By Ben Hosking
On October 16, 2018, Northeastern University’s College of Computer and Information Science (CCIS) co-hosted Latinos in Tech: Reprogramming your Move to a Technical Career with HubSpot Inc. Participants included CCIS staff, faculty, and students, as well as self-taught programmers and industry partners. With a Boston area push for diversity in tech, the event focused on networking and a discussion of non-traditional routes into the tech industry. CCIS’s Assistant Director of Marketing Graduate Programs Wallys Sosa-Picard noted students and tech professionals shared tips on how they got into tech, how to “navigate systems…where they might be the only person of color,” and how to succeed in the competitive tech landscape.
HubSpot initially created Latinos in Tech in 2016 as a pipeline for hiring a Spanish language team. Since then it has shifted into a community-building program, giving people the opportunity to find mentors in the industry, which can lead to a full career. HubSpot holds diversity events like Latinos in Tech every quarter. Jose Ortiz, HubSpot Customer Success Manager for Latin America, pointed out that creating spaces for people to connect gives underrepresented groups the opportunity to meet role models and people to emulate. He went to college in Worcester for a non-CS degree but found a job in IT that led him into the software industry.
Discussing the event and diversity in tech, Melissa Obleada, Diversity and Inclusion Program Manager of HubSpot, remarked that “the success of Code Academy and General Assembly shows there is a huge interest in people becoming coders and designers.”
One way that CCIS is promoting diversity in tech is through its Align Master’s program, which provides a two-semester bridge program for students with non-CS degrees to prepare them for masters-level coursework. Obleada added, “there should be more programs like Align for people without a CS background to go beyond a certificate to get their master’s to pursue a career in CS.”
One of the speakers for the event was Align student Pablo Colunga. He pointed out that workplace diversity “won’t be possible if you don’t have people with the right skills, which [won’t] happen unless you get a more diverse group interested in and studying computer science.” Before coming to Northeastern, Colunga considered boot camps and self-taught learning, but thought that these programs were more for full stack programming and web development and would limit his career opportunities. “Another bachelor’s degree was in the cards until I found out about the Align program,” he explained, which attracted him through its offering of machine learning and artificial intelligence courses.
According to Colunga, the program “always feels like you’re learning something new.” With an undergraduate background in finance and economics, his “possibilities, both practical and academic, have opened up” with the rise of data science. Now, Colunga is a teaching assistant for a Java-based Object Oriented Design course at CCIS. He hopes to work in a machine learning position once he graduates.
Meg Barry, Director of the Align Program, said that the program is a way to immerse yourself in the field to be “robot proof.” One attendee’s remarks resonated with her in particular: “If you’re designing products for a diverse audience, you need a diverse employee set.” Events like Latinos in Tech will help drive that.