Coding with Kimberly Bryant

This intellectual beauty is Founder and Executive Director of Black Girls CODE (BGC), a non-profit geared towards exposing young girls of color ages 7 to 17 to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics field, often referred to as STEM. Since its inception in 2011, Black Girls CODE has grown from being a local non-profit, based in the Bay Area, to a global organization servicing over 2,000 girls. Kimberly is an established, award-winning professional with over two decades of experience in Engineering and Leadership. She garnered her experience through her key roles with several Fortune 100 companies such as Pfizer, Genetech, and Merck. Kimberly etched out some time from her busy schedule to sit down with me, and chat about why it’s so vital to introduce the Engineering realm to our girls. Allow me to be the first to say that I contemplated switching my career to Engineering after our discussion—well on second thought, maybe I’ll leave that to our little geniuses.

 

Iamebony.com: When choosing a college major and career, why engineering? Who in your life influenced this path?

Kimberly: My older brother—he’s two years older and I idolized him. He went to school for Engineering, but later changed to communications. I’m one of those people who once I start something, I finish it and I’m very determined. I started in Industrial Engineering, but later changed to Electrical Engineering.

Iamebony.com: How did you deal with the isolation females’ face by being in a male-dominated field?

Kimberly: I used several resources and outlets to become comfortable with my field. I joined NSBE (National Society of Black Engineers), support networks, and various affinity groups throughout my career.

Iamebony.com: Knowing the unique skill-set Engineers possess, such as problem-solving, robust numerical competence, and logical thinking that many employers find valuable to their organizations. What do you say to those who know little about Engineering, the creative component, and the flexibility the profession allows?

 

Kimberly: Technology touches everything! You have your traditional vs. non-traditional Engineering. Fashion—designers are using technology to draft sketches and design. Animation—there’s technology, Media—technology there too, and Graphic Design— designers are revolutionizing the way they use technology. It all leads back to engineering. Of course you have your traditional, Civil, Mechanical, Chemical, Computer, Electrical, Environmental, Industrial Engineers—those will remain valuable to the field.

 

Iamebony.com: What prompted you to start your own firm, while doing so well in corporate?

Kimberly: I initially used my corporate job as an investor in my non-profit, but then the non-profit grew so well that I had to draw my attention to it full-time. It was a financial sacrifice, but one that paid off and was much-needed in the success of my organization [BGC].

Iamebony.com: Are you a single mom?

Kimberly: Yes, I have a daughter. I’ve been able to include her in my career. She’s been to work with me when she’s had school holidays, been sick, etc. I was fortunate enough to have employers how understood my role as a single mom.
It’s important to be a good role model in the African-American community and provide positive images of single moms. Important to provide my daughter and other girls a positive image of what it means to be a woman in this world.

Iamebony.com: How do you handle work-life balance?

Kimberly: I’m still figuring it out [laughter], but I’ve learned to pay close attention to where I’m needed most and spend time there. I believe it’s a never-ending balancing act.

Iamebony.com: What do you say to the woman who desires to start her own non-profit?

Kimberly: Talk to lots of people doing similar things, study them, tap into resources, and talk with those who are willing to share their experiences. Learn the start-up methodology, in fact I still run my business via this method—identify core customers, their problem, and find a solution to their problem. A start-up company has the ability to pivot plans as you grow.

Iamebony.com: What’s the one success story from girls you’ve mentored, which resonates with you most?

Kimberly: Awe, there are several…a student who found BGC right before high school and her entire career trajectory changed because of it. She ended up pursuing a career in Engineering.

Iamebony.com: Some parents believe their children are naturally gifted and can handle a program of this magnitude prior to age 7. Why is the starting age for your program 7?

Kimberly: Studies show middle school is the turning point for girls. We conducted a pilot program which helped us open our eyes to the younger girls’ interest in Engineering. All of our older students had younger siblings who seemed to perform very well. The moms wanted to include the younger siblings too and it worked.

Iamebony.com: What’s next for BGC?

Kimberly: Expansion—look out for BGC’s 2015 expansion plans. We have chapters in seven U.S. cities, Johannesburg, South Africa, and are looking to expand even further.

 

Want to Volunteer with BGC? Sign up here.

BGC is looking for your expertise. Check out their career opportunities here.

To register your little genius for upcoming BGC classes head here.

 

Get Social with Kimberly and BGC:

Website: Black Girls Code

Twitter: Black Girls Code

Facebook: Black Girls Code

 

Ebony Combs is Editor-in-Chief at iamebony.com.

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