The process for landing a job as a software engineer, from the initial phone screening to receiving an offer letter, can be extensive, as one hiring manager has detailed. For Black software engineers, it is even more of a grind, given the barriers and attitudes that they often encounter within the wider technology sector.
As one engineer described in an Infoworld article last year:
“I would be the team lead, and my team and I would be holed up in a conference room at the client site. A member of the client executive team would walk into the conference room and assume that one of the white members of my team was the team lead. That team member would point to me and let that person know that the questions they were asking had to be answered by me.”
Here in the U.S., the tech sector is still overwhelmingly white, and yet many companies say they have a hard time finding talent — which, of course, raises questions about whether talent acquisition teams are getting it right in the first place.
To that end, Karat, which works with software engineering teams to take on challenges with the technical side of the job recruitment process, has launched a program it says can help expand access and fairness across the technology sector.
The program, called Brilliant Black Minds, started last year, and Karat says it’s formalizing that commitment with $1 million worth of practice interviews for Black software engineers.
Karat starts the process with enterprise-grade technical interviews for computer science students as well as professional developers. Following each interview session, the firm’s staff offers feedback and coaching to participants, noting how the potential interviewees perform well and where they could improve. Interviewees can also attend workshops with career engineers that run the gamut from interview preparation, how to best showcase their problem-solving skills in the interview, salary negotiation and networking tips so they bolster their long-term career prospects.
“Job candidates seldom get feedback from interviews, and it’s even less common for that information to make its way to the educators,” said Dr. Legand Burge, a Howard University computer science professor, in an emailed statement. “Karat’s ability to share the skills that hiring managers from top-tier tech companies are looking for, coach our students on how to crack the code of the technical interview, and guide our faculty on how to map our curriculum to meet those practical needs has been incredibly valuable.”
The program could certainly find traction at computer science programs such as the one at Washington, D.C.’s Howard University (pictured above), which by many accounts ranks in the top 10 percent of engineering schools across the U.S. According to Karat, more than 75 percent of of the university’s senior, junior and sophomore computer science students have participated in this program class last fall; Karat says more partnerships are in the pipeline to work with more Black software engineers.
Actions such as those taken by Karat and its partners are among the tools that can help build more promising job prospects for Black software engineers. The larger challenge, however, is the fact that many barriers that professionals face are systematic. As one software development school has pointed out, Black representation in the software sector has only increased one or two percentage points in the past 15 years; and various studies have suggested Black software engineers on average make $10,000 a year less than their white counterparts.
Image credit: David Mark/Pixabay
Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.
Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.
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