Discovering Public Interest Tech
I entered the field of computer science because of an impactful class I took senior year of high school: Human-Centered Design. Throughout the course of this small, pilot class, I felt empowered and excited to learn about innovations that were thoughtfully designed to meet people's needs.

In my college coursework and internship experiences, however, I did not easily find a focus on human-centered technology. Additionally, after participating in an "alternative spring break" trip about housing inequality in the Bay Area and learning from community activists, I realized how destructive these tech companies are to their surrounding communities.

In my senior year, an exciting opportunity came my way - I was hired as the first Public Interest Technology Student Assistant at the Haas Center for Public Service. In this role, I researched, created, and and raised awareness about public interest tech career and volunteer opportunities - opportunities I wish I had at the start of college. Some of my tasks included: I was lucky enough to find an entry-level, public interest tech role at Remix, where we build design and analysis tools for transit and street planners. Throughout our design and development, we center the needs of local government agencies and urban residents, bringing me back to that high school Human-Centered Design course. I hope roles in public interest tech can become more accessible as we break up big tech and shift the tide in how technology is used, ensuring that innovation uplifts all citizens and supports those who have long been fighting for a more just society.

Public Interest Tech Career Guide
  1. Be intentional about your job search.

    Try to answer these questions for yourself:

    • What drives me and gives me energy?
    • What are issues I care about? What things in society are immoral, inefficient, or wrong?
    • What are solutions to these problems? What companies are working in these areas?
    • What areas or applications of technology excite me?
    • What are my must-haves at a company (i.e. at least two women of color in leadership)?
    • What are my deal breakers for a company?

  2. Learn about the Public Interest Tech landscape.

    As you begin your job search, it is helpful to know what options are available to you. Some areas that fall under public interest tech include:

    Other compiled lists:

  3. Search the job boards!!

    Here are some go-to job boards and newsletters for public interest tech opportunities!

    Entry-level fellowships

  4. Use those connections! 💪🏽

    At this point, you should have a collection of companies that:

    • Align with your values and meet all your must-haves,
    • Fall under the sector of public interest tech that interests you, and
    • Look to be hiring thanks to your job board snooping.

    Now, take these companies and do some deep LinkedIn sleuthing. Can you find someone who works or has worked there? Maybe even someone who shares one of your identities or interests?

    Once you identify those people, introduce yourself, express your interest in their company's mission, and ask what it's like to work there. You'd be surprised how far a referral can take you!

  5. Build your network.

    Whether or not you get an offer from the company, reach back out to your contacts and close the loop, thanking them for their time and advice. Play the long game. The public interest tech space is small, so it’s worth staying in touch and building those lasting connections.

  6. Pay it forward!

    Now that you've acquired some information about public interest tech and some connections along the way, share your learnings with others! And once you've landed that job, don't be afraid to #RockTheBoat by asking hard questions, pushing for inclusive hiring practices, and ensuring that your product is accessible and beneficial to groups of all identities.