Instead of attempting an introduction, we’re just going to ask you to watch this five minute video. Brandon Santiago’s presentation earned the first standing ovation ever at the annual Shift Forum. (The full overview of Shift Forum’s Ignite series is here).
Brandon Santiago: When I say love, you say love. Love.
The gap between skills and opportunity is widening beyond resolution. Susan Mernit at Hack The Hood has a new plan to fix that.
Susan Mernit is co-founder and CEO of Hack the Hood, a Bay-area non-profit organization that works to address the needs of low-income young people of color disconnected from the economic mainstream of tech-informed jobs in the Bay Area and across the region. Mernit spoke at the annual Shift Forum earlier this year, in the Shift Ignite series (full overview is here).
Susan Mernit: Hey, everybody. It’s a pleasure to be here. I’m Susan Mernit. I’m the co-founder and CEO of an organization called Hack the Hood. We work with low-income 18 to 25 year olds of color in the Bay Area. We introduce young people to careers in tech, the skills they need, and how to get on a pathway for that training.
The endless debate over whether the future of work will actually include humans.
A slew of pieces over the past few days only add to the debate over the future of work. First, let’s tackle the WeWork news above. I’ll believe this when I see it actually happen, but WeWork promises it will roll out a coding curriculum across its entire base of hundreds of locations worldwide. I’m skeptical because I’m not convinced the world needs millions of vocationally trained coders — I’m more convinced the world needs all of us to be minimally literate in how digital computing works, and the jobs of the future will more likely require us to understand how to work with computers, rather than how to code them. It’s a bit like writing a century or so ago — we should all learn how to read and write, but only a small fraction of us became professional writers of one kind or another. The rest of us got very good at reading the code of writing — the output.
That’s why I’m a fan of requiring coding and basic computer literacy in all elementary through high schools, just like we do with reading and writing. Those who want to go deeper from there can then decide if they want to go to a WeWork vocational school, or dig deeper in the world of university level CS, which, let’s be honest, is quite removed from the coding academies popping up all over the place. Money Quote: “At a time many experts and politicians are questioning the assumption that college is for everyone, the deal bets on a fashionable form of vocational education — coding — as a route to well-paying software jobs. The plans are to expand Flatiron from its single location in New York’s financial district into most of WeWork’s approximately 170 offices, which would further test the growing idea of bypassing college, at least in the U.S. tech world.”
A series of major milestones has Hadi Partovi’s Code.org on the brink of fulfilling its core mission
Hadi Partovi and his family fled revolution in Iran, landing in the United States when he was just six years old. In his basement as a young immigrant, Partovi learned to code. This wasn’t as incongruous as it sounded — before leaving Iran, Partovi’s father worked at the country’s main technology university, and he bought his kids a Commodore 64 and taught them programming.
These coding skills became the foundation for a successful career in technology, culminating in roles at Microsoft, Facebook, and many other high-flying tech companies.
It’s true that the technology used by the U.S. air traffic control system is antiquated. In fact, the system’s repeated failed efforts to modernize have become the gold standard of epic tech failures, the Hundred Years’ War of the digital age. Still, that record doesn’t give an automatic free pass to any upgrade plan, and President Trump’s new proposal to privatize the system raises some tough questions.
Trump wants to hand the entire system over to a private company, which theoretically will be able to solve the problems that have bedeviled the current regime. But, but, but: The new company will still have to meet FAA standards, so it’s not as if it would get some magical anti-red-tape powers (even if we wanted such a thing in the realm of air safety). The hope is that private industry has the knowhow to pull off a massive tech upgrade that the public sector has fumbled. The reality is that big airlines like British Airways, Delta, and Southwest keep experiencing massive software failures themselves.
It’s not easy to rethink education from a blank sheet. But that’s what AltSchool is built to do.
Max Ventilla, CEO of Alt School, is reimagining education through a “full stack” platform that includes technology, classrooms, and new approaches to curriculum. Hear more about Alt School in this short video, below. A full transcript, edited for clarity, is also included.
Max Ventilla: I left Google and started a search company, which they bought back, and then I was, among other things, the person running personalization across Google. Working at Google you become very addicted to the intersection of social impact, technology and business.
The foundation of chaos theory is that small changes lead to giant ones over time. This is often referred to as that butterfly effect — a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil can lead to a tornado in Texas. It’s a weird concept that I’ve been in love with since I first heard about when I was in 9th grade. So much so that I went on to get my doctorate in the math behind it. It also became the foundation for my love of working with data
I’d like you to take a moment and think about a significant event. Maybe it was the first time you exchanged glances with a future loved one. Maybe a time you almost stepped off the curb and was narrowly missed being hit by a car. Maybe it’s a moment where the only way of rationalizing it is to say that you were at the right place at the right time. Now think about all the infinitesimally small changes that led up to that event or could have led to the event not happening.
In 1860 Swiss historian Jakob Burckhardt released his book The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy. Up until that point the term ‘Renaissance’ was not widely used as the label for what we now think of as the period approximately between 1480 and 1520, where cultural, artistic and scientific creativity flourished. Burckhardt was the one who fixed the notion of the Renaissance into the common lexicon, and helped us to describe this seemingly unique period in history.
We think of the Renaissance as a period of great innovation and ingenuity, but at the time it was less about looking forward, and more about looking back — the overwhelming theme of the time was to rediscover and emulate the great minds of the Greek and Roman eras, it was a resurgence back to antiquity. We think of Da Vinci as one of the greatest painters in history, but at the time to paint was seen as the most common and lowly artistic form. When applying for a job with the Duke of Milan, Da Vinci lists 10 skills he can bring to the table, including the construction of bridges, cannons, and catapults. At the very end of the letter, he also mentions that in “painting I can do as much as anyone else”. To paint like Da Vinci was really no big deal.
Handing in the Google badge for the chance to change education
I first started interviewing with Google as a 22-year old. This year, I turn 30. Google is an exceptional place to work — the culture, people, products, and perks are world-class. Having spent the bulk of my 20’s with Google, I can say with confidence that the company grew to be more than an employer to me; it became family. So my decision to leave was very challenging.
However, when I think of where I am headed next — to start my own company to educate kids about financial literacy — I am filled with excitement and optimism. I am also filled with fear. Walking away from comfort, predictability, and an income — all at the same time — surely qualifies as the biggest “here goes nothing” moment in my life. This is my story.
Broken Technology and Outdated Curriculum in the Classroom