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Former Times Square Street Vendor Turns Software Engineer and Teaches Thousands to Code

| How Africa News


Devin Jackson made the journey from selling tickets to tourists in Times Square to becoming an engineer who impacted black neighborhoods while working for numerous major organizations.

Jackson tried to come up with ways to solve the problem by giving back to society after becoming discouraged by the depressingly low number of Black engineers in the American computer industry. He co-founded the nonprofit “We Build Black” in 2017, which organizes meet-ups, workshops, and training sessions for aspiring Black engineers.

Jackson told ABC News, “I became a software engineer and realized that I need to share the blessings with everybody around me, and you know, show my community essentially those freedoms.” He also shared that he used to feel annoyed about the fact that certain opportunities were not afforded to the Black community. Though he wanted to complain, he rather resorted to concretely taking action to make an impact.

“We Build Black” has a mission to empower the Black community to achieve socio-economic change through technical education and professional appointment. According to the organization’s website, they create opportunities for Black technologists to network, share skills, give and receive mentorship, and discover their next employer.

By supporting the current community of Black technologists and establishing entry points into the field, they hope to create a more just and inclusive tech sector for themselves and the next generation.

Jackson, according to The Business Insider, never attended high school or college. Instead, he made a living off the streets of Times Square by selling graffiti t-shirts and comedy tickets. Later, he abandoned the streets to attend coding seminars. He studied for numerous professional IT skill certifications while attending boot camps for Python and data analysis thanks to scholarships. He remarked, “I was like, I’m never doing anything else except for this. It was nuts.”

Jackson began his tech career in 2013 as an intern at Accenture’s IT support desk. About a year later, he was hired as a full-stack developer at a Brooklyn-based boutique software company. According to LinkedIn, he is currently employed as a senior software developer at the cannabis-tech company LeafLink.

His nonprofit organization has grown from a one-man operation to a volunteer-run organization with the goal of assisting thousands of members who want to develop their careers. Jackson has directed his business with the conviction that free career-development classes are more effective at bridging the racial wealth gap and dismantling institutional barriers than diversity panels or anything else that does not give the neighborhood access to practical skills.

Speaking to ABC News, Sheree Edmund, an autistic software engineer who enrolled in the program said, “It was a community, [and] an atmosphere where I didn’t feel like I had to hide who I was to fit in. And that made it a lot less stressful to be my authentic self.”

We Build Black stands out with its community-focused approach to programming, even though the company provides coding courses, coaching, and networking opportunities like other organizations with similar goals.

Jackson’s organization has raised millions of dollars, held numerous events, taught and assisted over 3,000 members with their professions since its founding six years ago.

Jackson stated that he wants to make sure that others don’t experience the same financial hardships that he did.

He gave others the advice, “You got to control what you can control at the end of the day, and what you control is yourself,” to those who might be using restricted possibilities as an excuse to give up on their aspirations of breaking into the computer industry. So start working.

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