Why We’re Joining Forces with Code.org

Jody Kochansky is the Head of the Aladdin Product Group and a member of BlackRock’s Global Operating Committee. He has been with BlackRock for over two decades in a variety of leadership roles within technology, analytics & portfolio management.

I took my first coding class in 9th grade, learning how to program in BASIC on an Apple II+. What I learned in that class wasn’t just how to write loops and if-then-else statements – it opened my eyes to a new way of thinking. What coding taught me was how to attack a problem – how to break it into distinct, manageable pieces and use ordered thinking to solve it.

In today’s economy, coding is an essential skill set for kids entering the job market, and it needs to be part of a regular curriculum, alongside traditional science and humanities courses. But as I learned myself, computer science education isn’t just about having a marketable skill – it’s about developing a way of looking at the world that informs everything you do regardless of your career choice.

That’s why BlackRock has joined a number of leading CEOs calling for nationwide computer science education, and committed a $1 million grant to Code.org, a nonprofit dedicated to expanding access to computer science education and in particular increasing participation by women and students of color.

When I joined BlackRock in 1992 and began working with the late Charlie Hallac, one of my mentors and the firm’s first employee, I knew I found a place that honored the coding mindset. At BlackRock, the job isn’t to make technological workarounds for existing behaviors – it’s to use technology as a catalyst for constantly rethinking and shaping the practices of the firm and concepts in the industry.

From the early development of the Aladdin system to its status today as the unifying framework of everything we do, I’ve seen countless times when BlackRock engineers pushed the envelope far beyond what our competitors, our industry and sometimes even ourselves thought possible at the time. Every day, BlackRock’s 1,300 engineers work with 25 million lines of code (and growing) to explore the boundaries of what we can do – like scraping social media for live marketing intelligence, using big data to construct behavioral models, building tools with open source technology that can manage complex data sets, and more.

Greater exposure to computer science is critical to success – the success of future engineers, of the economy and even that of our clients. In order to serve our clients most effectively – and offer them the most innovative technological solutions – we need to be able to recruit engineers from the broadest possible group of young people, with a diverse set of perspectives and ways of looking at the world.

We’re excited to join Code.org in their efforts to expand CS education – and we hope you’ll explore our engineering blog to get a glimpse into the complex problems BlackRock engineers are solving.