On its fifth anniversary, here’s a look at Black Code Collective’s impact on the DC tech community.

For Code Noir collective (BCC) co-founder Taylor poindexter, creating a space for black technologists to unpack the daily routine of industry was a personal need.

“I felt like, although I had a good support system, I had a lot of white and male friends supporting me, but they didn’t really get some things,” Poindexter told Technical.ly.

After expressing his concerns to his co-founder Lougenia Bailey, Poindexter realized that she wasn’t the only one feeling this about DC’s tech scene.

A few months later, with the help of fellow co-founders Emmanuel Apau, Malick Diarra and Stephane harris, BCC was born at the end of 2016.

Created as a space for black developers in the region to meet, share resources and help each other with #dctech shortcomings, it now has a massive community in its area. Soft channels, local meetings and social media presence.

Five years later, it welcomes more than 2,000 members and serves as a place for community members to get a head start in job searches, discuss pay transparency, learn about the development scene. software in the DMV and, if necessary, voice concerns and frustrations with, well, everything.

But BCC’s mission hasn’t always been so clear, said Poindexter, who is now preparing to take on a CTO role at an audio streaming company. Spotify. In their early days, the founding members said it took several different attempts to figure out what was going to really stick and resonate with the community.

“I just did it through trial and error,” Poindexter said. ” We began to [ECMC Innovation Lab] as a meeting place, just trying to figure out exactly what the community needed the most and how we could add the most value by trying to create that safe space.

Apau, currently CTO of Mechanicode, said he first wanted to create something like Black Code Collective to help new entrants to the tech scene find their place. Back then, he said, he was teaching bootcamps and kept running into the problem of students paying to take the course and then realizing they didn’t really want to be a software engineer.

“[I thought], what if they really had a community or someone to talk to and tell them, hey, what exactly is the day-to-day life of an engineer? Said Apau. “What kind of problems do you usually solve… instead of just saying, ‘Oh, engineers make over $ 100,000. Yeah, I want that.

With BCC, Apau said, young students or new entrants to the tech community can find space for themselves in management or other roles by talking to others already in office.

“Long-term quality”

While it’s had to take a break from many of its in-person offerings – including hackathons, happy hours, and IRL meetups – BCC has seen significant growth since the start of the pandemic (and it’s not the only DC online community to grow in the past 18 months). The move to virtual and the increase in breed discussions that started last June both increased BCC membership, the founders said, as people wanted to be more involved.

Brandon coates, Executive Director of BCC, noted another growth trend that has followed the evolution of the group: the growth of DC technology itself. As the city adds more and more technologists from big tech companies like Google and Amazon (and as DC native startups transform into growing businesses), he has seen more and more members join big names, strengthening the group’s influence and providing even more opportunities for its members to ‘to be far ahead of.

“DC’s tech scene has grown, so now we have people who work for big tech companies, startups, and government contractors,” Coates said. “So now you can ask a question and it’s interesting to have different perspectives on that, so I think the growth has really helped us too. “

It is also developed from top to bottom. What started with a handful of co-founders has now grown to a 15-member leadership team helping out amid the increase in membership. Yet, although the collective obtains sponsorships, there remains a volunteer position created to help the community, even as members’ needs increase and change with the tech scene.

“To have this community to feel seen, I feel like it is very stimulating to be able to have an even more fulfilling career than what you might have thought you could have in the past.”

Taylor Poindexter, Black Code Collective

“As we grew, the founders had to find ways to make sure this could last for the long haul,” said Poindexter. “Because one thing we really wanted to differentiate ourselves from the other tech encounters that we had seen when we started this was that we didn’t want to be there for a few years and fizzle out. We wanted to be able to provide people with long-term quality.

Among community building and events such as webinars and hackathons, one of BCC’s greatest strengths is its offer of transparency in employment and pay. As well as providing a space for engineers to share their positions and salaries, it also has an anonymous spreadsheet where professionals can share how much they earn and in which company.

Coates noted that this has been especially helpful when it comes to negotiating and allowing candidates to ask employers what they’re worth – and making sure they’re getting the same pay as their white counterparts.

Along with the spreadsheet and BCC discussions, he noted, Poindexter herself is also one of the most active people in the fight for pay transparency in the DMV.

“I always joke, if anyone talks about money, I’m like, go talk to Taylor,” Coates said.

An added benefit of the community, Poindexter added, is that it also helps people apply for roles they might not otherwise have, thanks to the visibility of the success of their fellow black technologists. Additionally, she said, the BCC can then connect applicants to companies and new positions through its network.

“To have this community to feel seen, I feel like it’s very empowering to be able to have an even more fulfilling career than you might have thought you could have in the past,” said Poindexter.

Inside a Black Code Collective encounter (photo via Twitter).

In the future

We were there when BCC started, asks Harris, a then recent transplant from Texas on the creation of the group and its hopes.

“I would like to see a support pipeline that allows underrepresented minorities to take an interest in STEM and continue to cultivate experiences within the professional environment,” he told Technical.ly at the ‘era.

So far, it looks like the group has achieved much of that vision. But there is still more to come. Although it has already had a number of successes since its inception, members of BCC’s management team still have a few goals they would like to see achieved.

The current list includes hosting a BCC conference and adding additional resources for young people, like high school and other college students, to help them find their own space in the tech industry as they go. are considering a career.

Plus, Apau added, there’s always room for growth and new ideas that the founding team didn’t even think of.

“I would like to make sure that the next generation feels empowered to come up with ideas and not feel like they are being stifled by, potentially, our original ideas,” Apau said. “I’d be curious to see what the next generation does with Black Code Collective.”

Mainly, however, Apau said he wanted employers and technologists in the region to reap one of BCC’s biggest impacts: its presence as a large and growing community. When companies see a BCC technologist, he said, it has helped them know that they are part of a larger collective of black engineers who are able to move the DC tech community forward.

“This is the impact that we have certainly had over the past five years,” said Apau. “When you see a black engineer in a company, usually there are one or two of us, but now you realize that, okay, it’s not just those one or two that are unique, but it there are a lot of us here and we are here to be taken seriously.


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