Brothaman Tech Incubator

We need more young black technologists

I saw this article on Yahoo Education “Six Degrees That Can Pay Off Before Graduation.” You can check it out…but I actually was attracted to the article because of the title.  The title alludes to a great question — What exactly can pay off for our kids before graduation?  I know they are talking about college, but its a great question to ask concerning high school students as well.

What activities should we in the black community be having our kids involved in that will help them with their grades, inspire them about the future, and even help them put some money in their pocket?

One of those activities is coding.  I often say that coding is the new literacy. Let me explain why coding is important to all of our kids, regardless of their future career paths.

obama coding

Stop playing Flappy Bird!

When I read about the story of Alex Foyt, who at the age of twelve had published 98 games over six years in the iPhone app store (which means he published his first one at age six), or I think about the success of the runaway hit Flappy Bird, a incredibly simple but extremely challenging mobile game that at one point was earning close to $50,000 a day, I wonder what apps or games would our kids create if they were given the chance? What digital solutions will never be realized simply because we haven’t given our community the tools needed to create them.  We have to commit to equipping our young people with the tools of the digital age in which they live.  And can I say, a hour of code is simply not enough. tells us that computer science “develops students’ computational and critical thinking skills and shows them how to create, not simply use, new technologies.”  That is the crux of the matter.  Are we satisfied that our kids know how to play Flappy Bird, or do we want them to create the next mobile app sensation?

But I don’t think my son is going to be a software developer

Well, the odds are, he probably isn’t going to the NBA either, but that doesn’t stop us as parents from investing in basketball related activities. We do so despite the facts, because not only do our kids have a dream of the NBA, but we do too.  We hope they have that capacity.  We hope they’ll make it all the way to “The Association”, but even if they don’t we recognize the benefits that come along with investing in their dream.

Well its time to start dreaming some new dreams. Dreams of our kids developing software solutions that will map the universe, or even create new compression algorithms for speedier downloads. We need to start imagining our kids gaming their way to a cure for diseases, or creating new special effects for movies and audio production.  And while the truth is that most of our kids won’t create the next Facebook, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try. Understanding computer systems, what many just call “being technical”, is a basic skill in the world today.  Whether you want to be an architect, or develop color palettes for magazine layouts, or simply just know to do when you “get a blue screen of death”, studying computing will provide valuable skills that open doors and give an advantage. Consider these facts:

  • The College Board states studying AP Computer Science can open the pathway to 130 career areas and 48 college majors
  • an understanding of the core principles of computer science is key even for jobs not directly focused on computing skills — a June 2011 McKinsey Global Institute report predicts a shortfall of 1.5 million “data- savvy” manager and analysts by 2018
  • There are companies that won’t hire you at all, for almost any position if you don’t have a basic understanding of at least two programming languages.

This is what we mean when we say coding is the new literacy.  For many high-wage, highly rewarding careers in a variety of fields, having more than just a basic understanding of computer programming has become a prerequisite.  Just like some people can’t get a job because they can’t read, it is increasing true that if you can’t navigate the world of API’s, GitHub, and application frameworks…then you are locked out of certain opportunities.

The world desperately needs more young black technologists.  The high tech business community agrees.  Do you?

Filed under: we believe