Lehman Students Hack Their Way Toward Success

By Zayna Palmer

“We want to hire CUNY grads and undergrads to become full-time interns or employees in the near future,” said Buzzfeed Tech Recruiter Nicolette Nelson, 29. Buzzfeed is just one of the prospective employers that came to Lehman’s fourth annual Hackathon on the lookout for diverse interns among future CUNY grads. Nelson explained that Buzzfeed, which participated in the Hackathon as both mentor and judge, has a mission to offer opportunities to more diverse people and get more women working in top management positions. The goal for this Hackathon, she added, is “to find out what students need from employers and what employers need from students. We’re here to find out how the market is changing for students of diversity.”

The Lehman Hackathon, which was held November 10-11, exists to foster just such opportunities. “We understand that the proximity between job locations and where students live can be quite difficult, so we implement these events for local students to attend and network with sponsors and mentor that can hire students for jobs and internships,” said Rosemarie Encarnacion, a Lehman junior. She is also a help desk analyst and Civic Technology Fellow at Lehman. The National Society of Black Engineers primary mission, she added, is to “make sure that every student in the community has the opportunity to exercise their skills with teammates so they could fully integrate themselves into building product software, hardware, and mobile programs.” 

The Hackathon helps disadvantaged students as well as those with disabilities to find the right path towards their careers by providing them with professional advice, assistance and employment opportunities in the tech industry. The event, co-sponsored by the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) is open to CUNY and SUNY students. Its focus is to highlight, support and encourage talent from all backgrounds and to help strengthen the community. Encarnacion states that it also aims to “Bring students to an environment where they connect with the sponsors, teams and fellow students with similar and/or different skills to build projects using hardware. The Hackathon is for Blacks and Hispanics, but anyone who is a student or graduate from CUNY schools is invited.”  

Rafael Gonzalez, 21, a Lehman mathematics Professor and a participant in this year’s Hackathon, said his mission is to “train and expose students to the industry of computer science and engineering for minority groups for many of our Lehman graduates.” He believes that through it, every student can get the opportunity to be mentored and to network in the industry as well as get internships and full-time jobs in fields they enjoy. Rafael wants every student to have fun and test their skills because the Hackathon is also very competitive. “It is a great way to ask questions and find out what jobs you are looking for” he said. This year, NSBE and SHPE were able to increase diversity to bring in more sponsors for the Hackathon. 

Rodney Perez, a full-time technology analyst for JPMorgan Chase, “The challenge is about bringing students in, [to] increase the capabilities and capacity to invent new ideas for the company.” Perez added that the company, which participated in the Hackathon, believes in giving back to the community.

Students agreed that the Hackathon is a good opportunity to network and get projects completed, along with having a team to provide mutual growth, learn technical skills, and build community between employers and students. Daniel Encarnacion a Lehman sophomore studying computer science and Hackathon treasurer said that it is a great chance “to have everyone demo their projects to sponsors that could offer employment in the tech industry and promote a program that speaks on diversity and reach out to those who are disadvantaged.”