The age of the brogrammer - Page 7

Solving tech's diversity problem may be a key to saving San Francisco

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Only five of SFUSD's 17 high schools have computer science courses. Ben Chun, an MIT graduate and former computer science teacher at Galileo High School, told us the outlook is bleak without digital training in schools. Though kids sometimes teach themselves programming at home, most low-income students don't have that opportunity.

"It's a privilege thing," he told us. If you have access to computers at home, you're more likely to tinker and teach yourself. Those kids are more likely to be the Bill Gates of the future, he said, the self-starters and early computer prodigies.

"If you don't have those things in place," he said, "there's a zero chance it will be you."

When he first got to Galileo, his computer teacher predecessor taught word processing. But a lot has changed since 2006.

Partovi took his successes at Facebook and Microsoft and parlayed his money into a nonprofit called Code.org. The organization created its own coding classes for kids as young as 6, and compelled 30 school districts nationwide to create computer science courses based on its work.

code dot org

Code.org's tutorials have been played by millions of students.

Now it has its sights set on SFUSD's 52,000 students, potentially solving tech and the school's problems at once.

"It would for sure level that diversity gap," Partovi told the Guardian. "All of the data released from Google, Yahoo, and others show a male-dominated industry. The pipeline of educated kids is actually much more diverse."

Salesforce.com, whose CEO Marc Benioff is a San Francisco native, is also working with the school district on a tech solution, donating $2.7 million to spur that change.

But integrating tech in the district is slow, and likely years away. The district needs state standards to require computer science, something SFUSD Superintendent Richard Carranza has already lobbied Gov. Jerry Brown to change.

"The demand [for computer science classes] is coming from everywhere," Carranza told us, including parents, students, the tech industry, and city leaders.

"What makes it a game changer is the partnership with our tech partners," he said. "It gives our students the opportunity to interact elbow to elbow with people doing computer science out in the real world."

But the tech workers those students are interacting with, though well meaning, remain the domain of the brogrammers. Will they hire SFUSD graduates with computer science skills when and if they're ready? Will they be the right "culture fit?"

"There's definitely a libertarian thread, a free market, red-toothed nature of things [in tech]," Bueno told us. "Talking to people in unguarded moments, that definitely leaks out. You're not going to convince anyone by singing kumbaya and holding hands."

But logical tech workers need look no further than the current numbers facing Silicon Valley to see the need to reach beyond their in-groups: 1.2 million new tech jobs will be created by 2020, studies from the US Department of Labor show. At the same time, 40 percent of the United States will be Latino and black by 2040.

When the minority is the majority, the brogrammers may become a dying species.

 

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