By 2010, Kimberly Bryant had built a successful career working as an electrical engineer in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry. Around that time she began exploring other options and started to look at opportunities through the lens of an entrepreneur. The more networking and circulating among new spaces she did, the more she noticed the absence of women and people of color.
At the same time, her middle-school-aged daughter was showing interest in gaming and coding. Fortunately, their proximity to Silicon Valley meant that there were plenty of coding camps and weekend hackathons to participate in. However, the more events Kimberly took her daughter to, the more she realized these events mirrored her own experience in the professional world…lacking in women and people of color.
“I really saw that there was a problem in the industry around having a really robust and sustainable pipeline for women and for people of color in the field, which really is what drove me to kind of see this first pilot for the organization that then became what is Black Girls CODE now.”
Since starting Black Girls CODE, the success of the program’s participants has been a constant source of motivation and inspiration for Kimberly. Her own daughter is in her junior year of college where she is studying computer coding and computer science.
Other participants who were part of Black Girls CODE in the early days have gone on to intern with and work for Microsoft, Electronic Arts (EA), NASA, Double Fine, and others. Kimberly has been able to watch as girls she first met when they were seven or eight years old get full scholarships to elite universities like Stanford, USC, and UC Berkeley. She learned a lot from her mentors and peers early on in her studies and now she is able to keep the circle of giving going by being a mentor and leader to new generations of young girls.
Building networks, Kimberly adds, was another critical piece of building out Black Girls CODE. While interning, Kimberly often spent lunches at her desk catching up on work — until her supervisor told her to make better use of her lunchtime by engaging her colleagues and building her network.
“It was really about focusing on the power of building a network before you need it. And that’s something that has followed me throughout my career and part of what helped me navigate my career. The saying ‘your network is your net worth’ is very, very true.” The relationships she built throughout school, internships, and her time in corporate America were fundamental to making Black Girls CODE a success.
Inspiring tomorrow’s changemakers and coders
As Black Girls CODE continued to grow and expand, it became clear to Kimberly that it was time to build out her leadership team. As the founder, it was difficult to admit that she wasn’t always the most qualified or best-equipped person to tackle a problem. Letting go of certain areas of her non-profit wasn’t an easy transition, but she realized that she didn’t have to be the best at everything. Instead, she could lean into her strengths and spend some time working on her weaknesses.
She might never lead the finance department, but she has been able to educate herself so that she can ask the right questions and contribute in different ways. This approach is not only personally beneficial, it is also another way she can serve as an example. “To be at the place that you’re at, and to continue to be developing personally and professionally is a statement to the younger generations coming up that it’s an evolutionary process of — being a part of this world.”