Survey of 300 Black computer science students highlights the importance of access to computers, exposure to the technology industry, and interview practice
Karat, the world’s leader in technical interviewing, today released new research in partnership with faculty from Howard University exploring key factors that can help more Black software engineers enter the tech industry and excel in their careers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Black engineers comprised just 6 percent of all computer programmers in the U.S. in 2020, and this research shines a light on the challenges and opportunities that exist to improve representation.
Co-authored by Dr. Legand Burge, III, Howard University Professor of Computer Science, Dr. Katherine Picho-Kiroga, Howard University Assistant Professor of Educational Psychology, and Portia Kibble Smith, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Karat, The Interview Access Gap for Black Engineers identifies a number of socioeconomic and systemic barriers young Black talent face to get jobs in tech.
“The lack of representation of Black engineers in tech is a barrier to entry for the next generation,” said Kibble Smith. “A lot of the HBCU students we interviewed are first-generation college students. They don’t have a clear understanding of what goes on in a technical interview until they’re interviewing for their first engineering internship, and they don’t have anyone in their networks to help them prepare.”
Structural inequities delay exposure to computer science education and make it more difficult for Black software engineers to start careers in tech.
- Respondents who have had software engineering internships had access to their first PC nearly a full year earlier than those who had not secured an internship.
- They also had their first exposure to computer science education an average of two and a half years earlier.
- Proximity and access to people working in the tech sector increase interview confidence, but the under-representation of Black engineers in the sector limits that access for HBCU students.
- Nearly three-quarters of the survey respondents knew fewer than five people working in big tech, and more than 25 percent reported knowing none.
- Professional networking was even more limited in the tech startup space, with 83 percent of respondents knowing fewer than five people working at startups, and 43 percent not having any contacts.
Interview practice helps students overcome the lack of structural exposure and access to the technology industry.
- Just 39 percent of respondents who had never taken a practice interview believed that they were either somewhat or very likely to succeed in a technical interview.
- Confidence levels increased with more practice, with those numbers climbing to 79 percent of people with more than three practice interviews.
- This also translated to career opportunities. 55 percent of survey respondents who have taken more than three practice interviews have had an engineering internship, compared to just 9 percent of those who have never had one.
Closing the access gap
Adding transparency to the hiring process and building ways for candidates to practice technical interviews are two ways that tech companies can close the access gap and reduce interview anxiety for underrepresented engineering candidates. Strategies for accomplishing this include publishing sample interview questions online and giving candidates multiple opportunities to interview. Both of these practices help demystify technical hiring for engineers from nontraditional backgrounds. This not only creates a more equitable talent pipeline but also a more efficient and effective way to hire the best engineers.
“The students in my classes are incredibly resourceful, they’ve had to hustle their entire lives. These are positive traits that hiring managers look for, but they’re hard to demonstrate in a traditional job interview,” noted Dr. Burge. “This research highlights the importance of transparency and making information about interviews readily available for candidates. It also reinforces why practice interview programs like Brilliant Black Minds are so critical for closing the access gap and empowering more Black engineers.”
Karat’s Brilliant Black Minds program provides Black software engineers free practice interviews with live feedback to expose students to the components of a technical interview alongside career development workshops.
“The program has helped participants build confidence, hone their technical interviewing skills, and ultimately get summer internships and full-time jobs,” added Kibble Smith. “Interview scores from the Fall and Spring practice seasons showed promising results, with more than three-quarters of students maintaining or improving their performance.”
The full report includes survey responses and feedback from focus groups conducted in the Spring of 2021. More than 300 Black computer science students and HBCU alumni from schools including Howard University, Morehouse College, and University of North Carolina Charlotte participated.
Karat unlocks opportunity by conducting predictive, fair, and enjoyable interviews for the world’s largest and fastest-growing companies. Karat’s human+tech approach uses the world’s first interviewing cloud to enable a global network of Interview Engineers. The expertise and data generated from hundreds of thousands of interviews produce a trusted hiring signal that unlocks developer productivity, accelerates hiring, drives transparency, and promotes equity. Karat is building innovative products and services like the Brilliant Black Minds program with an eye towards becoming the developer talent platform and accelerating the journey from how developers find jobs to how they grow in their careers.
About Howard University
Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 13 schools and colleges. Students pursue more than 140 programs of study leading to undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees. The University operates with a commitment to Excellence in Truth and Service and has produced one Schwarzman Scholar, three Marshall Scholars, four Rhodes Scholars, 11 Truman Scholars, 25 Pickering Fellows, and more than 165 Fulbright recipients. Howard also produces more on-campus African-American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University, visit www.howard.edu.
Families invited to experiment with new technology and STEM activities at Pearsall Park
SmartSA Sandbox offers fun, hands-on opportunities to test smart city technologies in the park
The City of San Antonio’s Office of Innovation is hosting SmartSA Sandbox, a family-friendly pop-up event that provides residents hands-on opportunities to test smart city technologies. SmartSA Sandbox at Pearsall Park is free and open to the public. The event will take place on October 22, 2022, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The park is located at 4838 Old Pearsall Rd, San Antonio, TX 78242. A complete schedule of events is available at SAsandbox.eventbrite.com. Interested residents are encouraged to register in advance.
“The SmartSA Sandbox event is a great opportunity for families—especially kids—to experience innovative ideas and technologies firsthand,” said Brian Dillard, City of San Antonio Chief Innovation Officer. “Join us to share in the experience of SmartSA Sandbox and share your thoughts on what you want the future of San Antonio to look like.”
The family-friendly event will take place at Pearsall Park. It provides a child-friendly atmosphere with walking and biking trails, large playground and splashpad and a skate park. The location provides the space for individuals and families to interact with emerging technologies. The SmartSA Sandbox event features demonstrations on how to use 3D printers with Geekdom to robotics and coding from the San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology.
The event is family-friendly and will include workshops on developing technology and city-building activities facilitated by the DoSeum, YouthCode Jam, the University of Texas – San Antonio and Able.City, among others. Attendees can also enjoy music by DJ Mayhem and a closing hour with Emo Hero, an alternative cover band.
Moses Using Tech
to Bring Water to Those in Need
Flint, Michigan and Puerto Rico – what do these areas have in common? They both have benefited from atmospheric water generation machines by the Most West Foundation and AWG Contracting.
Thanks to US Army Veteran Moses West’s compassion and innovation, these communities were able to access clean water. One eco-friendly AWG machine, which pulls water out of the air, can supply water to a minimum of 500 people and is small enough to transport in the back of a pickup truck. Through West’s military contacts, he’s able to quickly deploy from his base in San Antonio to weather-related disasters.
While AWG contracts with the Department of Defense in support of U.S. troops serving around the world, the Moses West Foundation has brought clean water to Flint, and worked with FEMA as part of relief efforts following Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. The nonprofit foundation was able to supply an estimated 15,000 people with water via an AWG machine operating on solar power. West is hoping he can bring his machines to war-torn Ukraine.
Flint (a highly-publicized water contamination crisis) represents what the future could look like in many US cities if the government and municipalities don’t make it a priority to fix aging infrastructure. This crisis is not new to Texas either. In Sandbranch, a small community outside of Dallas, residents are forced to use contaminated wells and rely on donations of bottled water to bathe, wash clothes and dishes, as well as to drink.
Though the aging town only has about 100 residents (mostly African-American), it’s a community that could use the water technology from the Moses West Foundation.
. . . the aging town only has about 100 residents (mostly African-American), it’s a community that could use the water technology . . .
“Sandbranch should be the model for what other people can do with this technology.” Moses said. “The Sandbranch project is 100 percent funded by donations. The stainless-steel water storage tanks will provide enough water to support residents, livestock and an organic community garden. Locals will be trained how to operate the technology so that the system is sustainable.”
West says there are at least 40 other communities in Texas dealing with similar issues. Many state and city leaders understand the dire need to fix the country’s water infrastructure.
In June of this year, the federal government just allocated up to $6.5 billion in total funding to support $13 billion in water infrastructure projects. Priority will be given to water and wastewater infrastructure in underserved communities. A portion of that funding will also be utilized to address PFAS and emerging contaminants. PFAS are harmful chemicals that break down slowly and can be found in the blood of people all over the world and at lower levels in foods and products.
While AWG is not the first company to use atmospheric technology, West is one of the few Black entrepreneurs making space for himself in the environmental business category. What also makes him standout is his vast military experience and his willingness to go to remote areas to help water-stricken communities. West is a prior member of the 75th Ranger Regiment, the 2nd Armored Division, the 2nd Infantry Division, the 7th Cavalry Regiment and the 101st Airborne Division.
In Ukraine, it’s estimated that damage to the water and power systems have left more than 6 million people without adequate access to safe water.
“Water is one of the issues that’s going to make a big difference in the lives of women and children in Ukraine,” adds Moses. “Their basements are full of moisture, wet and unhealthy. The AWG machines can pull pure water out of the air and, by doing so, keep people protected from small arms and artillery fire by decentralizing the location of where water is made.”
Currently the Moses West Foundation is raising at least $1 million to send five of the AWG machines to Ukraine and another five to Sandbranch, Texas.
Donations are being accepted online at the Moses West Foundation at (www.MosesWestFoundation.org). Just scroll down to “Donate Now.”
What are NFTs & Crypto?
Cryptocurrency or cyber money has been around for a while and in recent years it has attracted many Black Americans.
However, the rise in popularity of the Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) has increased the interest of many existing and potential crypto investors. NFTs can be thought of as a subset of the crypto culture, and you generally need cryptocurrency (such as Bitcoin or an Ethereum) to buy and sell NFTs.
According to new research, 23% of African Americans possess Bitcoin, more than twice as many as white Americans (11%), and greater than those held by Hispanics (17%).
Many African American investors consider crypto investing a new path to riches and impartiality. It also enables them to enter the rapidly emerging field of NFTs, which is reshaping sectors such as music, collectibles, and gaming.
What is Cryptocurrency?
Also known as cyber money, cryptocurrency has been around for more than a decade. Unlike regular money, it’s not regulated by banks or the government. Instead it uses a type of cyber technology, called blockchain, which is like an online database that tracks the currency globally. The blockchain technology enables cryptocurrency users to make secure transactions.
What Is an NFT?
A non-fungible token (NFT) represents unique digital assets (like digital art, video clips or music) owned by a specific person. For many artists, it’s like a digital copyright. NFTs use blockchain technology to secure and track the item. Non-fungible assets are considered one-of-a-kind items that can’t be authentically replicated. The U.S. dollar bill is considered fungible because it carries the same value if it’s traded. Cryptocurrency is also considered fungible.
You can buy and trade NFTs online, using cryptocurrency (such as Ethereum). Even though they’ve been here since 2014, NFTs are gaining popularity because it gives digital artists a way to put value on their original material. The NFTs market alone was worth about $41 billion in 2021, which is getting close to the overall value of the combined global fine art industry.
NFTs have become hot commodities among investors, celebrities, entertainers, and athletes. According to National Public Radio, an NFT video clip of Lebron James attracted a $200,000 price tag.
Many African Americans see the NFT world as a way to build wealth. One example is 41-year-old Vakseen, a Black visual artist living in California. She became famous after accepting a bid of 8 Ethereums (about $16,800) for the first of six editions of a digital painting showing basketball legend Michael Jordan.
Vakseen’s work was also on show in a National Gallery of Technology (NFT) event showcasing Black artists throughout the world. The “Harmony & Balance” display was established to back the Black NFT artist community and was designed to look like a digital art museum. Vakseen was one of 30 Black artists that contributed over a 100 digital art pieces to the show. The artwork on display was estimated to be worth around $500,000.
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