Women Forward — Civic Tech Changemaker Kristen Titus, Founding Director of NYC’s Tech Talent Pipeline

| MSNY Staff

In my role at Microsoft, I am fortunate to interact with a number of incredible people at non-profits, for-profits, universities, and government agencies. Of course, many of these amazing people are women. And one woman, in particular, has done so much to broaden opportunity and ensure that the tech sector is accessible to all. Her name is Kristen Titus and she currently leads Mayor de Blasio’s Tech Talent Pipeline in addition to a record of achievement running the non-profit Girls Who Code. So in honor of Women’s History Month, Microsoft New York has asked Kristen to share her thoughts and perspectives. Please tweet out and discuss the good work that Kristen has done and is doing, but also remember to shine a light on the incredible women driving change in a variety of fields and in your own community.

– John Paul Farmer, Director of Technology & Civic Innovation, Microsoft New York

Women Forward — Civic Tech Changemaker Kristen Titus, Founding Director of NYC's Tech Talent Pipeline

What is your role in NYC’s tech sector? How did you get into this position?

I work for the City of New York leading the administration’s Tech Talent Pipeline initiative, a $10 million industry partnership designed to support the growth of the City’s tech ecosystem and prepare New Yorkers for 21st century jobs. It’s a first-of-its-kind public sector initiative working with public and private partners to deliver quality jobs for our people and quality talent for our businesses.

Prior to joining the administration, I was the Executive Director of Girls Who Code, a national organization working to close the gender gap in technology and engineering. Building platforms, programs, and constituencies is what I love and mobilizing leaders in support of our communities is what led me to this brilliant opportunity in the administration.

How is New York unique in its approach to women in tech?

New York City is the birthplace of opportunity, the capital of innovation, and the home of nearly every industry, from fashion to tech. The city is also home to among the most diverse talent pools across the globe, and with a tech industry that employs nearly 300,000 people, New York City presents real and unparalleled opportunity for women in technology.

With initiatives like the Tech Talent Pipeline and Women’s Entrepreneurship NYC (WE NYC), New York is working to ensure these opportunities are afforded to all. What’s more, both our City’s CTO and CIO are women — that’s incredible. This administration is working tirelessly to support a diverse, talented, and thriving technology workforce. I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

What are some ways to get girls and young women involved in tech?

You can’t be what you can’t see. Years ago we couldn’t beg people to talk about the lack of women in tech. Today, you can’t open a magazine without reading about it, with leaders like the United States’ CTO Megan Smith, Xerox CEO Ursula Burns, and Verizon CIO Judith Spitz at the forefront. And right here in our own administration, we have CTO Minerva Tantoco, CIO Anne Roest, CDO Jessica Singleton, and General Counsel Maya Wiley — all women working on tech in very visible roles. And we’re already reaping the benefits of this. For the first time in years, women’s enrollment in computer science programs is going up.

Role models aside, the data tells us that the message of technology being among the most powerful tools for social change is what drives girls and young women into the field. Imagine what the world will look like when these women are in the field in equal numbers, building the newest, life-changing innovations. I can’t wait.

What skills do New York workers need most?

The Tech Talent Pipeline is tasked with working across sectors to define employer needs, develop training and education solutions, and deliver homegrown talent for 21st jobs. What we know is that New York needs talent that spans a diversity of positions, from software engineers to mobile developers (both Android and iOS) to product managers. We need talent at all levels, and we need talent that is reflective of those in our communities. And while the list of in-demand skills will continually evolve, our job is to ensure New York’s training and education institutions are equipped to deliver on these needs and evolve together with industry.

Where are the best places to find diverse talent in New York?

We know there is a wealth of talent right here in New York, from the thousands in our schools today to those training in bootcamps, accelerated training programs, and some of NYC’s oldest academic institutions. We’ve seen incredible successes from CUNY students in the far reaches of Queens to the participants in our NYC Web Development Fellowship in Brooklyn.

Who has been your biggest inspiration in tech?

The young women of Girls Who Code showed me what this world could look like. And industry leaders like Fred Wilson who have put this work front and center have demonstrated their support in ways we couldn’t have imagined years ago. But it’s when I walk into our Web Development Fellowship classroom and see young men and women doing the impossible that I am beyond inspired. Among those students is a brilliant young woman from the Bronx who taught herself to code in the late nights leading up to her child’s birth. She is the future of this industry.

What do you think is the next step in civic tech?

With President Obama’s announcement of the White House Tech Hire initiative earlier this month, I think we’re going to see more and more cities following New York’s lead to create their own Tech Talent Pipelines, bringing together businesses, community organizations, government, academic institutions and training providers to deliver an empowered 21st century workforce.

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