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.

[“source=marketingweek]