MY JOURNEY FROM GIRLS WHO CODE TO BLACKROCK

Rebecca Jellinek, Analyst, is a developer in BlackRock’s Aladdin Product Group. Rebecca has made back-end contributions to Aladdin’s onboarding application as well as Aladdin’s Data Warehouse.

When selecting my college major, I chose to pursue Computer Science because I had always loved to solve problems and build things from scratch. The summer after my freshman year at Boston University, I completed an internship in software development. The internship was a crash course in document-oriented databases, quality assurance testing, enterprise Java, and, lastly, the harsh reality of the gender gap in tech. As the only female developer on the engineering team, I entered my sophomore year feeling discouraged and disenchanted by the lack of diversity.

Things were not so different back on my college campus; I felt out of place as one of very few women in my computer science courses. Fewer than one in five computer science graduates are women, and most girls stop participating in computer science between the ages of 13-17. However, rather than abandon the field, I was determined to challenge the status quo by working with a non-profit organization that was effecting real change in the tech industry and on college campuses. This is how I found Girls Who Code, and later, BlackRock.

FINDING BLACKROCK THROUGH GIRLS WHO CODE

Moved by the mission to build a diverse pipeline of future female engineers, I joined Girls Who Code (GWC) in 2016 as a teaching assistant for their Summer Immersion Program – a seven-week introduction to programming and robotics for underrepresented high school females. GWC Summer Immersion Programs are hosted by tech companies around the country, and my class was lucky to have BlackRock as our sponsor for the firm’s inaugural year with GWC. With little knowledge of BlackRock before that summer, the financial world was new to both me and my students. By the end of day one, we had all learned a new word: “Fiduciary.”

MY EXPERIENCE AS A TEACHING ASSISTANT

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My teaching team and I followed a curriculum set by GWC, which included programming concepts and languages, such as Python and JavaScript. The summer program culminated in a final project where each student could show off her newly acquired skills and existing creativity. My students were transformed throughout the seven weeks; not only did they grow more confident in themselves, but they also grew in their ability to learn new, challenging technical skills. After some initial frustration, students would let out a satisfied “YES!” when they had finally found a solution to their coding problem… Music to my ears.

One of the most rewarding parts was being able to provide them with the sense of accomplishment and ownership that comes with programming. Another rewarding aspect of teaching is the personal relationships that develop among the group. We helped each other to overcome our own personal struggles, and we all became more comfortable embracing our truest selves. I continue to be in touch with my students, some of which are now off at college pursuing computer science or another STEM degree.

BLACKROCK’S COMMITMENT TO INCLUSION & DIVERSITY

Throughout that summer, I connected with many women at BlackRock—from the group of 20 female-identifying analysts paired with GWC mentees, to the committee that organized our trip to the New York Stock Exchange. These wonderful people encouraged me to apply for an internship in BlackRock’s Aladdin Product Group. Knowing very little about finance and still thinking of myself as a novice developer, I was hesitant. But throughout the seven weeks, these women at BlackRock became my mentors and gave me the confidence to apply. The following summer, I returned to BlackRock—this time as a summer analyst in the Aladdin Product Group—where another GWC program was already in progress.

BlackRock’s partnership with GWC showed me that the firm is invested in both technology and inclusion & diversity. BlackRock’s commitment to hiring and empowering diverse technologists was, and continues to be, very clear.

FAST FORWARD TO 2019

Since graduating from Boston University with a B.A. in Computer Science in 2018, I’ve been working as a full-time software engineer at BlackRock’s Manhattan HQ. On July 1st, 2019, BlackRock welcomed its fourth group of GWC students and teachers, and I am grateful to be the point of contact for this beautiful partnership. Over the past three years with both GWC and BlackRock, I have become a better developer and speaker, as well as a more patient and collaborative teammate. I admire all past, present, and future GWC students for their bravery, initiative, and interest in technology. Girls Who Code led me to BlackRock, where I currently do my best work surrounded by a diverse group of engineers who support and challenge me every single day.