With music blaring and liquor flowing, distinguished venture capitalists, philanthropists and company executives came out Wednesday to support diversity in Boston’s tech community.
Hack.Diversity, an initiative created by the New England Venture Capital Association (NEVCA), held its fall celebration honoring the accomplishments of the program’s first cohort last week in downtown Boston.
Hoping to break barriers for minority students, Hack.Diversity wants “a 100% increase in the number of blacks and Latinos working in the innovation economy in Boston,” according to their website.
Sixteen computer science and engineering students from local colleges made up Hack.Diversity’s first cohort. Each student received mentoring and got opportunities to intern with prominent Boston tech companies like HubSpot, Carbonite and Wayfair.
Out of the 16 fellows who were accepted into the program, five received full-time offers with the companies they interned for.
Featured speakers included John Barros, chief of economic development for the City of Boston; Jason Robins, CEO of DraftKings; and Jody Rose, executive director of NEVCA.
Rose said an article — “Why Doesn’t Silicon Valley Hire Black Coders?” published in Bloomberg in 2016 — launched the dialogue that resulted in Hack.Diversity’s creation.
“[The] article was forwarded to me and a few others from Jeff Bussgang from Flybridge,” Rose said. “That started the long conversation that we had around how do we hack the system that we have here, so we can be leaders and help us start to talk about some of the issues that we are seeing and what are ways we should be addressing this that haven’t been addressed before.”
Rose said Hack.Diversity hopes to expand its program in the future, first into other industries and then into other locales.
“Right now, we are focused on software engineers and IT professionals in the tech and healthcare industry,” she said. “The goal is, how do we attack other industries like marketing, accounting, operations, talent. After we tackle that, the goal is to go into other innovation hubs because we believe we have created a pretty genius model.”
German Martinez, a fellow from Hack.Diversity’s inaugural cohort, received a full-time offer to work at Wayfair. Martinez shared his story of leaving the gang violence of El Salvador to come to the United States, where he first attended Bunker Hill Community College and then University of Massachusetts Boston to study management information systems.
“My last year at UMass Boston I was looking for an internship, and I applied to at least 50 companies where I got a nice email saying that I didn’t quite match what they were looking for,” Martinez said. “Of those 50 plus companies that I applied for, only four of them invited me for a personal interview. I got close to but didn’t make any of the internships.”
Martinez said he learned about the Hack.Diversity program through one of his professors and decided to apply for it. He said students looking to follow his path should be ready take extra initiative.
“If you really want to get a full-time job, then you really have to go the extra mile,” Martinez said. “If [employers] are asking for help to finish a project then you need to be the first one to say, ‘I’ll help you.’ You must have a balance too. I think that’s what it comes down to.”
In 2018, Liberty Mutual Insurance will be joining Hack.Diversity for its second cohort. Maura Quinn, assistant vice president of campus recruiting at Liberty Mutual, said the company is looking to expand its talent pool.
“We just thought, with the growth of innovation and technology at Liberty Mutual, it makes a lot of sense to expand the sources from which we recruit technical talent,” Quinn said.
Quinn said Liberty Mutual’s participation benefits not only students but also the company.
“I think it is a mutually beneficial arrangement with Hack.Diversity and with the school of universities that are supplying the talent to our organization,” Quinn said. “We are benefitting from getting quality hires as interns and, hopefully, converting them into full-time hires in the organization.”