BE Smart Hackers Visit Silicon Valley Corporate Sites

10 HBCU teams learn about opportunities in tech

Be Smart

On Day 2 of the BE Smart Hackathon, sponsored by Toyota, all 10 student teams visited the Silicon Valley sites of two of the Black Enterprise TechConneXt Summit corporate sponsors: the AT&T Foundry and LinkedIn.

AT&T Foundry

The AT&T Foundry outdid itself again this year. Separating the students into three groups of roughly 15, each group engaged in an activity with the AT&T Foundry staff.

The first activity required the group of 15 to break into three teams. Each team had to tape strands of spaghetti together out from the edge of a table; the team that constructed the longest strand without its touching the floor would win.

Each team approached the challenge differently. Reflection was also part of the activity, as was learning from what other teams had done. One team’s spaghetti strand reached a length of 7 inches without touching the floor!

Tarren Corbett-Drummond, the Foundry’s senior product marketing innovation manager, said that of other groups that have performed this challenge, kindergartners did better than many adults. She also said that engineers and architects did best.

A provocative second activity, developed by the Foundry’s data scientists, involved machine learning and how constructing machine learning models requires knowing some of the answers already. Reinforcement learning can be used when you don’t the answer.


At LinkedIn the students learned how to optimize their LinkedIn profiles. Emily Gause, a Howard alum who works at LinkedIn, provided great tips, including the following:

  • Don’t just “mass add” to your network. Add people strategically—those you can help professionally or who can help you.
  • LinkedIn isn’t Facebook. Make sure whatever you share on LinkedIn represents you as a professional.
  • Include a photo on your profile.
  • Use an attention-grabbing headline, not just “student at XYZ College.”
  • Write a compelling summary. This is the place where you can sell yourself. Be specific. Don’t be shy.
  • If you have another site where you blog or where you’ve already developed a following, link to that site from your LinkedIn profile (as long as it’s professionally appropriate).
  • Add to your profile volunteer experiences and causes you care about; 41% of hiring managers consider volunteer work to be as important as professional experience, according to LinkedIn.
  • Join LinkedIn groups.

Gause also suggested having a few people review your profile. The career services people I’ve interviewed all said they regularly helped students (and sometimes graduates) develop their LinkedIn profile.

Gause also said that even “locked” profiles aren’t off-limits to recruiters. Using a recruiter tool, recruiters can view private profiles—so be sure to keep yours professional.

For more about the BE Smart Hackathon, visit the Black Enterprise TechConneXt Summit website.

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