On January 1, 2020, Danny Rojas assumed the role of Executive Director of All Star Code. The move comes as part of a new leadership strategy that sees founder Christina Lewis assume the role of President, where she will lead fundraising efforts, as well as continue to provide strategic advice and weigh in on long-term vision.
Since joining All Star Code in May 2018 as VP of Program, Danny has served an invaluable member of All Star Code’s leadership. In Fall 2018, he became Executive Vice President and was able to further stabilize and strengthen the organization’s operations and infrastructure, as well as lead the growth of our 2019 Summer Intensive class by 25%.
Here Danny discusses the fascinating path that led him to All Star Code.
How did you first hear about All Star Code?
At the time I was with General Assembly, which provides training tech and coding training for adults, working as an account director. One afternoon I heard a lot of laughter in the main events space. It was intriguing, so I went to check it out and found about 20 high school kids – all young men of color – in this great discussion about coding, and careers, and celebrating failure. I thought, “This is amazing! Where did these kids come from?”
Turns out the students were there as part of an All Star Code Summer Intensive site visit. And that’s how I met Christina, just standing in the hallway outside of that event space. And in those few minutes I found someone who shared my passion for building diversity in tech. And I was hooked!
What drives your passion around diversifying the tech talent pipeline?
I’ve personally lived it. As a Latino professional, consultant, engineer, and STEM student, I was always aware that there were fewer of “me” in the spaces that I operated in. I have always felt a responsibility to represent my community and serve as a voice for inclusion and equity.
Representation in tech is an incredibly complex problem, it has a lot of different facets. Why do you think it has persisted in the tech industry?
Access and exposure.
Even understanding that I could have a career in tech was a big barrier. Once you do recognize that, can you gain access to quality education? When I think about full-time immersive courses, it’s a $15,000–17,000 investment.
These are both significant barriers for communities of color.
What made you make the jump from General Assembly, which provides adult education, to All Star Code and its focus on youth?
A few big things. One was the singular focus on boys and young men of color. I’m very much aware of the inspiring work of Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code — tackling and elevating the conversation around gender equity in tech continues to be so important for all. What hasn’t been as visible has been the work for boys and young men of color. Picking that lane was something that really attracted me to All Star Code.
I also sit on the board of trustees of my national fraternity, Phi Iota Alpha, which is a Latino fraternity. My work with All Star Code, building much needed community and networks for our students and Scholars, is very much analogous to my responsibility in educating younger generations of my own Latino fraternity brothers. ASC’s use of the word “brotherhood” is very impactful, and explicit.
The third thing I would say attracted me is the programmatic model of actually having our Summer Intensives take place on site at major companies like Google, Facebook, and Goldman Sachs, giving our young men exposure not only to those settings, but to role models who are integral to those companies. That, to me, is incredibly powerful: to put you out of your element, and to see the skyline and think, “I really belong here!”
All Star Code recently implemented its new five-year strategic plan. What does that include and where will it take All Star Code?
Our strategic plan is called the 5/5/5 Plan and it will allow us to grow our proven model of tech skills and leadership training for young men of color to a national scale, drive a 400% increase in young black and brown high-school boys in tech programs, and help significantly improve diversity in the tech industry within the next decade.
It’s an ambitious plan, but one that we believe is absolutely attainable by 2024. Our plan is to form five partnerships with national youth and education organizations, focusing on five of America’s tech hubs, to teach and train 5,000 young men of color annually.
Our 5,000 young men will be ready and prepared to become leaders in America’s most important industry and provide a much needed corrective to the thinking of today’s typical coder, and an inspiration to black and brown boys dreaming of a future in tech.
What advice to you find you most often share with All Star Code Scholars?
First and foremost, that you are enough. A lot of our All Stars are entering environments that they’ve never been in, whether that’s college, first internships, or even local hackathons, and sometimes we get this imposter syndrome where we feel like we’re not adequate. Take advantage of your growth mindset don’t get discouraged! Remember that your All Star Code Scholar network – your Brotherhood – is here for you. We care about you and we know you will be successful however you define it.