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When Aaron Ehrman flew to Silicon Valley with his tech team from Southern University, it was his first time outside of Louisiana and his first time on a plane.

A junior at Southern and A&M College in Baton Rouge, Aaron is studying computer science.

He joined 14 other teams from historically black colleges and universities around the U.S. to compete for cash prizes at the Black Enterprise Smart Hackathon in San Francisco.

The challenge? To develop an app for Toyota that makes the auto-buying experience easier, faster and more pleasant for customers.

Students participating in the hackathon got the kind of exposure that most startup founders dream of, including working with mentors from Toyota and Twilio. They went on corporate tours hosted by Google and Intel, and were immersed in workshops centered around recruitment and jobs as part of the Black Enterprise TechConneXt Summit 2017 in San Francisco.

 

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The TechConneXt Summit is a place for leaders from Silicon Valley and around the U.S. tech ecosystem to exchange ideas and provide information about jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities in all areas of tech.

Aaron talked to Moguldom about his first Silicon Valley experience:

Moguldom: What brings you to the Black Enterprise TechConneXt Summit 2017?

Aaron Ehrman: I came for the hackathon and to connect with some of the major companies and other schools. When you think of HBCUs, everyone thinks of the band and the football. There is a bridge and a gap dividing us, but being here allows me to see that we can come together outside of football, outside of the band hall, and we can all connect with each other. At the end of the day, this person may go to a different school but this person may be my partner, this person may be my boss or lifelong friend. I wouldn’t want a school rivalry to get in the way of that.

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Moguldom: You competed with 14 teams to make an app for Toyota. How did your team do?

Aaron Ehrman: We did fairly well in my opinion. We didn’t place in the top three but we are proud to be here. I’m proud to have worked with them. If we could do it again, I would.

Moguldom: What was the project you worked on? 

Aaron Ehrman: I worked on an ionic mobile app. We wanted to make a user-friendly experience for the Toyota consumer while buying a car. (A place where) they would be able to upload their credit scores, fact sheets and everything in advance.  This would allow the dealer to have everything ready when they arrive at the store. This would help eliminate long waits.

Moguldom: Is Toyota going to use your app? 

Aaron Ehrman: We haven’t been told anything yet, but we are hoping.

Moguldom: What kind of job are you looking for?

Aaron Ehrman: I’m looking for a software engineering job. I mostly work front-end but I would like to progress and learn more back-end and database to become a full stack engineer.

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Moguldom:  What is your dream job? Who would you want to work for? 

Aaron Ehrman: I want to work for GE Digital. I did a summer with them. It was a great experience and I would love to work with them again. That is the company that is in my view.

Moguldom: Where are they based?

Aaron Ehrman: GE has numerous bases. I worked in digital in New Orleans, but they have other bases in Atlanta, Seattle, San Ramon, and Boston.

Moguldom: Did you grow up in New Orleans?

Aaron Ehrman: I grew up in Brusley, La., a small town outside of Baton Rouge, I had a sugarcane field in my backyard.

Moguldom: What did you get out of this event?

Aaron Ehrman: This is my first time outside of Louisiana, my first time on a plane, my first time coming here and being able to see that the world is bigger, and there are different people from all walks of life. I remember coming in and I kept saying, “Yes ma’am, no ma’am.” The first thing I got was, “You can say me by my name.” It was a shock because people said to call them by their name.

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Moguldom: What does it feel like to be amongst the “Silicon Valley” group?

Aaron Ehrman: It’s great. It feels like I’m rubbing shoulders with important people. I’m shaking hands with people I never thought I would meet. These very important business types — I like how they’re speaking directly to me, saying I can do this I can do that, and connecting with me on a personal level. Also, they are sharing their back stories and everything about themselves to make us feel more comfortable about coming here. You don’t see a lot of black people or diversity in Silicon Valley. But we are the change and it’s a change they want to bring. I’m proud that they want to bring it here and I can be a part of it.

The post HBCU Student: ‘You Don’t See A Lot Of Black People In Silicon Valley. We Are The Change’ appeared first on Moguldom.