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NSBE 2014: Choosing Tech Missions That Matter

This past week, 12 Thoughtworkers spent three very long days (and nights) at the National Society of Black Engineers Conference (NSBE)  in Nashville, Tennessee.  NSBE, the largest student-run organization in the US, focuses on improving the recruitment and retention of black engineering students.

Here are a few highlights:

  • We met more than 240 excited engineers looking for both full-time and internship positions. That’s 70 more students than last year!
  • This year our booth included a pairing station, which was a big hit! It even attracted lateral developers, recruiters, and a Comcast Senior VP.
  • Meaghan Lewis, an Analyst out of our San Francisco office, presented and facilitated group discussions on Defeating the Impostor Syndrome and Empowering Women to Embrace their Success. The event was well attended and left everyone feeling inspired.

  • Apryl Gordy, a Thoughtworks Quality Assurance Analyst out of our Chicago office, used her hard-earned miles to book her flight because she was recently staffed and the flight costs were extremely expensive. As she said, “Nothing was going to keep me from attending the conference.”
  • NSBE hosted their first 24-hour hackathon, inviting 150 technologists to build an app of their choosing. The overall winners was led by a former Thoughtworks’ NYC UX intern, Kirk Shilling, who created a mobile app that records and broadcasts Stop and Frisk injustices. The app is designed to expose unjustified stop and frisk interactions. Victims can simply tap the app to automatically record the series of interactions between officers and victims. The phone records audio and pushing it in small pieces to an external server. Their future goal is to ensure that the recording was automatically backed up until the point that recording was stopped, either by choice or if the phone was broken or taken. Kirk and his team of developers, from both City College of New York and Rutgers, impressed the entire group and hope to launch a full version of the app this summer. Thoughtworks awarded this team Raspberry Pi kits, a single-board computer that encourages learning and experimentation in computer science.
  • Thoughtworks also had the opportunity to create an award for the hackathon for a category of our choice; we chose to award our category prize to an app that benefitted the greater good. We called this the Aaron Swartz Award, and after much deliberation, our judges chose a passionate team of technologists that built an app to prevent suicides. Thoughtworks donated each team member a year-long membership to Safari Books, an online technical library for programmers and developers to encourage continued learnings.

Thoughtworks and the winners of the NSBE Hackathon

A lot of work went into planning this year’s conference to be sure that we made the biggest possible impact at such a great event. Planning started during the fall of 2013 and continued through the following months. We started by calling more than 100 students from the NSBE resume database and e-mailed more than 300 past NSBE National and regional NSBE attendees to invite them to connect with us during the show. The conference attracts college students of all levels, so during the career fair we look to meet not only recent graduates for our junior consulting program, but to make connections with like-minded technologists in all years of study.

Thoughtworks has partnered with NSBE for three years now as sponsors, and we are proud to be aligned with an organization dedicated as we are to changing the face of technology.

Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.

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