How A Self-Taught Coder Is Trying To Make The Tech World More Diverse
It's no secret that there's a lack of diversity in the coding community.
But Lex Alexander, a self-taught coder, wants to change that.
He started an Indiegogo campaign to help fund his tuition to further his coding education. To say thank you, he will give 10% of his income for the first two years as a programmer to fund a scholarship — the aptly named Code it Forward scholarship — for another woman or minority developer who is interested in learning how to code at a hack school of their choice. Then, that person will pledge 10% of their income to someone else, and so forth.
"This scholarship would send minorities and women to coding boot camps and help to solve the racial and gender disparities in tech, by making these resources more accessible," he says.
He explains on his Indiegogo campaign page:
Women represent only 18 percent of all undergraduate degrees in computer and information science. And while the overall percentage of 24-year-olds in the United States with STEM degrees is 6 percent, it's just 2.7 percent among African-Americans and 2.2 percent for Latinos. The Code it Forward scholarship, will not only enable women, blacks, and other ethnicities to learn how to code and take their careers to a new level. But it will also create a bond and network under the umbrella of scholarship and community advancement that is second to none. This scholarship will give currently inaccessible opportunities to the demographics and communities that need it most.
People who donate $2,000 and above will get a say in who gets chosen for the scholarship. The pool of people to choose from will be random.
"My goal is to partner with coding boot camps and have them recommend the Code it Forward scholarship to underrepresented applicants when they inquire about the payment process," he tells Business Insider.
Alexander came in fourth place in a Hack for LA event with his app MapMySnaps, which shows the stores that accept food stamps in a neighborhood in East Los Angeles. Attending local hackathon events made him realize how out of place he was as a black developer, he tells Fast Company. The inspiration for a crowdfunded scholarship came after banks rejected him for a student loan; he was accepted to General Assembly's program in Los Angeles, but was having trouble coming up with the funds for the $11,500 tuition.
Further down the line, people will be chosen based on the following criteria: They will have to be accepted into a coding boot camp before they apply, provide a copy of a driver's license or birth certificate, and show that they do not currently posses the financial means to pay for a coding boot camp.
And in case he doesn't meet his goal, he'd still like to offer the Code it Forward scholarship, even if it takes longer to accomplish. "If I can find another way to raise the money in case I don't reach my goal, then I definitely plan on offering it. This is something close to my heart and I definitely want to do everything in my power (outside of robbing banks) to bring it to fruition," he says.
But it doesn't stop there — his stretch goal is to add any additional money he raises to the pledged income, and send many more women and minorities to coding boot camps. "Also, in the future I plan on expanding the scholarship out to cover actual computer science programs in college as well," he says.