Hack the Hood is turning five this year, and to celebrate this milestone we are highlighting the young people who have brought their skills and passions to our program. We'll be profiling a different young leader each month, with Abel being our October feature
1. What made you decide to join Hack the Hood (HtH)? When did you start with HtH?
I was transitioning into my junior year of high school, and I was looking for programs that would be able to teach me about coding and technology. At the time, I applied to the Hidden Genius Project, who then recommended me to Hack the Hood.
2. What did you learn that was unexpected? Was there anything that surprised you about the program?
I was expecting to learn about coding, and I think it was much more than that. I’d like to say it was a launch pad to my career. From the first days of the boot camp, we were already talking about professional networking and how building your network is important. Although we ended up learning about web design and development, networking was a game changer for me.
We learned about designing websites and using our newfound tech skills to make an impact. We visited different companies such as Yahoo, VSCO, and Square. The possibility of working at one of those company was a big motivation. From the moment I learned that I belonged inside one of those offices, I set myself on a trek to become a software engineer.
3. What are your favorite foods?
Definitely avocado, being from California. As an Oakland native, I’ve grown up loving Taco Trucks, especially from Mi Grullense in front of Goodwill on International and 29th Avenue.
4. What do you do for fun?
Right now, I'm basically coding all day, every day of the week. It's just learning more software engineering best practices, Computer Science Fundamentals and applying my React.js in side projects. Though, I like riding my bike all around Oakland and through San Francisco shorelines.
5. What’s your favorite TV show?
I haven't really been watching television much in the past few years. There was a book that I read called “Amusing Ourselves to Death”. It talks about how Entertainment Television has negatively shaped American culture and life. That book pushed me to further minimize the amount of TV I watch. Instead, I invest time to reading books and listening to audio in which I could pick up a skillset or a lesson. Though, you also might find me watching documentaries or series like Black Mirror on Netflix.
6. What are three places you enjoy visiting in the Bay Area and beyond?
I always like visiting the Embarcadero in San Francisco, and trails along the water in throughout the Bay. I've always enjoyed Dolores Park because there are always many people, and you can have fun. But I also like getting out of the city and just, you know, doing something nature-related, like Joaquin Miller Park and Oakland Redwoods. I've done a bunch of hiking and biking trips there and I'm still not tired of it. Finally, it’s the streets of Oakland because the art, culture, and activism spread throughout The Town and the authenticity of The People remind me why I love Oakland so much.
7. Who are your top music artists?
J Cole. Kendrick Lamar. Nas.
8. Who do you follow on insta?
Aside from Hack the Hood, I follow my favorite Oakland Small Business and Restaurants like @BeastOakland, @DimondSlicePizza, @NievesCincoDeMayoOak motivational people like @GaryVee an entrepreneur and talks about the hard work it takes to be successful. I also follow my favorite artist @Banksy.
9. Where’d you grow up? What do you like about the Bay Area?
I was born and raised in Oakland. I've lived here all my life and attended the neighborhood schools just a few blocks away from the Fruitvale Village. Fruitvale is best known for the 2009 transit police shooting of Oscar Grant III, an unarmed African American man.
I've grown up watching my neighborhood become a commodity through gentrification. And yet it continues to thrive with culture and is a really united part of town. Going to ARISE high school in my neighborhood has allowed me to be connected with my community, with the community leaders.
10. What’s something you’d like to see change in Oakland? What do you want your contribution to that change to be?
I’d definitely like to see more underrepresented minorities from the community get access to computer science and education in coding. I would like to be more involved as I'm transitioning into an actual software engineering position in a few months. I want to get more young people in engineering and the tech industry. This could allow families to actually stay, as the ever-increasing price of living marginalizes some of the community.
11. What do you appreciate about today’s technology?
I really appreciate the opportunity to be able to learn any technology through the power of the internet, and how cheap it can be to learn technology. I greatly appreciate the immediate access to knowledge. It’s helped me shape my career and the lives of many people. For example, people living in a rural area who don’t have the financial resources to attend a coding boot camp could become engineers through their own computer and a browser.
12. What type of technology do you wish you had, but hasn’t been invented yet?
Once I attended a summer business academy at the Berkeley Haas School. We had to create a mock business over two weeks, right after me coming out of a coding school, and my head was just buzzing. I helped my team develop an idea around virtual reality education, where you would put a headset on to enhance your education. ight now in many schools, they're still just textbooks, whiteboard, and some limited computer access. It would be powerful for someone to be learning at home, or getting better education through a Virtual Reality experience. The technology and possibility is mind-blowing, and I want to play a role evolving that technology.
13. What would be your dream job? What do you want to be when you grow up?
Since joining Hack the Hood and a few other youth tech programs, and visiting Google for maybe five, six times, I've always envisioned becoming a software engineer for Google. I would love to be a software engineer for one of their cool projects, like the brain project or on Google’s top-secret team, X.
They say some jobs of the future don’t exist yet; though, in my dream job bucket list, I include being a founder and CTO of a tech organization that makes a lasting and transformative impact, and growing along with an organization that supports young people from underrepresented communities like Oakland Tap into Tech. Regardless of where I am in life, I always want to empower as many young people who, like me, dream of pursuing something crazy, like using software engineering and computer science to change their communities and the world.
Photography by Christine Cueto.
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