At the NYC Computer Science Opportunity Fair, we showed high school students how computer science concepts are used in the real world.
By Jake Weiner, Full Stack Engineer, and Shisi Wang, Data Analyst at CB Insights.
On March 29th, a couple of us from the engineering department here at CB Insights participated in the NYC Computer Science Opportunity Fair, New York City’s largest annual college and career inspiration event for public high school students studying computer science. There were over 2,000 students from 65 schools in attendance, and we were one of the many companies showcasing how the concepts and ideas taught in computer science are used in the real world.
Unlike some of the other companies at the fair with name recognition (think Google and Facebook), none of the students had ever heard of CB Insights. We had the distinct challenge of explaining what our company does to high school students who had very little knowledge of our industry.
Once students were exposed to some source code, they become more intrigued by CB Insights. They were particularly interested in learning about the vast amount of data we collect and how we use it on our site. It wasn’t always easy talking about the the business side of things, and it was evident that giving them an in-depth overview of our customers and how they use our platform wasn’t always the best approach.
However, by mentioning concepts that were more familiar to the students, we were able to give them a better idea about who our customers are and how they use the platform. For example, rather than talking about venture capitalists or or research teams at investment banks, we talked about how the guys on Shark Tank would hypothetically use our platform. The students thought CB Insights was a pretty cool company, and while they were definitely curious about our website, we found that they were especially interested in finding out what it was really like being a computer science major, and more importantly what it was like working as software engineers. Many of the students were hoping to one day become software engineers themselves, and they were curious to hear about different aspects of our day-to-day jobs and what led us to this career.
We talked about the languages we first learned and some of our favorite memorable projects (pong seemed to come up over and over again). We talked about the challenges of writing code and the struggle of dealing with something that just won’t work, but also the rewarding feeling of building something that you can use and show to your friends (or from our point of view, that people sell and use everyday). We gave students ideas for how to continue to learn outside of the classroom, and we assured them that while majoring in computer science isn’t necessarily the easiest thing in the world, if you like it, it’s definitely worth doing.
After the event, we were pretty tired. Standing up and talking nonstop for hours was a pretty big departure from our normal routines, but it was definitely an enjoyable experience. Not only were we able to show kids who were just starting to learn about computer science how what they were being taught in school could be used outside the classroom, but we were able to do it in a way that they genuinely seemed interested in.
It was clear that many of the students were curious to learn about what it’s like to be a software engineer, and hopefully, by getting the chance to have genuine conversations with regular people in the field (and not just their teachers), they were able to see the many different ways computer science is being used in the real world, and how if they set their minds to it, they also could one day use this knowledge in the real world too.