunk doing something like this last year.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 18, 2014 @ 9:28 am

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