At The Orchard, we’re a technology powered music company, focused on elevating artists and labels within the larger global, music ecosystem. With cutting-edge tools to empower The Orchard’s label and artists to drive their releases to the top of the charts, our tech team creates best-in-class products that allow independent creators to take control of their music.
We teamed up with All Star Code, an organization dedicated to “changing the face of technology,” for a one of a kind virtual Hackathon. All Star Code’s programs “creates economic opportunity by developing a new generation of boys and young men of color with an entrepreneurial mindset who have the tools they need to succeed in a technological world.”
The day kicked off with All Star Code’s Executive Director, Danny Rojas, introducing the day and the significance of the event. High school students learned about The Orchard, and the different tech career opportunities there are available within music to help artists track their music and get their content to listeners and fans globally. All Star Code participants learned that technology at The Orchard consists of software, DevOps, QA Engineers, product managers, and product designers. They learned that there’s a lot more to the music industry than one might imagine — including job opportunities that merge a passion for technology and music.
Brent Williams, VP of Information Security at The Orchard, spoke about his 25-year career and the importance of soft skills when working in the tech industry. Since joining The Orchard three years ago, Brent has been instrumental in leading the company’s compliance, security standards, and policies.
As the official Hackathon kicked off, teams were assembled, mentors from The Orchard led icebreakers to allow for team members to get to know each other, and the challenges began!
Scholars quickly took ownership of working with each other to create solutions for the Code Challenges. This included taking turns screen sharing, using collaborative online code editors, talking through potential solutions with each other aloud, and some good old fashion Googling. The Orchard mentors provided programmatic unit tests that scholars could run to verify whether their Code Challenge solutions were correct.
The two hours flew by as each team raced to complete the challenges, with two teams even ending up tied for Third Place. But in the end, Team 5 emerged victorious having successfully completed all the Code Challenges. Congrats to the All Star Code scholars on Team 5: Eric C., Ryan P., Samuel W.!
The Orchard also got to talk to Executive Director, Danny Rojas, on the importance of coding hackathons, All Star Code’s vision for the next 10 years, and how students can get involved.
Can you talk about why All Star Code, and programs like it, are so important for youth, and particularly youth of color?
Today, the tech industry is the fastest-growing sector of the U.S. economy, with increasing job growth, higher pay, better benefits and better resilience to economic downturns than other sectors. However, there is an unacceptable racial divide in the US’s tech industry, which is especially concerning given the tech sectors’ rapid growth and high wages. In 2016, only 5.1% of tech executives were Black or Latino and only 1% of VC-backed startups had a Black or Latino member on the founding team.
As 2018 research from McKinsey shows, greater diversity in the workforce results in greater profitability and value creation. At the executive level, research has found statistically significant correlation between diverse leadership and better financial performance. Creating a diverse talent pipeline of future innovators, creators, and leaders is imperative today, particularly as we navigate through a global pandemic and prepare for recovery.
While there are many organizations that teach coding skills to young women and girls, few focus on young men of color, specifically Black and Latino boys. Without direct investment into Black and Latino boys and young men, they will miss out on the tremendous opportunity that comes with access, exposure, and careers in the innovation economy. Research indicates that the average lifetime earning for a computer science major is $1.67M, creating a path for economic mobility.
We believe that early exposure and access to the tech sector is vital for our students — to spark a curiosity to pursue a path in tech, to increase their confidence through practice and community, to feel a sense of belonging, and develop their competence as leaders in tech. We are certain that the next big idea, venture, and game changing solution to the grand challenges we face — will be led by our All Star Code Scholars.
Why are coding Hackathons important? What are their impacts and how do they support ASC’s mission?
Hackathons offer a unique opportunity for our students to engage in creativity, collaboration, and problem solving. It is important to create spaces for students that are traditionally underrepresented in the tech sector to showcase their brilliance, to gain access to valuable networks, and to create solutions within new contexts and constraints. Tech entrepreneurship is part of our ethos and we encourage our students to embrace a growth mindset, celebrate failure, tell their story, and dare greatly in all they do.
At All Star Code, our virtual Summer Intensive culminates in Demo Day, an opportunity for students to present their tech projects to the community. Students continue to work on their technical products and ideas collaboratively post-program. We have an active student base that not only have participated in hackathons, but have been recognized for their technical demos / projects, and have created their own hackathons intended to expand access to students of color.
What are some upcoming initiatives and programs you would like to highlight?
Apply for our virtual Summer Intensive! We are actively recruiting high school rising juniors and seniors to our flagship program, the virtual Summer Intensive program! The virtual Summer Intensive, is a FREE, six-week web development and leadership training course for high-school men of color (10th & 11th graders). The program runs from July 12 to August 20 this summer. All Star Code provides laptops and mobile hotspots to each student, reducing barriers for participation.
We assess a student’s motivation to learn and willingness to think outside the box, rather than their transcripts and GPA scores. We partner with top tech companies to host the learning experience, gaining access and proximity to tech professionals, culture, and environments. Upon graduation, students are fluent in three programming languages and become part of a growing Scholar network and tech talent pipeline. Apply today!!
We’re living through unprecedented circumstances due to the ongoing global pandemic. How do you think ASC has been impacted and what does the future of the program look like?
First, we recognize how the global pandemic has disproportionately impacted Black and Latino communities, exacerbating systemic inequities that have existed long before the pandemic. In March 2020, our response to COVID-19, like many nonprofits, was to assess the impact to our overall operations, fundraising, and our mission. We decided to move our program and operations to virtual and assessed the needs of our new students — their access to broadband, home learning environments, and impact due to COVID-19.
In May, we also witnessed the blatant disregard for the lives of Black Americans by police and others, including those who summon police on Black people engaging in everyday activities. It was a moment for our community to stand together in fighting systemic racism and injustice everywhere, across all sectors and systems, particularly those that have historically treated people of color unfairly. It strengthened our resolve.
As a result of our decisions, we were able to emerge from the summer months with accomplishments that I am incredibly proud of:
- Served 152 new students in our 1st virtual Summer Intensive, growing our Scholar network to 770 students
- Produced our 1st virtual Summer Benefit, raising emergency funds for our ongoing operations
- Proved our program quality and effectiveness via virtual platforms
- Exceeded our revenue projections during an uncertain economic environment
- Proved our ability to innovate and meet the moment (entrepreneurial mindset!)
Additionally, we refreshed our strategic direction for impact. All Star Code intends to impact 100,000 students in the next 10 years; informed by our experience delivering virtual programming, discussions with corporate partners, and demand for our work to change the face of tech nationally.
As we’ve shown in this Hackathon, there are a number of different careers and paths one can take in tech. How does All Star Code further emphasize this point?
We couldn’t agree more! We fully acknowledge that the jobs of the future will be hybridized by nature — requiring that jobs evolve as fast as the technology that underpins it. Digital skills, digital technology, data & analytics, business acumen, and creativity & design will continue to merge as core competencies for our future workforce.
Our students bring a broad range of interests and goals as they consider their future in tech. One of our Scholars who is pursuing a career in neurosurgery is also studying computer science, realizing that if he can apply artificial intelligence, he can improve patient outcomes.
At All Star Code, we invite our industry partners and collaborators to share how they are using technology for transformation in their roles, businesses, and careers. Our students observe how technology is infused into every sector, job role, and aspect of our daily lives. It creates an opportunity to learn and pursue multi-disciplinary majors and pathways to the workforce.
How can students who want to join All Star Code and its offerings learn more and join?
Great question! Students that are interested in joining All Star Code can learn more by visiting our website and following us on social media (@allstarcode). We are currently engaged in a Scholar Takeover on Instagram, where our students share their experiences with All Star Code and what they are currently pursuing — from new ventures, new products to secure internships and full-time jobs in the tech sector.