A Recap of HBCU@SXSW 2017

A Recap of HBCU@SXSW 2017

In preparation of HBCU@SXSW 2018, we want to do a quick recap of our 2017 installation, which, with 100 students sponsored, had a great turnout. It has definitely laid the foundation for our work in making tech more accessible for minorities.

Let’s first start by sharing the impetus for this program. In case you haven’t heard, the tech world is not an oasis for diversity. Yes, a mecca for innovative ideas it is, yet when it comes to diversity, tech has some work to do.

A few stats:

Do the math, and it’s clear that the numbers just don’t add up. Or in basic HTML, just don’t add up .

How do we solve the problem? By exposing Generation Next and Generation Now to the tech opportunities that exist and support their training. In this way—by taking a real-world approach—we will increase these numbers. The program is led by tech entrepreneur Rodney Sampson, who founded Opportunity Hub and is the Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Atlanta startup hub TechSquare Labs.

Starting in 2016, Opportunity Ecosystem and Huddle Ventures partnered with the media, music and interactive festival SXSW in Austin, Texas to expose African American students to the possibilities that exist in the world of technology.

Our inaugural year included 50 students, and last year, out of 456 applications, we selected 100 students for the HBCU@SXSW program for a weekend of networking, mentorship, and exposure within one of the biggest tech-centric events in the nation.

The program accepted underrepresented students from major universities across the nation, with the majority of attendees from historically-black colleges (HBCUs).  We accepted students from HBCUs large and small, well-known and not so well-known. From the Atlanta-University Center and Howard to Medgar Evers College and Allen University, we worked with students across the country who want to pursue careers in tech, whether pursuing a tech or non-tech major, within technical and non-technical roles.

And companies took notice. We have over 30 companies that support the program, with big names that include Snapchat, Google, Microsoft, Booz Allen Hamilton, Delta Airlines, Mailchimp, PwC, and more.

Have you ever met an owner of a billion-dollar company?

Our students were afforded the opportunity during a presentation by Janice Bryant Howroyd, the Founder and CEO of Act-1, a global leader in temp staffing, consulting and HR services. Participants of HBCU@SXSW were able to meet leading entrepreneurs and envision themselves one day in their shoes. Janice Bryant Howroyd, by the way, has a net worth of $420 million.

The trending hashtag? #DiversitySXSW.

At a cost of $3,000 per student, participants pay nothing with program fees and housing covered through sponsors.

We took 50 students to Austin our first year (2016), 100 our second (2017). This year we are aiming for 500 students for HBCU@SXSW 2018, led by Corey Smith, Head of Early Exposure at Opportunity Ecosystem. The application will be rigorous, but the opportunity well worth it.

Are you a student interested in a career in tech, in either a technical or non-technical role? Apply for HBCU@SXSW 2018 today.

Are you interested in partnering and sponsoring students for this amazing opportunity? Visit our sponsor page.

If you have any specific questions, please send them to team@opportunityecosystem.co.



New Diversity Initiative, the YesWeCode Fund, Launches at HBCU@SXSW 2017

New Diversity Initiative, the YesWeCode Fund, Launches at HBCU@SXSW 2017

On the second day of HBCU@SXSW 2017, March 12th, the YesWeCode initiative launched before student leaders and investors. The event launch was fitting in that it also aimed to promote diversity in tech, but this time, not just with race but with economic diversity as well.

Ultimately, the YesWeCode initiative is a way to lift people out of poverty and build generational wealth, one middle class person and family at a time. Access to education, and in this case access specifically to an education in coding will be the catalyst for change.

The program is a collaboration between Code Fellows, The Iron Yard, Operation HOPE, Opportunity Ecosystem, TechSquare Labs, Climb Credit, We Can Code IT, and #YesWeCode and brings together the collective goals of coding schools, civic and governmental organizations and employers to encourage applicants to say no to financial barriers and YES to social mobility.

Tech is a sector with a track record for employing a primarily white and Asian male workforce. So with a focus on women and minorities, this program is a real game changer. It will also add racial and gender diversity to a workforce sorely lacking in it.

Let’s take a look at some of the numbers. Over the course of the next five years, the Fund has the goal of awarding $100 million in scholarships to minority and women students, with $40 million as full-tuition awards. Code Fellow and We Can Code IT have included scholarships for their bootcamp courses.

The program has an unexpected origin. The YesWeCode program was started by Van Jones in collaboration with Prince, only one name necessary. Prince, with a penchant for being before his time, wanted to develop technologists of color to create a future where women and minorities were woven into the tapestry of tech.

Prince partied like it was 1999 in the 1980s and in 2014, along with Van Jones, foresaw the importance of nurturing the underserved tech talent of tomorrow. He wanted to help change something as both simple and complex as what it means for a black youth versus a white youth to wear a hoodie.

The goal of #YesWeCode is to “help 100,000 young women and men from underrepresented backgrounds to find success in the tech sector,” according to the program’s website. The talent will be homegrown to help to add to the local economies.

Learn more about #YesWeCode and the YesWeCode Fund here.