The Power of the Pipeline: Changing the Face of Technology

For this year’s #BlackHistoryMonth, CSforALL’s Member, All Star Code, highlights two young men of color and their pathway to a successful career in technology.

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Gary Coltrane (right) presenting DayStrive with Executive Director Danny Rojas and fellow Scholar De Andre King at All Star Code’s 2019 Summer Benefit

All Star Code is building one of the largest pipeline of Black & Brown talent for the innovation economy. We are pleased to introduce you to two of our incredible Scholars who embody the power of the pipeline. Gary and Djassi were high school students in New York City when they joined All Star Code in 2014. Both young men were students in All Star Code’s inaugural year, participating in the very first Summer Intensive; today, Gary and Djassi are both Software Engineers at major tech companies.

All Star Code is one of the only organizations specifically focused on technology training for young men of color, recognizing that these careers are the pathways to economic stability and success in the twenty-first century. While at All Star Code, students participate individually or in groups to create projects that address problems in their own communities, then present in front of their peers, family, instructors, and industry thought leaders such as All Star Code Ambassadors Charles Phillips and Robert F. Smith.

Gary created DayStrive, “a technological platform designed to lower recidivism rates in the United States by providing formerly incarcerated individuals access to the tools they need to acclimate into society. With portals for both employers and prospective employees, DayStrive offers an opportunity for companies to make a difference while finding their next great employee.”

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Gary with All Star Code’s Founder Christina Lewis featured on Cheddar

Going into All Star Code, Gary had one goal in mind — to create technology to help his community. Gary shared more in a recent interview:

“The main reason I got into coding and computer science was to help impact my communities. My goal is to help people who were formerly incarcerated, people who come from inner city backgrounds, and people who come from disadvantaged backgrounds use the power of technology, computer science, and software to help inspire others and strive towards a better tomorrow.” — Gary Coltrane, All Star Code Scholar 2014 Full-Time Software Engineer, Carvana

Following his time at All Star Code in 2014, Gary graduated from Marist College as a Computer Science major, joined JPMorgan & Chase Co. as a Software Engineer intern in 2018, served as a Web Application intern at IBM in 2019, then came back to All Star Code to work as a Lead Instructor in 2019. In 2019, Gary accepted a full-time position as a Software Engineer with Carvana.

Gary reflects fondly on his time at All Star Code: “The Summer Intensive helped shape everything that I am today. It taught me lessons, concepts, and views that go beyond coding. The philosophy behind it is great, and I’m ABSOLUTELY sure that if it wasn’t for the Summer Intensive I wouldn’t be who I am today. I CANNOT stress that enough.”

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Djassi featured in CNBC’s “Inclusion in Action” Forum (September 2020)

“All Star Code gave me the confidence to look inside myself and realize that I’m capable of doing whatever I put my mind to. No other learning environment has taught me as much as All Star Code did, which is why we need more programs like it.” — Djassi Julien

Before joining All Star Code, a young Djassi described the tech world as “isolated, lame, and lonely.” After completing the Summer Intensive in 2014, however, he began to see the tech world as “filled with creative and imaginative people who enjoy what they do.”

Building on his time at All Star Code, Djassi felt empowered to chase his career aspirations. “I realized that I was just as qualified and capable as my peers, and it inspired me to apply for an internship at Google at the beginning of my freshman year, and I’ve been fortunate enough to intern there every summer since then. Without All Star Code, I never would’ve developed the confidence to advocate for myself or the diligence to commit to improving my skills as a programmer.”

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Djassi (left) with fellow Google interns featured on CNN

Djassi went on to study Mathematics and Computer Science at Harvey Mudd College, graduating in 2020. He joined Google first as a Practicum Intern in 2017 and 2018, then as a Software Engineer Intern in 2019, and accepted a Full-Time Software Engineer position in 2020. Djassi also serves as Associate Board Member at All Star Code, officially the youngest Board member and first Scholar Alumni to serve on the Board.

Though the tech industry is the fastest-growing sector of the U.S. economy, tech companies still employ staggeringly low numbers of Black and Brown employees. “I’ve been the only Black member of each of the teams that I’ve interned with at Google (with the exception of a fellow intern one summer) and now I’m still the only Black engineer [on my] team” Djassi told us.

“Being ‘the only one’ is really challenging because in addition to the desire to perform well at an elite tech company, I carry the psychological burden of not wanting my performance to be attributed to my race. I’ve found that I can combat this stereotype threat by seeking out community, both within and outside of Google, but it’s a unique challenge that weighs on me constantly.” — Djassi Julien, All Star Code Scholar 2014Full-Time Software Engineer, Google Associate Board Member, All Star Code

Since Gary and Djassi became part of the inaugural group of All Star Code Scholars, 770 brilliant young men have joined the brotherhood. There is still much to be done to diversify tech and welcome Black and Brown minds to the table, and we are beyond proud to see our graduates changing the face of tech right now — we look forward to many more.

About All Star Code: All Star Code is a nonprofit computer science education organization, founded in 2013, that provides web development and leadership training for young men of color. We are dedicated to building and sustaining a robust talent pipeline of young men of color ready to enter, thrive, and lead in the technology industry. To date, we have 770 young men in our network. Of our college-aged Scholars, 97% are attending college with 67% majoring or minoring in computer science related subjects. Our Scholars have interned at organizations such as NASA, Goldman Sachs, Bloomberg, and are securing full time employment at top tech companies such as LinkedIn, Google, and Facebook, to name a few.

The national hub for the Computer Science for All movement, making high-quality computer science education an integral part of K-12 education in the US.

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