One Man’s Mission To Teach More People Of Color How To Code

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Antoine Patton is on a mission: He wants to teach more people of color to code. His goal is to help 2,020 people learn how to code by the year 2020. Patton wants to increase gender and racial diversity in the tech industry. “If more people of color had easier access to learn how to code, program, project manage…then there would be a lot more people of color in tech,” Patton asserts. “[There would be] a wider pool of people for employers to select from and hence a lot more diversity.” It’s no secret that diversity is lacking in the tech industry. When looking at the demographics, women, Blacks, and Hispanics are grossly underrepresented. One study found that 70.6% of computers programmers in the United States were White. The 2018 diversity report in major tech companies like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook reflect similar findings. And while it is commonly understood that the STEM field lags behind in this area, it has been difficult for companies to make strides toward increased representation.

Antoine Patton teaching his daughter, Jay Jay, how to code.Antoine Patton

In an effort to close this gap, Patton has made it his mission to teach others how to code, offering free online classes. Patton first learned to code in 2011 while incarcerated. He found a book on JavaScript and began teaching himself. He was then mentored by another inmate who was proficient in computer programming. Patton’s mentor made him promise to pass the knowledge he shared with him onto others once he was released from prison. Patton stayed true to his word and began sharing his knowledge of coding with others. Before becoming the chief technology officer at his software consulting firm, Patton worked at three different tech companies and had over 50 freelance jobs. He teaches the coding courses through an online school he is developing called Unlock Academy. The purpose of Unlock Academy is to teach others about the tech industry and to educate people about the essentials of programming. The coding classes are taught in a live and interactive environment, that allows students to ask questions. After completing the course, the participants are connected with business owners who can provide internship opportunities. Patton is adamant about teaching kids to code at an early age. He taught his 10-year old daughter how to code and she was even able to build an app for him. “When I was released from prison, I started teaching my daughter how to code…my charity had a website but I never got around to building the mobile app. In November 2017, my daughter took the initiative to start building the app and was done building it by February 2018. It was live in the app store by April 2018.”

Research supports the benefits of teaching skills, like coding, at an early age. The Center for Childhood Creativity came out with a 2018 report on the roots of STEM success. The report indicates that an early focus on STEM learning can positively impact a child’s brain architecture and thinking skills. There are also several documented advantages to teaching coding in the classroom. Students who know how to code are better equipped for the technology revolution. In addition, teaching students how to code helps them develop and harness skills that will make them more marketable on their job search. More schools should consider making coding a regular part of the curriculum.

Increasing diversity in the STEM field goes beyond simply hiring and retaining more diverse talent. It starts at an early age. Research indicates that for the majority of scientists, their interest in science began well before middle school. Being able to spark a child’s interest in the STEM field and offer opportunities for them to grow and develop that interest, may be the missing ingredient to fostering more diversity in the tech industry. “It’s important to teach our youth how to code. They will out-consume us when it comes to mobile device usage so it’s critical we start teaching them how this technology they love so dearly is created and maintained…we want them to willingly grab the torch and lead the digital era we live in,” Patton says.


Financial literacy is more than being able to make investment decisions

Last week one AMC approached me to conduct an Investor awareness session for some corporate employees. I love conducting such sessions so there was no point saying no to them. But before every session, I wanted to make sure the exact number of attendees and their work profile, so I requested the mutual fund house to put me in touch with the HR person who will be arranging the complete show.

I called up the HR Guy, and he told me that the participants would be of Senior manager profile with high-income scale and specifically said that almost all are “Financially Literate” persons, so the presentation should be of quality and useful to them.

There was not much I could do on the presentation part as it was a standard one and specifically oriented towards Investments Especially Mutual funds, but I was excited to interact with the Participants, with the kind of profile I was told by the HR person.

It was a small group of around 15 people. All of them were looking quite mature around 45+ kind of age group.

Before I start the session, once again one of them told me that they are “Financially Literate people” and have attended this kind of presentation many times before. So, I should tell something which was not new to them.

This time I told them that when they know themselves so well and even their understanding level is so high, so rather than doing any session lets answer their questions and doubts. All of them agreed.

As expected the set of questions that came out was, what are the other options to save tax besides Section 80C savings? What mutual funds and other Investment options can help them generate maximum returns? They were looking for specific product advise.

Starting with tax savings first, I enquired where they were investing currently to save taxes. To which the common reply came was through a home loan.

Every member of the group was having a home loan, some of them were having two loans. To them it was investment and tax saving both.

I Further asked how many of them feel that their Job is secure and the Income will keep growing like it was in the past. None of them showed their hands this time.

My next question to them was what plans do they have in their mind and arrangements in their finances, to take care of home loan EMIs and family expenses, in case something happens to their Job. What is the Liquidity situation in their Investments profile? How much of emergency fund they have saved? Do they have Independent health insurance cover?

All of them went quiet, but one person got up and said, after all, expenses, and EMI’s there was hardly left for them to save.

Sensing the anxiety in others’ silence, I started explaining them what exactly I wanted to convey.

Friends, financial Literacy does not mean to gain knowledge relating to investments only. Financial literacy is the possession of the set of skills and knowledge that allows an individual to make informed and effective decisions with all of their financial resources.

You have to understand the role of money in your life and impact of each financial decisions on other important aspects of your personal finance.

When you are not sure on your tomorrow’s income, how can you bet on long term housing loans and ensure the regular commitment of EMI payments. Tax saving is one thing but that does not call for getting into a long-term liability.

Investments should not only be looked at from returns perspective only. You need to have a proper understanding of the structure of the product and investment asset class forming the base of that product.

You have to think on all kind of “What if” scenarios and need to have answers to all of them.

When you search for high returns without understanding of your requirements and not having hold onto your cash flows, then you are exposing yourself to misselling or may be mis buying.

And I am sure these real estate investments are the result of the same. When you had bought it at the first place, you must have been pitched with high returns in this asset class, assured rental incomes, plus tax benefits on home loan. All this in combination must have looked like a mouth-watering deal to you.

And now in today’s scenario, when real estate is into a slowdown, with reduction in the tax benefits by government and increasing in family’s expenses with children going into higher classes, you have started feeling the pinch and now finding solutions in “high returns” of equity.

Friends, you should think about long term only after ensuring the short term and emergency requirements.  There is difference in making and continuing Investments. Growth in investments should be looked at along with the liquidity and safety concerns, not just tax saving.

Even if equity markets are going well these days, there’s no surety of it continue giving the same returns always. Long term equity returns are better than other investment asset classes but only if you stay invested for that long-time frame.

And all this requires understanding of your cash flow positions, your responsibilities, your goals, your risk tolerance, your taxation profile and not just your returns expectation.

Knowing all these things and the decisions you make for the betterment of life and achievement of goals will decide the wellness in your life. But when you limit your understanding to only investments than you are not doing justice to the financial Literacy levels.

So at the end, I would like to say, stop searching for best products and never invest in anything just from tax saving perspective, but strive for a good life with better suited products and keep learning to be a wise investor.