HBCUs Can Become a Key Source of Software Development Talent
Tech companies would do well recruiting from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), said a graduate of HBCU Tennessee State University who has made it big.
Angie Jones, Vice President of Global Developer Relations, TBD, at the financial services and digital payments company Block Inc., said enthusiastically that companies can find lots of engineering talent at HBCUs!
“When in undergrad, I remember IBM taking their recruiting efforts a step further by setting up an industry-level project for the top CS majors at my school,” Jones told The New Stack. “We were given access to IBM employees as mentors/resources for the project and upon completion, all of us were given job offers.”
Moreover, the HBCU environment provided a safe and nurturing environment for students to become software engineers.
“I was oblivious to the fact that the tech industry is largely made up of white males and I’d be in the less than 2% of Black female software engineers,” Jones said. “This is largely due to the fact that my classrooms didn’t reflect this. I wasn’t intimidated by being a complete tech noob because everyone else in my courses was in the same boat. I truly believe that this psychological safety was paramount in establishing my confidence as an engineer.”
Java has played a central part in Jones’ career, even back to her days at Tennessee State University, where after taking two semesters of Java, one of her professors, Dr. Ali Sekmen, set up an optional summer boot camp to prepare students to take the Java certification exam. Jones jumped at the opportunity and became a certified Java programmer before even getting her degree.
“So, I entered the workforce as a master of Java,” she said. “That’s rare and truly set me up for success. This was when Java was relatively new, version 2 to be exact, so enterprise companies were just starting to use the language. As a junior developer, I was a subject matter expert at a Fortune 500 company! That was huge.”
Jones has since used Java over her entire career and stayed up to date on the newest features, she said.
“I’d also conduct workshops, give talks, and write blog posts about software development in Java,” Jones said. “This is how I became the first Black woman to become a Java Champion.”
Given her history and experience, “I’d jump at the opportunity to teach at an HBCU. I’ve worked as an adjunct professor before, but it wasn’t an HBCU. I could totally see myself doing this in the future,” Jones said. But she has a lot to do between now and that future possibility.
Jones granted The New Stack a wide-ranging interview, responding to several questions including quick-hit ones such as:
The New Stack: What is your favorite programming language?
Angie Jones: Java!
What is your favorite tool or framework?
I love Faker, Rest-Assured, and Selenium.
What is your favorite IDE?
What about that air fryer? How many people have you brought over to the air fryer? (Are you really all that in the kitchen? I’ve seen some of the pics.)
Too many to count at this point. Let’s just say that in the summer of 2020, the air fryer model I was suggesting completely sold out in stores.
Cooking is one of my hobbies. I’m from New Orleans so food is a big part of the culture. My kitchen is the best place to eat in New Orleans, no cap.