September 26, 2022

Meet Devin Jackson: The Software Engineer Helping Black New Yorkers Land Tech Jobs

From street vendor to software engineer, Devin Jackson, founder of We Build Black, is on a mission to achieve socio-economic change by offering the community tech education and professional development. 

We Build Black, founded in 2017 by Devin Jackson, is a non-profit organization that has evolved from a one-person-only team to a volunteer-run group that aims to support thousands of members looking to advance their careers. 

Unlike traditional software engineers, Jackson never went to high school or college; he instead set up his own business selling graffiti t-shirts and comedy tickets on the streets of Times Square. After enrolling in Python and attending coding workshops, Jackson worked his way up to become a technical product manager at the cannabis-tech firm LeafLink.   

“I used to really feel annoyed about the fact that certain opportunities are not afforded to us,” Jackson said in an interview with Insider. “And I wanted to complain. But I also wanted to concretely do something.” 

Development, not just diversity

Jackson has led his company with the belief that free career-development programs are more effective at helping close the racial wealth gap and break institutional barriers than diversity panels or anything that doesn’t provide the community with transferrable skills. 

“Nine times out of ten, you talk to somebody in our community, they just say that they don’t have the money for that, or they can’t do it. When you knock down those barriers and provide those resources, there’s no excuse.” 

We Build Black has differentiated itself from competitors by putting the community at the forefront of its programming. By offering Black workers coding classes, mentorships, and networking opportunities, We Build Black is making the tech industry more accessible to people from underrepresented backgrounds. 

The organization is focused on building its workforce-training programs, which are set to be rolled out next year, and hopes to continue opening doors for the Black community. 

Kumba Kpakima

Kumba Kpakima is a reporter at POCIT. A documentary about the knife crime epidemic in the UK got her a nomination for the UK's #30toWatch Young Journalists of the Year.