Software Development

How CODE2040 strives to make IT more diverse

CODE2040 is working to springboard the IT careers of Black and Latino students and ultimately close the wealth and skills gaps for minorities in the United States.

Through a great deal of persistence and dedication, Tristan Walker rose from being the child of a single mother in Queens, NY to working as the head of business development at Foursquare. He has since left Foursquare to work on his own projects. One of his projects is CODE2040, a foundation that seeks to get minority college students internships at IT firms.

Per the CODE2040 website, projections indicate that by 2020, there will be one million unfilled software jobs. From the figures provided by CODE2040, racial and ethnic minorities stand to gain the most from entering the field, as computer science jobs command a starting salary roughly twice the median household income of Black and Latino families, and the unemployment rate for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workers is lower than other fields, while the unemployment rate for racial and ethnic minorities is three times the national average. The other point that is widely emphasized by CODE2040 is that the United States will be majority-minority by the year 2040 according to demographers. This projection is the basis for the name CODE2040.

In 2012, CODE2040 placed five college students (as part of a pilot program) in internships with Hawthorne Labs, Jawbone, Nutrivise, Rockmelt, and Tumblr. In 2013, 18 students have been placed in internships at various places, including Facebook, Foursquare, Code for America, and the Department of Technology of the City and County of San Francisco. CODE2040 plans to expand to match more students to internship positions in 2014. Find out how your organization can become a partner of CODE2040. Or, if you're a student, visit the CODE2040 site to learn how to apply for a tech internship.

YuriGomes_ AmyQuispe_TristanWalker.jpg
2012 Fellow Yuri Gomes, 2012 Fellow Amy Quispe, Founder Tristan Walker (left to right)
 Photo credit: Amy Schapiro

Real diversity vs. manufactured diversity

In the United States, the educational system is not doing enough to encourage high school students of any race to get a computer science degree. A symptom of this problem is the continued abuse of the H-1B visa program, which has been used to allow foreign nationals with technical expertise in under-served fields to live and work in the United States. This year, IBM was fined $44,000 for allegedly stating a preference for H-1B and F-1 visa holders over U. S. citizens. Infosys reached a $34 million settlement for allegedly improperly using B-1 business visas (temporary business permits) to avoid the limitations on the number of H-1B employment visas.

Earlier this year, NPR ran a story about aging programmers being pushed aside in favor of H-1B visa applicants. In that story, Bruce Morrison notes that H-1B visa applicants tend to be less demanding than Americans and have greater choices on where they will accept work.

Last year, IT journalist Robert X. Cringely wrote a long exposé on the history, misconceptions, and abuses of the H-1B visa system and how it depresses wages for U.S. citizens.

Final thoughts

CODE2040's push to focus on and develop homegrown talent from high performing Black and Latino students across the United States underscores the fact that Americans are capable of performing these jobs -- when properly trained -- and the development of homegrown talent would (at least in theory) signal a reduced need for employees on H-1B visas.
With Bloomberg declaring that the American Dream is fading for Generation Y professionals, it is vital to the continued economic prosperity of the country to ensure that current college students be given a fair shake at the job market, particularly in growth sectors such as IT. CODE2040 is at the forefront of that effort.


James Sanders is a Java programmer specializing in software as a service and thin client design, and virtualizing legacy programs for modern hardware. James is currently an education major at Wichita State University in Kansas.


I blame the union run schools for the dumbing down of America from their revisionist history to passing kids thru to the next grade even tho their skill level is far below the accepted levels everywhere else. This is particularly true for minority students. They are simply NOT up to the tasks at hand. They have been coddled all thru school, lied to via their report cards giving them a false sense of accomplishment that smacks hard when they enter the REAL world!


This is a a great idea.  Many of the minorities don't have the support systems in place to get them where they need to be to be competitive with others.  This is one way to help them help themselves.   I'm sure some will see this as trying to give them unfair advantage, but it isn't.  It is just a support system to get them even with other folks.


Diversity for diversity's sake is just a veiled quota system. People should be able to recognize good careers and those with the interest and aptitude should be encouraged no matter their race, religion, creed, ethnicity, gender or gender identity. 


No one should get special treatment, good or bad, because of the color of their skin. In the United States all men are created equal. Focus on the skills and talent of a person and everything will work out. In 2040 will white people get special treatment?


@Stiffroot I'll agree that it's a problem, but the root of the cause is in the increasingly bizarre legislation of schools at the federal level. No Child Left Behind has fundamentally broken the schooling system in the US, forcing the hand of administrators to pass through or push out under-performing students, otherwise the schools that clearly need the most help will get their budgets slashed. The end goal of this largely appears to be to make the introduction of charter schools palatable to the public at large, with the end goal of the abolishment of the free public school system, and of a free public education, which is a birthright of all US citizens.

As revisionist history goes, the lousy way history is taught in US schools could easily turn into a 25 page dissertation. At every level, it seems that history and the intent behind the actions of most, if not all, historical figures is whitewashed and obfuscated to meet political ends, advance a certain agenda, or alter the facts to make them more age-appropriate (e.g., nearly anything said about Ben Franklin). This is primarily the fault of local and state school boards, which are comprised of elected officials who are not required to have any background in a particular subject matter or educational theory.


@Al_nyc Where is the uneveness? This is what I don't understand. If two people of different color who both have the same skill set apply for an internship, why should one be chosen over the other just because there are less people of that color in the population?  These aren't rhetorical questions. I really can't see the logic in this. 

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