As we all know, the world of technology is constantly evolving. From drones flying over our homes, to TSA requiring that passengers now leave their phones on before boarding airplanes, the way in which we use technology is changing right before our eyes. Upon the release of their annual diversity report, search engine giant Google was criticized for their lack of diversity company-wide, and expressed that they are very far from where they hope to be. To show that they are wanting to increase their diversity, Google announced they will be offering free coding lessons to minorities and women (if you haven’t already, you can complete the application here.)
I sat down with the founders of Brooklyn On Tech, millennials Jessica Santana and Evin Floyd Robinson, to get their take on Google finally taking a much needed step in the right direction, and how technology has inspired them both to give back to their community. Natives of the borough, their goal is to mobilize the next generation of tech thought leaders emerging from Brooklyn, New York.
CC: What are your thoughts on the technology giant finally showing that it is necessary to invest more in diversity initiatives?
BOT: It is important that major tech companies are starting to realize the importance of having diversity in the workforce because of the value it brings to company culture overall. When you consider the changing demographics of our nation, being inclusive in recruitment strategies and initiatives is a business imperative. Though Google has reported a significant lack of diversity in their employee profile, it is great to see they are making strides to change it and reach new heights with their initiatives
CC: Congrats on the launch of Brooklyn on Tech! What inspired you both to want to give back to your community in this capacity, and how are you encouraging young people to look at technology beyond texting, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram?
BOT: We are both natives of Brooklyn, New York and when we left for college to pursue our bachelors and masters degrees, we started to notice infrastructural changes occurring in the borough. Many of these changes were the result of major investments in tech and creative firms that were establishing their head quarters in the area. This migration of technology start-ups and companies creates a job demand for tech-savvy individuals and a substantial amount of local residents do not possess these skills, as shown in various research, reports and publications.
With a strong desire to give back to our community, we created Brooklyn On Tech, whose mission is to inspire the next generation of technology thought leaders emerging from the borough of Brooklyn. We want to provide the tools and resources to students who have historically been left out of opportunities in technology and help contribute to the entrepreneurial and tech eco-system flourishing in the city.
We are getting students excited about no longer viewing tech from a consumer and end-user standpoint (i.e. texting, F.B., Twitter, Instagram) by teaching them the curriculum they need to launch their own ideas or be in a position to help develop and implement technologies for organizations in need of that support. Many of the students we work with have great ideas to improve or create new technologies, but they need guidance, mentorship and framework to execute on them. That is where we come in.
CC: How do you think the evolution of technology has changed Brooklyn as you know it? How do you think it will improve the quality of life in the near future, and what are ways that Brookynites can begin preparing for change that’s coming to their community?
BOT: Technology has drastically changed Brooklyn over the past few years, specifically with the development and growth of the Brooklyn Tech Triangle. There are many initiatives taking place in this area which has created a need for creative and technical individuals. There has also been a significant amount of development in the realm of accelerators, incubators and start-up labs, many of which have been sponsored or pioneered by NYC colleges and universities. Additionally, the city is trying to make wifi more accessible in out of reach locations in an effort to minimize the digital divide and there is a lot of collaboration between corporate organizations and schools all around the city to develop next generation tech talent.To prepare for this change, we encourage Brooklynites to seek avenues that will educate them about technology and entrepreneurship and join organizations that sponsor free events around these topics for the public.
CC: Finally, what are your favorite components of technology? (developing, designing, SEO, coding, etc.,) What are some of your favorite apps or programs to use, and what advice do you have for individuals that may be hesitant to explore the world of technology?
Jessica: My interests are in relation to user experience and human computer interaction. I have worked with a diverse range of clients and it fascinates me to think critically about how a system is designed for an end-user so that it is user-friendly and still effective in its purpose. My favorite apps are Spotify, Flipboard, AroundMe and MyFitnessPal. My biggest advice for individuals that may be hesitant to explore the world of technology is to consider how the world is changing and understand the need for technical skills. Though you may not want to work in technology, any career you pursue today will require you to have some technical knowledge. Take advantage of free online resources to learn how to leverage tools to make your work easier.
Evin: My favorite component is design, specifically the end user experience. I enjoy thinking out the entire user process, functionalities, how the end user will interact with the technology and the emotions involved. I am constantly traveling so I stay updated on current events by using Flipboard, manage my network using Linkedin and find wifi using Free Wifi Finder. When you travel a lot you start to notice the luxury of having accessible wifi. My biggest advice would be give it a try, you don’t have to be a genius coder to excel in tech. Tech is filled with people who actually did not major in tech and don’t even know how to code.