#22: Idalin Bobe – Community Organizer who broke into Tech and became a Tech Activist

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Growing up in one of the poorest zip codes in the U.S., Idalin wanted to bring change and put social justice in the forefront. From North Philly to Cali, Idalin wanted to break into tech so she could bring resources back to her neighborhood.

Today, Idalin works as a Senior IT consultant at ThoughtWorks, which is known for having the toughest screening and interview process out of all tech companies. She is also part of ThoughtWork’s social justice team working as a tech activist where she is bringing computer education to the folks on the front lines fighting for justice and organize community-driven leaders around the world in efforts addressing the needs of black and brown people.

Idalin has partnered with different organizations such as Black Girls Code, Qeyno Labs, and #YesWeCode in her aim of making an impact on the world through computer and security education.


Years in Tech 2
Grew Up North Philly, PA
Current Job Tech Activist
Date Recorded 12/18/2016

Key Points:

  • Leverage the internet and connect with people. Through the internet, you can meet people that you never could have met in person.
  • Embrace your story. You don’t have to change yourself but you can change the way you present yourself. Be authentic. Be present. And tell people exactly what you want to do.
  • If you have a compelling story, people will get out of the way to help you and mentorship can actually help you shape your brand and position yourself to get noticed. Be vulnerable with the world.
  • You need to get to the root in order to bring true transformation. As much as you need to know more about tech, having good political education is just as important.
  • Not being a good culture fit is a not a bad thing because you’re supposed to be different. You’re supposed to bring that change.
  • When doing your job search, think about how the company can help you grow and how you can be your authentic self. It’s not always about the job title or about the money.
  • Don’t confuse your work with what you want to do and how you want to impact the world. Hold yourself accountable and use your platform to push the impact that you want to bring out into the world.

Show Notes (focus on the Stepping Stones):

[2:07] Growing up in the Badlands of North Philly, Idalin shares about the struggles she and her family had to go through and how she got out of it through the Philadelphia School Partnership Program

[5:50] Being part of a social justice organization, Youth United for Change and attending Indiana University of Pennsylvania

[9:00] Breaking the barriers: Being the first in her family to go to college and having full custody of her younger sister

[11:00] How Idalin overcame her speech impediment and the lack of resources which became a source of discouragement and how her mom supported her through crowdfunding to get herself a laptop

[14:25] How the laptop became a turning point for her educational career – the internet as a non-judgment place

[16:20] Life after college: Doing an internship at SuperValu while in college and becoming the top intern that she got hired directly by their regional CEO

[17:23] Breaking Into Tech Part I: Mentoring 30 students from different schools in her neighborhood, Idalin felt the need for a bigger change to bring forth social justice through breaking into tech so she drove all the way up to Silicon Valley and lived out of her car for a few months

[20:48] Idalin’s job search: Getting a temporary job at Bloomingdale’s, finding an apartment with a friend’s help, joining Meetup.com groups, and getting help from her mentors

[24:10] Idalin’s advice to people who are afraid to embrace their own story

[27:44] Why Idalin chose Mills College for graduate school (while also studying computer science) and how she got her first job at iCharts

[30:26] Idalin created a pilot program aimed at empowering children through laptops and how her journey with Black Girls Code started

[36:19] Her initiatives at Qeyno Labs through community building and wanting to take it further to the social justice realm by getting to the root through political education

[38:53] Breaking Into Tech Part II: Her job search experience realizing the need to sustain herself and how to deal with “not being a good culture fit” feedback

[44:55] How Idalin got into ThoughtWorks and her reasons for choosing the company

[48:18] Idalin narrates her activist work at Ferguson, Missouri: Creating the Roy Clay Sr. Institute, a program that trains young community leaders/activists to acquire 21st century skills in creating communication infrastructure

[53:30] Idalin talks about the history of tech security and the impact of tech colonizing people through language

[55:40] Idalin’s current activist programs: Hutton 2.0 and New Poor People’s Campaign

[59:29] Idalin’s advice to people who want to follow her path

[1:00:45] The Lightning Round:

Imagine that you’re moving to a brand new city and only had $100, what would you do to get started?

  • Sign up for Lyft and use AirBnB. Meet with people and network in person.

What movies or music did you watch to help you get over those situations you got rejected?

  • Diary of a Mad Black Woman
  • Imagine Me by Kirk Franklin

What is your one piece of advice to a girl struggling to figure out what career path to pick?

  • What’s important is the impact you want to do. Regardless of where you’re working at, know what you want to do and how you want to be an impact in this world. Don’t silence that.

Articles Mentioned & Resources:

Learning Resources
Philadelphia School Partnership Program
Youth United for Change

Personal Projects & Partnerships
Black Girls Code
Qeyno Labs
Roy Clay Sr. Institute
Hutton 2.0
Live Free Program
New Poor People’s Campaign

Contact Information:

Idalin Bobe
Phone Number: 215-307-5107
Email Address: i.l.bobe@gmail.com
Twitter: @idalinbobe

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