Widening Access

The marginal benefit of a great opportunity given to someone who otherwise wouldn’t have access to a reasonably good version of the said opportunity is very high at both the individual and industry or ecosystem level.

For instance, enabling a student from the suburbs of NYC to live and work in Manhattan over the summer would be a great value add not just to her but also to people in her close circles since they are now one degree of separation away from people and organizations that the student built relationships with and they now have access to all the knowledge and learnings accumulated by the student. The marginal benefit of such arrangement is much higher than the marginal benefit of making it simpler for a student studying at NYU to access yet another opportunity. This is so not because we value a student that goes to NYU any less than the student in the suburbs but because NYU already offers a lot of opportunities to its students so adding yet another option is not optimal.

I find it very odd that prominent people in tech start and publicly support programs that widen the pool of opportunities available to students in tech hubs like SF & NYC who are already into startups, active on twitter and follow all the right sources of information. The selection bias is stunningly real. Isn’t the point of inclusivity that we build career gateways for people who would otherwise have very different kind of lives and careers? Isn’t the point of inclusivity that we build career gateways for people who would otherwise have very different kind of lives and careers? I really believe that we will see a huge influx of people joining tech if they knew how to break into tech and that they can find a role.

For instance, venture capital funds in tech hubs should come together to start vertical and technology focused summer internship programs for students studying outside of tech hubs. Imagine a few hardware focused funds in Boston starting a summer program for mechanical engineering students from second tier schools outside of Boston to intern with them. This gives engineering students exposure to how to apply their theoretical knowledge to the startup landscape. Imagine frontier tech funds in NYC and biotech funds in SF starting an internship program for optical engineering and pre-med students respectively.

I went to school in upstate NY and I know what it feels like to not have any exposure, relationships and resources to build a career in tech. I had to work twice as hard and put in so much more time daily to get noticed by the right people and to land opportunities that are generally easily accessible to people at top schools and in tech hubs. Over the years, I have build a reasonably big network and an online presence to be in a position to help people I know get a start in tech. I hope to double down on that as I make a name for myself over next couple years.

A lot of people are curious. A lot of people are hard working. A lot of people deserve great opportunities. But, lack of exposure and resources are major obstacles. As someone who grew up in India and went to school in Rochester, I have experienced the struggle first hand. With a combination of luck and persistence, I managed to seize opportunities where everyone around me came from superior backgrounds (on paper). But, not everyone gets lucky.

We might feel better about ourselves by engaging in programs that supposedly widen access but that means nothing if we don’t widen access to the students who otherwise wouldn’t join tech.