Kelauni Cook wants to address every inch of the pipeline for black technology professionals.
She’s co-director for Academy Pittsburgh's Beta Builders program, an after school coding class that caters to girls and children of color. But through her own personal experience, she’s learned that there are barriers for even well-prepared African Americans pursuing careers in tech.
So, she founded Black Tech Nation.
The organization, launched last week in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science, will provide programming around technology careers and diversity, first by investing in collecting more data to bring awareness to the issue.
Cook said she wants to gather black “techies” in Pittsburgh into one community to provide a sense of belonging, a source for educational resources, and most importantly, networking opportunities.
“Tech is very close-knit,” said Cook. “A lot of times they don’t even post their junior-level software engineering positions. They’ll go to their developers sand say, ‘Hey, do you know someone who can be a part of this?’”
Cook said that insider process can perpetuate the problem, so her organization is working to partner with companies to help fill positions. She said many companies she’s reached out to are eager to learn how to diversify their pool of candidates.
Those goals apply to attracting and retaining new talent, too. She said she hopes the Black Tech Nation community can draw more diverse candidates nationwide, especially if Pittsburgh is chosen as the new location for Amazon’s HQ2 headquarters.
“It’s like Pittsburgh wants to be this diverse place," Cook said, "but there has to be some kind of support system or community to make sure more African-American tech people are coming to the city, and actually want to stay.”