Coding for the community | UNC-Chapel Hill

Mazin Shaaeldin always excelled in science in school, but wasn’t sure what STEM field he would pursue in college.

His older brother, an electrical engineer, suggested he take a look behind the curtain at his favorite video games and explore the code that created them. Shaaeldin then picked up a book on Python, a programming language, and learned to code from scratch.

This self-taught lesson sparked an interest that eventually led Shaaeldin to Carolina and becoming the president of the college’s chapter of Black in Technology, a student organization dedicated to developing professional growth programs and events for undergraduate students. represented in the fields of technology and computing. and create an inclusive ecosystem for students to thrive.

“What I really love about computing is the flexibility it provides and the real impact we can have on the world through our work,” said Shaaeldin, a young computer science student. “What we do here impacts our field and those to come.

The group strives to have this impact by connecting its members with influential technology companies and by organizing events in collaboration with other student groups like Women in Computer Science, Queer Hack and the National Society of Black. Engineers.

“We bring in speakers from companies like Google, Cisco and Capital One who give advice on career paths, resume writing, internships, interview practice and technical instruction,” said William Taylor, a Caroline junior and outreach coordinator for Black in Technology. “These sessions offer our members the opportunity to meet minorities in STEM they can look up to and get practical advice on breaking into the field. Our alumni have gone on to work at top companies like Microsoft or Facebook .

As more underrepresented students enter the computer science field, Taylor says the community is still growing at Carolina.

“Companies like Apple and Google are coming to the Triangle, bringing funding and opportunity closer to Carolina and members of Black in Technology,” said Taylor, a double major in political science and computer science and a minor in data science. “More STEM internship and job opportunities in our region will also help us recruit more minority students interested in computer science to Carolina.”

Members of Black in Technology meet at Sitterson Hall. The group’s leadership team is pictured from left to right in the front row: Paul Smith (Secretary), Mazin Shaaeldin (Chair), William Taylor (Outreach Coordinator), Ayana Monroe (Vice-Chair) and Amanda Harris (Advisor main). Nautica Harvin (Treasurer) is third row far right and Noe Brown (Social Media Manager) is not pictured.

Shaaeldin said visibility and representation are key to diversifying the field and ensuring everyone feels welcome to explore computing. In addition to alumni and professional development events, Black in Technology has partnered with the Black Student Movement to make the field of computer science more visible to black students interested in STEM.

“I took several computer science and STEM courses in high school, and to be honest, there weren’t many people who looked like me who were enrolling or teaching. This made me wonder if this domain was for me, and I don’t want anyone else to have that kind of negative experience,” Shaaeldin said.

He wanted to help change that for students like freshman Jordan Harrison who joined Black in Technology in the fall. Thanks to Black in Technology, he found his campus community.

“I’m the first person in my family to attend a predominantly white institution, so it was important to them that I found a group of people who would support me here,” Harrison said. “I met a member of Black in Technology, and he invited me to my first meeting. Of all the groups I’ve tried this first semester, the Black in Technology community has stuck with me.

Harrison also credited the mentorship he received from executives like Shaaeldin and Taylor, who shared advice on course tracks, studying for IT exams and internship opportunities they learned about. .

During the pandemic, the world has become even more reliant on IT to create opportunities for connection, and Black in Technology was no exception. This fall marked the first time some members of the group met in person, and they hope this spring will mark a return to their in-person community outreach symposium, AfroPix 2022, on April 9.

AfroPix is ​​an inclusive event for people of color from Carolina and surrounding colleges to attend workshops, network with businesses and peers, and ask recent questions of alumni. The one-day event is the culmination of the group’s efforts throughout the year.

“This event was created to celebrate people of color in tech and banish any sense of ‘impostor syndrome’ they might be feeling,” Shaaeldin said. “We also hope to inspire future generations of tech-savvy people of color to pursue their dreams like us.”

Learn more about black in tech

Sam D. Gomez