warning icon QCon Munich 2020 has been canceled. See our current virtual and in-person events.
You are viewing content from a past/completed QCon -

Presentation: Holistic EdTech & Diversity

Track: Socially Conscious Software

Location: Pacific BC

Duration: 11:50am - 12:40pm

Day of week: Tuesday

Slides: Download Slides

This presentation is now available to view on InfoQ.com

Watch video with transcript

What You’ll Learn

  1. Hear how Unlock Academy helps disadvantaged people learn how to code.
  2. Learn how to get involved in helping others learn to code in closing the diversity gap.


Software has become one of the most relied upon problem-solving tools. But like any tool, it's only as good as the problem solver. Antoine believes we need people who are experiencing life-altering problems (i.e., health, poverty, famines, mass incarceration, literacy, bullying, etc.) to help solve them. But of course, there needs to be a conscious effort to provide them with the tools and education needed to solve their own problems. This means we need to meet people where they are ethically, geographically, financially and most important, linguistically. 

Antoine will discuss how he is leveraging his unique experiences to help solve the problems of people with similar experiences.


What is the work that you're doing today?


The simplest way to talk about it is in terms of empowerment, helping people get to the next level in their life by empowering them. I started off trying to educate people and I thought it was all about education and providing expert knowledge to individuals. I thought that would be the end of it and we’d be happy people. But technology in itself has been built up so big in a lot of people's minds they just feel they can't do it. The intimidation is heavy. It stops people from entering the tech industry even though they're fascinated by it and love the applications that are built by programmers. So I started thinking: how do we empower people to get over their fear and give it a shot? Then give them a great experience with a down to earth teaching, remove the unnecessary jargon and make it self-paced. Not like in a tight semester where you have a deadline. I wanted to make people feel free and comfortable and also have access to a community of people growing with them at the same time. I wanted to bring a holistic approach to edTech.


What is the holistic approach doing for the learning process?


It has truly boosted the morale. It gets our students way more excited because they put themselves first in the process. They don't look at code first or computers first, they look at themselves and say, Do I have a structure to my learning habits? Do I have an accountability partner? Do I have a deadline in place for when I want to hit my next goal? I'm just trying to help them get it mastered in their mind first before they sit in front of a computer, and make them feel confident that way. When it does get challenging, at least they still have their confidence to hold them up and keep them going forward.


What are your goals for the talk?


I know quite obviously there is a lot of talk in every industry about diversity and especially the tech industry. I know a lot of people want to see diversity but there are so many different factors. And of course, access to education is one of those big factors. We've done something pretty cool by lowering the bar as far as how much it costs to get a really sound education and sound support system as well as career development services. But I think it would just be really cool if these companies who are looking to be more diverse would get more involved with the education process, more hands-on. A lot of companies are like “Hey, we're looking for a Latino woman who is great at coding. That's what we need on our team. We really want that perspective. We really want what she's good at. But how do we find that person specifically? It would be cool if they partner with Unlock Academy, and say, this is how we can do it, we can help train the next wave of engineers. The next wave of coders, we can provide them with the tools and the access, because there's a huge demand for coders but just not enough people learning those skills and taking those roles.


What would you want them to walk away with?


A couple of different things. One, maybe doing some tutoring and giving back. We have a lot of tutors in our community. I'm one of the main teachers, but at the same time, we have over a dozen different programmers who are also in our Slack group. They answer questions for them, they challenge them, they provide different resources to them. It's a good positive community. That is powerful in itself. We can get more people who are established in the industry, who have been coding, who've been in the tech industry from product management or Scrum Master, whatever it may be. If you can bring that experience back to your community or back to communities who aren't getting access to this knowledge, we wouldn't have a big diversity problem because the tools would be in more people's hands. I invite people to do what we did and put some of our energy towards education. I used to just do software development, but now I practice the balance of me actually coding and me teaching about coding. Hopefully, I can inspire other people to do the same thing.


What are the tools and what is the type of education for making this change possible?


One tool that we use that's really helpful is called glitch.com. Usually, some people have a basic laptop like a Chromebook. And sometimes they don't have access to a computer at all, so they have to go to a library. In either case, they're not able to download software to the library computer or the most Chromebooks. Glitch.com allows the students to code in a browser. It's a free tool. And powerful and community-driven. It just took someone like me to say, here's how you're going to access your coding content and how you're going to practice how to code, even though you're going to the library, it is still a way for you to go to the library, learn how to code, save your projects and you'll be able to grow as a developer. Providing different tools like that or even unused computers can go a long way. A lot of companies and programmers have access to a bunch of old computers that can still be used by other people. All in all, there are many ways that the larger tech community can help usher in the next wave of computer scientists. 

Speaker: Antoine Patton

Holistic Tech Coach @unlockacademy

Antoine Patton was incarcerated at age 20 for 8 years. While in prison, he learned to code and taught his daughter after his release. They collaborated to build an app that allows families to freely send photos to their incarcerated loved ones -- Photo Patch. Since coming home from prison 4 years ago, Antoine has become a prolific entrepreneur, software engineer, and published author. He has vowed to "pay it forward" and teach 2020 Black and Brown people to code by the year 2020. He launched Unlock Academy, an online learning platform and community to do so.

Find Antoine Patton at

Last Year's Tracks

  • Monday, 16 November

  • Distributed Systems for Developers

    Computer science in practice. An applied track that fuses together the human side of computer science with the technical choices that are made along the way

  • The Future of APIs

    Web-based API continue to evolve. The track provides the what, how, and why of future APIs, including GraphQL, Backend for Frontend, gRPC, & ReST

  • Resurgence of Functional Programming

    What was once a paradigm shift in how we thought of programming languages is now main stream in nearly all modern languages. Hear how software shops are infusing concepts like pure functions and immutablity into their architectures and design choices.

  • Social Responsibility: Implications of Building Modern Software

    Software has an ever increasing impact on individuals and society. Understanding these implications helps build software that works for all users

  • Non-Technical Skills for Technical Folks

    To be an effective engineer, requires more than great coding skills. Learn the subtle arts of the tech lead, including empathy, communication, and organization.

  • Clientside: From WASM to Browser Applications

    Dive into some of the technologies that can be leveraged to ultimately deliver a more impactful interaction between the user and client.

  • Tuesday, 17 November

  • Languages of Infra

    More than just Infrastructure as a Service, today we have libraries, languages, and platforms that help us define our infra. Languages of Infra explore languages and libraries being used today to build modern cloud native architectures.

  • Mechanical Sympathy: The Software/Hardware Divide

    Understanding the Hardware Makes You a Better Developer

  • Paths to Production: Deployment Pipelines as a Competitive Advantage

    Deployment pipelines allow us to push to production at ever increasing volume. Paths to production looks at how some of software's most well known shops continuous deliver code.

  • Java, The Platform

    Mobile, Micro, Modular: The platform continues to evolve and change. Discover how the platform continues to drive us forward.

  • Security for Engineers

    How to build secure, yet usable, systems from the engineer's perspective.

  • Modern Data Engineering

    The innovations necessary to build towards a fully automated decentralized data warehouse.

  • Wednesday, 18 November

  • Machine Learning for the Software Engineer

    AI and machine learning are more approachable than ever. Discover how ML, deep learning, and other modern approaches are being used in practice by Software Engineers.

  • Inclusion & Diversity in Tech

    The road map to an inclusive and diverse tech organization. *Diversity & Inclusion defined as the inclusion of all individuals in an within tech, regardless of gender, religion, ethnicity, race, age, sexual orientation, and physical or mental fitness.

  • Architectures You've Always Wondered About

    How do they do it? In QCon's marquee Architectures track, we learn what it takes to operate at large scale from well-known names in our industry. You will take away hard-earned architectural lessons on scalability, reliability, throughput, and performance.

  • Architecting for Confidence: Building Resilient Systems

    Your system will fail. Build systems with the confidence to know when they do and you won’t.

  • Remotely Productive: Remote Teams & Software

    More and more companies are moving to remote work. How do you build, work on, and lead teams remotely?

  • Operating Microservices

    Building and operating distributed systems is hard, and microservices are no different. Learn strategies for not just building a service but operating them at scale.