Guest Post: Estefania Ortiz and the Latin@ Coder Summit

On May 2nd, 2015, CODE2040 Alumna Estefania Ortiz hosted the Latin@ Coder Summit at Stanford. The following post, written by Estefania, recounts the process she and her CODE2040 advisory team went through in order to make the summit happen.

The Latin@ Coder Summit was a day-long event in May that brought together more than 200 Latino/Latina programmers for networking, learning, and sharing. The day was full of interactive technical workshops, discussions, and speakers. 

The original idea stemmed from a conversation with a CODE2040 mentor,  Jennifer Arguello’s and my desire to connect with Latina programmers. After that conversation, we initially decided to host a small “get-together” of Latina programmers at Stanford. However, that plan quickly increased in scale. Soon after we began planning the event, Tiq Chapa, another CODE2040 mentor, connected me to students who worked at the Hispanic Heritage Foundation that summer. They had begun to plan a similar event and wanted to join forces. The plan for the event was suddenly much larger: we wanted to bring together 200 Latino and Latina coders to Stanford for a whole day of activities. With the support of CODE2040 and the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, we made the Latin@ Coder Summit possible. 

CODE2040's support was crucial in finding both presenters and attendees. Incredibly, all of our workshops had CODE2040 representation in them:

  • Danilo Campos, a CODE2040 mentor, taught the Introduction to iOS workshop
  • Luis Fernando de Pombo (alumnus) taught Big Data Processing
  • Andre Woodley (alumnus) taught Growth Hacking
  • An amazing group of volunteers from the CODE2040 community taught Technical Interviewing 101:

Vicky Lai, Software Engineer at Palantir Technologies
Sonia Fajardo, Software Engineer at Brightroll
Ned Rockson, Co-Founder at Doublie
Paola Castro, Mobile App Engineer at SurveyMonkey
Brian Lumpkins, Engineer at cPacket Networks
Robert Scott, Software Engineering Manager at Inkling
Pascal Carole, Lead Engineer at Do
Ragib Jones, Technical Lead at Brocade
Jose Rojas, Software Developer at Redline Solutions, LLC
Christian Ambriz, Software Engineer at Bloc, Inc.

It is an anomaly to be a Latino/a in tech the same way that being an engineer in the Latino community is uncommon. Our vision was to create an event in which Latino/a engineers could connect and celebrate while listening to great technical speakers and participating in helpful workshops. The event dispelled the tale that there are no Latino/a engineers while also challenging the idea that tech companies simply can’t find us. It was a way to strengthen the community by uniting it in a way that has not been done before.

The high concentration of talented, passionate, and supportive individuals in the CODE2040 network made bringing together more than 200 Latin@ Coders in one room possible. has more information on the event.

Intuit Welcomes CODE2040


There’s an adage about staying true to yourself that Jenny Choo loves. She laughs, aware that everyone says it, but insists it bears repeating because the advice rings so true. “Who you are,” she says, “it’s not just about working for a company, it’s making sure that a company is the right fit for you.”

Intuit, where Choo is Senior Program Manager of Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Partnerships, is home to five of our Fellows this summer. No stranger to the diversity conversation, Intuit has made diversity a priority, but it’s not just about doing what’s right. Diversity makes good business sense too.

Leaders are seeking people with different backgrounds, different experiences and different opinions. By bringing together teams with diverse opinions and ways of looking at the world, companies are breaking free of groupthink and creating dialogue that can inspire new and innovative thinking. In fact, employees that are part of more diverse teams with inclusive environments are more likely to take risks.

With that in mind, Intuit has implemented programs to foster a community of diverse professionals, develop employees within a diverse organizational framework and address the needs of consumers and partners.

Intuit has developed Intuit Circles and BOLD (Bay Area Organization of Ladies in Big Data) forums as well as partnering with like-minded organizations to share and learn together.

Choo played an important role in welcoming CODE2040 into the Intuit family this year. After hearing about CODE2040 from more than one source, including CODE2040 mentors and alumni, she and her team decided to partner. “CODE2040 has thought of everything,” she said, “They make it very easy for the partners. It was the right choice for us.”

For Choo, her work in increasing diversity is both personal and tangible. The personal connection she continues to feel about efforts to diversify all spaces comes along with her passion to get things done. “People with diverse backgrounds offer a different thought formation,” said Choo, referencing the tangible effects of diversifying the technical workforce, “I think that we’re able to look at our projects and tackle projects differently by having a diverse team involved.”  

As with any new teammate, Choo and her team made sure that Fellows matched Intuit’s culture and values. “It’s not just about how well you can code, per se, it’s not just about how good you are technically,” she said, “Really, I want to see that you have the potential to be a leader. That you have the soft skills necessary to work on a team.”

In recalling the Fellows’ initial visit to Intuit, Choo extolled, “Every fellow had such a different, lively personality. It was amazing to watch.”

At CODE2040, we’re so grateful when companies like Intuit and people like Jenny Choo welcome us into their families. We’re excited to see what we can do together.

GUEST POST: Why Slack Chose CODE2040

The following post was written by Nolan Caudill, Engineering Chief of Staff at Slack.

At Slack, we've determined that the values most important to us in running our company are based on the technical ability to do great work, working hard to add that extra bit of shine, and being strongly empathetic to both our customers and our fellow workers. Our ideal employee possesses all these traits.

Typical hiring processes, though, rely heavily on referrals. There is a strong and proven correlation about one's background that determines what kind of job you acquire, which is mostly independent of your ability to do good work. Referrals are, in essence, "who you know." This ability to know the right person to get a job depends heavily on where you are from, what school you went to, what previous jobs you've held, as well as ever-present innate biases that humans possess. People get extra advantages — explicit or implicit — to even get into the jobs where these valuable connections are made.

We strongly believe that traits such as gender, race, country of origin, and/or sexual orientation have no bearing on one's ability to do great work. And like almost every tech company, our own upbringings, biases, and life experiences result in referral networks that are very homogenous, and we know we are missing out on great candidates based on these shortcomings.

In short, CODE2040 is a huge help in connecting us with qualified and eager candidates that wouldn't normally come through our networks. The extra structure and training that CODE2040 provides to the Fellows also produces better candidates on the whole as not only are they technically trained from previous internships and universities but they also know how workplaces function, how to communicate effectively with their peers and managers, and how to "level-up" as professional engineers. I wish all of our interns and newly-hired grads had similar training and support structures. Knowing how to code is important, but the intangibles are what makes for a great employee. For us, working with CODE2040 was a no-brainer.


Slack is one of many amazing homes to our 36 Fellows this summer. You can follow all our Fellows on our twitter list and in #Fellows2040.


I’m watching a student fumble with a name tag. He’s trying, nervously, to simultaneously write letters and check in with the programs team. His anxiety is endearing - he’s excited about his new roommates, excited to meet the other Fellows, and excited to rub shoulders with his mentor. He isn’t alone. Like any other conference setting, students like him mill about anxiously, drinking coffee, and poking at breakfast sandwiches. A few of them, social butterflies, chirp excitedly about the weekend ahead. Others sit quietly in groups, observant. In the air hangs an almost tangible tension as students, representing everywhere from California to Brazil, try to envision the roller-coaster experience ahead of them.

At ten a.m. sharp, the facilitators assemble their flock. This is Welcome Weekend.

Thirty-six Fellows and thirty-three mentors joined our CODE2040 team last Friday and Saturday for Welcome Weekend. As an all-purpose Fellows program boot camp/orientation/celebration, Welcome Weekend brought the cohort and mentors together, laying the framework for healthy mentor/mentee relationships in the next seven weeks and beyond. The weekend, a expedition into topics like active listening and time management, was an opportunity for students to build their toolkit with experiences from alumni and mentors alike. Tournament style bouts of rock paper scissors accompanied deep conversations about the branding of Black and Latino/a engineers in tech, while alliterative name games opened doors to self-reflection and self-care.

Above all, Welcome Weekend was built and executed as communion. The atmosphere in workshops was equal parts intellectual and playful, giving students an opportunity to break bread over topics that usually stay off the table. Candid conversations about biases, fears, and newfound optimism erupted throughout the day, with each admission garnering an outpouring of support.

No doubt, our Fellows talked tech. They laughed about translating code to non-techies and writing programs that flooded their friends’ computers with pictures of cats. Still, at the core of their interactions was a homecoming - an entrance into a community that many admitted they had missed all their lives.

Our team is humbled to help build that community. You can follow our Fellows this summer on our twitter list and meet them all here.

Acing the Interview

In May, Peter Sims, award winning author and founder of the BLKSHP foundation, asked a group of Silicon Valley executives an important question: “How can we better utilize our entrepreneurial potential, networks, and technology to help reinvent America?” We think Peter’s question, and many others like it, have created amazing dialogue about what we can do as a community to better serve the populations we care deeply about. As a team, CODE2040 has thought about how to expand our reach and we’re excited to share with you our response to the ever-evolving needs of our community.

The Fellows program, launched in 2012, has given us invaluable insight into the needs of companies and students. Through four cycles of Fellows programming, hundreds of conversations with companies, and thousands of student assessments, we’ve gained extensive knowledge about how to support emerging tech talent.  In response to that knowledge, we designed the Technical Applicant Prep Program (TAP), created specifically to help minority students ace the technical interview process.

Technical Applicant Prep saw its inaugural retreat weekend May 29th-31st, where 26 students experienced everything from sessions on networking to personal narratives from established tech professionals. Alongside our team, these students learned to navigate the hoops required of their selected career paths. “I feel like it's one of these gatekeepers,” said Alex Cattron, Technical Product Manager at CODE2040, “You have to be able to jump through this hoop to land a job, even if you are able to do the job.”

Alex is no stranger to interview navigation. Before joining our family in her current role, she was one of those five flagship Fellows, just learning to navigate the world herself. After completing her summer internship at Nutrivise, Alex went on to hold a number of roles spanning software engineering to teaching, eventually returning to the organization that provided her with a community back in 2012.

In her time as a computer science student, Alex received no formal technical applicant preparation. TAP gives students the ability and confidence to showcase their technical skills within the confines of the interview process. Over the course of the weekend, we saw students like Anthony Williams and Daphne Watson flourish through each individual workshop. Their experiences led them to write powerful testimonials in support of TAP on Medium, illustrating their growth in building self-efficacy and finding their purpose. These testimonials, Alex remarked, are right in line with what she hopes students walk away with at every TAP event going forward.

“Although it’s hard, it's worth it,” Alex said. “It's a great opportunity to alter your trajectory in life.”

We're excited to bring TAP to select geographies throughout 2015 and to launch our online programming in late 2015. To keep up to date on the latest and find out when you can participate in TAP in person or online, enroll in CODE2040 as a student or volunteer to help.  Follow us @CODE2040.

Inclusive Hackathons

It’s no secret that we spend a lot of time thinking about diversity here at CODE2040.  Naturally, when CODE2040 Alumni started organizing a NYC-based HACK2040 event that took place this past weekend, inclusivity was one of the first things on our mind.

Many hackathons face the same lack of diversity we see in the tech industry as a whole. A large number of these events are still overwhelmingly white, young, and male. While most aren’t explicitly exclusionary in nature, a number of factors can play into making underrepresented groups feel like they don’t belong at the table.

The amazing thing about many of these factors is that they are, in fact, controllable. By deliberately putting time and effort into designing inclusive spaces for each hackathon, we all can continue to ensure that events like HACK2040 are welcoming for all participants. 

Of course, we’ve had a lot of help on our way to designing a more inclusive hackathon. CODE2040 Alumni Amy Quispe (Fellows Program ‘12) is no stranger to hackathons since she hosted Carnegie Mellon’s first student-run event in 2012. Of the 150 participants TartanHacks drew, 50 were women. In Amy’s blog post, she gave us the following advice on how to build a better hackathon. 

Creating a More Inclusive Hackathon by Amy Quispe

A while back I wrote a blog post called How Carnegie Mellon Created a More Inclusive Hackathon. It included a handful of tips for organizers, but also told a story about how we thought about diversity and inclusion. Several years later, I was part of the process of organizing a last weekend’s HACK2040 as a CODE2040 Alumni. In addition to the tips that I provided in my original post, here are other ideas that we developed in order to create a better event:

  • Code of Conduct - A Code of Conduct is a document that is distributed to potential participants that explains what sort of behavior is acceptable and expected. Having this as part of the event is very important to us - it makes participants feel safer, it sets the tone, and it also draws a line for when disciplinary action needs to take place.
  • Goals and Metrics - Deciding what to measure, how to measure, and what success means are all important to creating a solid event. This means more than simply tracking race and gender. Do you want gender diversity to reflect the population of your school’s computer science program? Do you want to see if there’s a discrepancy between those who do and do not complete the hackathon? These sorts of questions are important in order to continue moving forward.
  • Community Sensitivity - Know your community. Talk to your community. Blindly applying tactics from others’ events may work out - but truly understanding your participants means that you can do what’s best for your community. For example, there may be cultural reasons why girls wouldn’t be able to stay throughout the night, in which case you may consider a longer-form event. Empathy is key in order to serve well.
  • Inclusion at Every Layer - Is the judging panel diverse? Do any of the sponsors invoke distrust from certain groups? A recent question we asked ourselves was if hardware hacks would be allowed - how would this disadvantage other participants, and how could we remedy this? If inclusion is a top priority, then it’s a priority through and through.          

With the success of HACK2040 under our belt, we’re excited to open doors to even more students moving forward. You can view our HACK2040 highlights here and follow us @CODE2040 for future updates. 

The Emerging Face of Tech - Startup Grind 2015

Panel Discussion with Laura Weidman Powers and Johnny C Taylor, Jr from the Thurgood Marshall College Fund

In February, CODE2040 CEO Laura Weidman Powers was a featured speaker at Startup Grind 2015 when she spoke on a panel with Johnny C Taylor, Jr from the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.  Laura spoke about the emerging face of tech and how it’s essential for tech companies to attract diverse talent in order to be successful in the future. Watch the panel discussion.

Announcing our first class of CODE2040 Entrepreneurs in Residence!

We could not be more excited to introduce you to our three 2015 CODE2040 Entrepreneurs in Residence: Riana Lynn, Joel Rojo, and Talib Graves-Manns.

These folks will be the first EIRs in our new CODE2040 Residency program that we're piloting in Austin, Chicago, and Durham this year. The CODE2040 Residency, powered by Google for Entrepreneurs, is designed to empower Black and Latino/a entrepreneurs to take their companies to the next level while taking their communities to the next level as well.

We're thrilled to partner with Google for Entrepreneurs as part of their NextWave campaign as well as with the three fantastic tech hubs who will be hosting our EIRs: Capital Factory in Austin, 1871 in Chicago, and American Underground in Durham. Each of these hubs is committed to creating and growing strong, diverse, and inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystems in their cities, and we're thrilled to be working with Google to help them.

We'll be sharing lots more about the CODE2040 Residency in the coming weeks, including sharing information on our applicant pool, some of our top finalists, and what our plans are for the curriculum. We'll also let you hear directly from our EIRs on why this opportunity was perfect for them. But in the meantime, take a moment to get to know just a little about our three EIRs - we think they're fantastic and know you will too!

Riana Lynn - chicago (1871)

Riana is a young leader in food and health entrepreneurship with a passion for technology, access, and bringing people together. From her grandmother’s garden to the White House South Lawn she was inspired to create FoodTrace, a next level sourcing platform that connects consumers, restaurants, distributors and farms.

Riana has been featured in Inc, Wired, Entrepreneur Magazine, and other local and national publications. She graduated with a B.S. in Biology and African American Studies and a minor in Chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she taught herself how to code and was a top-ranked performer in Discus and Javelin before pursuing a Masters at Northwestern University. While getting her hands dirty in the White House Kitchen Garden, her work included major policy initiatives such as Small Business and Jobs, STEM, and Public Health. A native of the Chicago area, Riana is a young politico, a restaurant enthusiast, a world traveler, and an innovative fruit connoisseur.

Talib Graves-Manns - durham (American Underground)

With over 10 years experience in sales, marketing, and digital technology, Talib has a track record of success from Madison Ave to New Orleans. He believes in a customer centric model in all his endeavors where the voice of the customer is the driving force behind the development of experiences, products, and solutions.

Talib’s passion for diversity and education technology have culminated in his co-founding RainbowMe, an online platform for original content designed to educate and entertain children of color across the world. The RainbowMe team believes that through a culturally relevant exchange of ideas, customs, and lifestyles, children will be better equipped members of an increasingly diverse world.

Joel Rojo - austin (Capital Factory)

Joel is a product designer, developer, and entrepreneur with a wide array of experiences in the tech industry. He is passionate about technology's ability to connect people and provide value at massive scale. A graduate of Harvard, where he studied Sociology and Computer Science, Joel's experiences range from starting an online real estate agency at the age of 18, to working at Google's Creative Lab and New Business Development group, to building product at Indeed, the top job search engine in the world, where he was a product hacker on their Labs team. Currently he is the co-founder of TicketKarma, an online ticket marketplace that aims to bring simplicity, trust, and community to the secondary ticket market.



Connect with us at SXSW! (South by Southwest)

Are you heading to SXSW? If so, we'd love to connect with you!  Here's our schedule.

Come support CODE2040 presenters:

Join us at partner events:

*We would also like your help in promoting CODE2040 at SXSW. Would you be willing to wear your CODE2040 t-shirt or hoodie to one of the parties or sessions? 

The CODE2040 Family: Mission-Driven Hustlers

By Iris Gardner

In nearly two years at CODE2040, I have met phenomenal people, seen the team grow in depth and size, and done things I didn’t know that I could do. I am eternally grateful for the past two years I’ve had on the CODE2040 team and it saddens me to say that I am now departing the team.

I am leaving to start a social venture that is focused on a topic that is near and dear to my heart, food education and nutrition in my hometown of Denver, CO. My first step will be a 9-month round the world trip learning new cuisine and food culture starting in April.

While I am sad to leave, I must also heed the advice that I give to our Fellows and pursue my dreams! My time at CODE2040 has made the next part of my journey possible and I’m very grateful to the CODE2040 Family.

I say, the ‘CODE2040 Family’ because it truly is a family here at CODE2040.  We have people who care for us when we are sick, people who bring us lunch just because they were thinking of us, people who will stay at the office late just so you’re not alone, but most of all, we are a group of mission-driven hustlers.  

Our fearless leader, Laura, wrote that post almost a year and a half ago laying out what she looks for when she hires a new staff member. As we have grown over the past year and a half Laura has been able to do just that - our latest news is living proof!

Here are a few of my favorite moments and milestones:

  1. Growth of the Fellows Program from 5 to 18 to 25 to up to 40 Fellows this summer
  2. Innovation at our two hackathons and Fellows placing at the Greylock Hackfest
  3. Development of three new programs: the Alumni Program, the Technical Applicant Prep (TAP) Program, and the CODE2040 Residency.
  4. Rocking out with 500+ CODE2040 and Year Up Bay Area supporters at the 2nd Annual Friendraiser.
  5. Sprouting of the CODE2040 Team from a group of four full-time employees to 12...and growing!

It has been an adventure to say the least, and I’m so grateful to the CODE2040 Family for sharing this time with me. I am also pretty excited for where my next adventure will take me.

Where will I be going? To every continent except Antarctica! I will start in Australia and Southeast Asia, then move onto the Middle East, then I’ll make a few stops in Africa, next will be Europe and finally South America and the Caribbean.

There are many people who I’ve met along my journey that have made this next chapter possible and I hope to stay in touch with all of you. Please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn where I’ll post more details about my trip and social venture.

To the Alumni and Fellows, thank you for being an inspiration for the staff, the tech industry, and future Fellows.

To our volunteers, thank you for sticking by us and making sure our Fellows have the role models and mentors they deserve.

To our donors and companies that host Fellows, thank you for making the statement that diversity in tech is not good-will but a smart business decision.

To the staff, thank you for your mission-driven hustle and supporting my dreams.

To the families of the staff, thank you for letting us stay late at the office, rock out with our supporters, grow from one program to four, and for letting us be mission-driven hustlers.

Are you a mission-driven hustler? Join the family!