To help our goal of diversifying the tech industry and empower Black students to pursue careers in...
AfroTech, the world’s biggest conference for Black people in tech, brought 2023 to a close on a high, following a turbulent year for the industry.
Members of the Codesmith community that attended have brought back invaluable insights to share.
Over 25,000 attendees from different tech companies across the world assembled in Texas to network, help draw others into the industry and discuss the future of tech.
Recent studies found Black people only make up 3.7% of roles at large tech companies, a depressing 1% increase since 2014. Even more distressing is that Black women only make up 0.7% of the tech workforce.
Maureen Onchiri, Codesmith Resident
Maureen Onchiri, a Codesmith resident of the Software Engineering Immersive program, attended the expo in Austin for the first time focused on exploring potential career opportunities.
“Going into AfroTech, I was really looking to network, being on the job market, so that’s what I spent most of my time there doing,” she says.
Maureen used much of her AfroTech experience going to mixers, organized events to bring together engineers, CEOs and hiring managers.
“I actually got invited to a lot of mixers before the event, so I didn't have to sign up for anything,” she says.
Something that helped her capitalize on these opportunities was having her Codesmith-style resume “ready and perfected prior to the event” which she submitted beforehand to the AfroTech portal, Talent Infusion.
“From that I got a lot of personal invites and even an interview before the conference had started. Be very intentional about your resume,” she advises. “It’s going to get you a lot of invites, so you don’t have to then go and seek them out.”
One of those mixers was with New Relic—a software analytics company—who told her they could do an interview then and there if she wanted to.
“It was less of a technical interview,” she says, and more about seeing if she may be a cultural fit. At the Apple booth however, they interviewed a lot of the people attending: “My sister went and basically got interviewed on the spot.”
The more formal interview Maureen got, through submitting her resume early on, was with Microsoft.
“That one was very technical. They didn’t ask me to code but did ask me about algorithms and had me talk through them to assess what level I was at. They also asked about my experience at Codesmith and the projects I’ve worked on.”
If she went again, Maureen says she would create her own schedule due to the multitude of sessions, talks and workshops on offer.
“I would pick specifically what I was going to ahead of time so I wasn’t overwhelmed. There was so much going on, almost too much, so that it is hard to choose.”
Codesmith Alumni at Afrotech 2023
Brandi Richardson, Codesmith alumni, Microsoft
Brandi Richardson, a January 2021 Codesmith graduate and Technical Program Manager at Microsoft, said, “It’s very rare in tech to be in an environment where there’s nothing but Black people.”
Microsoft sent 300 Black employees this year, where they hosted lunches, mixers and even workshops covering “engineering, design and production,” she says.
Some highlights for her were the expo’s sessions on AI and “how to incorporate it into your work, how to make it more accessible and how to fight racial bias in AI.”
“Most tech companies were started by white males, so I think just now the industry is becoming a bit more diverse. But Black people need to be exposed to tech”
Brandi says AfroTech was invaluable during her own journey into coding because it provided constant updates and news and opportunities for Black people in tech.
And now the conference is helping drive diversity in tech by exposing more and more Black people to the industry.
“Most tech companies were started by white males, so I think just now the industry is becoming a bit more diverse. But Black people need to be exposed to tech,” she says.
“Apart from exposure, another thing is permission. It’s one thing to expose a Black kid, it’s another to give them permission, to say ‘I want you to feel encouraged and empowered that you can do this as well.’”
To read more about Brandi’s journey into tech and her work with people of color and women head to Profiles in Tech.
Attend Afrotech 2024
With AfroTech relocating from Austin to Houston in 2024, the Black Professional Alliance (BPA) launched the Black in Tech Group at AfroTech 2023 to maximize the momentum built up locally over the years by the event. Nic Hollins, director of technology for BPA, said that through the Black in Tech Group, people will have access to workshops, and mentorship opportunities to help them into the tech industry.
Afrotech 2024 will take place from November 13 to 16 at Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center and tickets are on sale for the event now!