The widening gap in salaries among Seattle area wage earners comes down to a simple divide: those who know how to code and those who don’t.
With 60,000 coding-related jobs available in the Seattle metropolitan area and an additional 10,000 or more unfilled, wages in the tech sector keep climbing. And with so few trained programmers, an even tinier subset of whom are women or disadvantaged minorities, this lucrative path to upward mobility is unavailable to the large majority of the population. The shortage of programmers is also a limiting factor in the growth of the region’s tech sector.
Our two Tech Impact Champions this year, Hadi Partovi and Trish Millines Dziko, have made it their mission to address the issue by helping more young people — in particular, women and disadvantaged minorities — develop the skills they need to fill those jobs.
From the start, Partovi set out with grand ambitions. In February 2013, a month after launching Code.org with his brother, Partovi released an online video that included interviews with the likes of Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates and Facebook cofounder Mark Zuckerberg to make coding seem more attractive. “The programmers of tomorrow are the wizards of the future,” Gabe Newell, the cofounder of Valve, tells us in the video. “You’re going to look like you have magic powers compared to everyone else.” Partovi ends the video with this assertion: “Whether you are trying to make a lot of money or whether you want to change the world, computer programming is an incredibly empowering skill set to learn.”
Partovi’s video brought star power to the coding world, but also helped demystify it. For instance, National Basketball Association star Chris Bosh, who studied computer imaging, joins others in the video to argue that learning to code takes no more time or smarts than learning to read or learning to play a sport.
Partovi then set about developing games and other ways to help young people learn to code while having fun. By the end of 2017, 72,000 teachers had attended Code.org workshops and 750,000 teachers had begun using Code.org to teach coding to more than 25 million students — most of them girls or underrepresented minorities — in 25 countries. Last year, a half-billion people participated in the Hour of Code program Code.org launched to celebrate computer science.
Global organizations like Code.org can only be effective when they are complemented by local groups that address a region’s special needs. Millines Dziko, our second Tech Impact Champion, has played just such a role. She spent the first 15 years of her career working as a software development manager, consultant and database designer in the defense, medical equipment and software sectors. She was often the only black employee in her department. Recognizing that people of color needed better access to this important sector, Millines Dziko left her most recent employer, Microsoft, to launch the Technology Access Foundation (TAF).
In 1996, investing much of her own money, she provided teens with courses in programming and website development as well as career development skills and paid internships. She later launched TAF Academy, a sixth-through-12th-grade neighborhood school focused on teaching STEM subjects to underserved students.
Partovi and Millines Dziko work at that magical intersection where their efforts improve lives while also providing skills our region needs to fuel its economy.
See the winners of the 2018 Tech Impact Awards winners here.