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.
Black Representation in Tech Careers
Can Spill App Steal Black Twitter Fans?
Watch out, Twitter – here comes Spill – a new social media app created by Black tech entrepreneurs and former Twitter employees giving Elon Musk a run for his money.
Alphonzo “Phonz” Terrell and DeVaris Brown created the application or app with culture in mind. According to the firm’s website, it’s a place where users can express their thoughts by easily combining text with images, video, GIFs and more. Using Spill, users can discover the hottest spills or “tea” and the latest trends worldwide and it’s a platform to discover and discuss culture.
And these former Twitter employees come with experience. Terrell is a Cannes Lion, Clio, OneShow and 2x Webby Award-winning creative executive, most recently having led the 27-person Twitter Social & Editorial team which won “Best Overall Social – Brand” at the 2022 Webby Awards. Brown is currently the CEO and co-founder of Meroxa. This venture capital-backed data application platform empowers developers to build data products using their existing infrastructure, tooling and workflows.
Atlanta Daily World says, “The social platform has garnered online buzz in the last week, with Black celebrities, including musician Questlove and actor Keke Palmer counted among its recent members.” Slate magazine also said the app’s “vibe is like a private hangout for Black Twitter transplants.”
Currently the invite-only app is only available to Apple users.
One user left a five-star review and said, “My wife told me about this app, knowing that I love being on social media. I’m on my phone 25/8 scrolling my feeds back and forth between apps. Now that I know about SPILL, I have all that I need in one place. As soon as you open the app, you are already immersed in the SPILL Universe and the features are aesthetically on point. The app features a “trending” section (where I love to be) to catch up on things going on for the culture and stay in the know. My feed is full of memes and gifs that keep my stomach hurting from laughter. It’s like Black Twitter 5.0! Crazy funny! I’m enjoying this app thoroughly!
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.
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