CODE2040: Helping Minority Coders Find Their Way to Silicon Valley

Blacks in Technology recently sat down with Laura Weidman Powers (founding executive director of CODE2040) for a one-on-one interview about the CODE2040 program.

In case you aren’t aware, CODE2040 is an organization that matches high-performing Black and Latino undergraduate and graduate coders and software engineering students with Silicon Valley startups for summer internships, and also provides them with the insight, networks and support to ensure their successful participation in the high-tech innovation economy

When was the organization founded?
CODE2040 was founded in February 2012. We’re a startup, too!

Who is CODE2040 (employees and roles)?

Tristan Walker is the founder and chair of the board of CODE2040 and I (Laura Weidman Powers) am the organization’s founding executive director.
Amy Schapiro is CODE2040’s program manager, running point on all recruiting and summer programming.
Jonathan Brack leads program evaluation and alumni programming, ensuring we’re maximizing our effectiveness and supporting our alums.
Jocelyn Jarrett manages accounting and HR operations, using her expertise in helping set up nonprofits to ensure we’re making efficient use of our resources.
The rest of the board (beyond Tristan) is Ben Horowitz, Amber Saloner Tennant, Marc Hedlund and Bea Perez, and we’re fortunate to have an awesome group of advisers and volunteers as well.

What is the goal of CODE2040?

The latest census projections show that people of color will be the majority in the United States in the year 2040. And yet there is no indication that the substantial minority achievement gap will be closed by that same year. We launched CODE2040 to make a direct impact on the achievement gap by increasing the numbers of underrepresented minorities participating in the high-value innovation economy – an economy centered in Silicon Valley.

How many students participate in the program?

We ran a pilot of the program with five students at five startups the first summer, 2012, and we’ll have around 20 students participating this coming summer. We’ll be continuing to scale from there!

In talking with the students, what seems to be the biggest thing they take away from the program?

My favorite thing is something one fellow said to me: Before participating in CODE2040 and hearing from all the speakers and meeting with her executive coach, she thought there was a mythical “entrepreneur” personality type that meant that you were destined to be a founder. After hearing firsthand from dozens of entrepreneurs, she realized that they were ordinary people with great ideas, great passion and great work ethic, and she could be a founder, too.

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