July 27, 2016
Like many college students, computer science major Marcianna Davis (pictured) spent her spring break in California. But instead of hitting the beaches, Davis participated in Tech Trek, a week-long alternative spring break program hosted by CODE2040, a nonprofit organization that empowers and creates career and networking opportunities for top Black and Latino engineering students.
Davis first learned about CODE2040 in fall 2015 through an information session hosted by NYIT Careers Services—just one in a series of initiatives the department holds to connect computer science students to the tech industry. Later, CODE2040 chose her and 39 other students from around the country for Tech Trek. The group toured technology companies in the Silicon Valley, participated in workshops and Q&A sessions with tech professionals of color, and practiced networking. Assistant Director of Career Services Larry Kamguia interviewed Davis about her experience and what it means for her future.
NYIT Career Services: Which companies did you tour while in San Francisco?
Marcianna Davis: Throughout the week, we visited all types of technology companies, from small startups to big corporations. We went to New Relic, Box, Medium, Circle CI, Pandora, Presence, Intel, Airbnb, Github, and CODE2040’s headquarters.
What was on the agenda during those company visits?
At these companies we worked on projects and had networking sessions. My group worked on two projects: the Arduino machine and the Ideathon. For the Arduino project, we went to Intel and attended a two-hour workshop. We learned how to install LED lights on hardware and how to program hardware to make the LED lights blink.
Ideathon was an all-day project at Box, a startup company in the Silicon Valley. We had to come up with an app idea that could solve a specific problem in the United States. The problem my group came up with was “financial illiteracy.” We decided to tackle the problem with early learners. We created a prototype design of our app called Money Talks, which teaches kids in grades K-12 about money management. The app was inspired by the game Pac-Man. In the app, the power balls have dollar signs on them. When the “Pac monster” eats a ball, a question or statement about finance facts or another mini game pops up as an option. The user must answer the questions correctly to win the game or level up. I enjoyed working on this project and it was so much fun pitching this idea to a panel of judges.
Did you meet any professionals that inspired you?
The speakers I heard from were great. My favorite speakers were Mikey Butler, senior vice president of engineering at New Relic and Maria Karim, program manager from Intel. They both went through challenges in their lives that are common in my community. They fought for everything they had, and their passion for engineering was so encouraging. In the workspace, both speakers had to earn respect from their coworkers.
Can you talk about your networking experience in the Silicon Valley?
Aside from hearing speakers, I also networked with software engineers, hiring managers, business professionals, and CODE2040 employees. I met some amazing people. I talked with an Android developer from One University, a startup company in California. I also met Dustin Moskovitz, Co-Founder of Asana, who talked about how he got to where he is today. During another presentation, CODE2040 employees Alex Catton and Don Woods talked about designing and the business behind the ideas. It was great. I learned so much from them.
What are your greatest memories of the experience?
Meeting my chaperones Mimi Fox and Navi Kaur was the best thing that could have happened to me. They were so warm and welcoming. Navi was the encouraging sister of the group. She made sure everyone was okay and able to get the job done while still having fun. On the other hand, Mimi was the mother figure. She knew a lot about life in and out of the tech field. There are not enough positive words to describe them. I miss them so much. My group was also filled with amazing people. I love the fact that I got to be myself around them. I can't wait to see them all again.
What is your biggest takeaway from this experience?
I attended Tech Trek because I wanted to get exposure to different branches of software development so I can prepare for the future. I kept asking myself: What should I focus on? Where do I go from here? After working on the Ideathon project, I finally found my answer: I am currently focusing on Android development and user interface design on mobile applications.
If anyone has an opportunity to go on this trip, I recommended that you go. It's a lot of fun and you can learn about the many opportunities in technology. I learned that you will always have to prove your worth to yourself and the world, but that as long as you believe in yourself, you can achieve anything. When a door to opportunity opens, don’t hesitate go through it.
Learn more about CODE2040 programs.