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How Futureforce Tech Launchpad Boosted Yaw Kessey-Ankomah's Confidence

After completing Salesforce's Futureforce Tech Launchpad program, Yaw Kessey Ankomah is excited to continue his tech career with increased clarity.

Earlier this year, Salesforce launched the inaugural Futureforce Tech Launchpad pre-internship program. Powered by CodePath, this hands-on,10-week program is designed for rising junior computer science students to learn full-stack web development, gain 1:1 mentorship from Salesforce's engineering teams, and experience working at one of the largest tech companies in the world.

For many tech companies, up to 75% of their entry-level hires come from participants in their internship programs. However, these internships are usually only offered to rising seniors. Research has shown that students from underrepresented communities have a higher chance of dropping out or switching majors before their junior years. Students of color and low-income students, in particular, miss out on opportunities they need to strengthen their technical skills, make connections, and launch their tech careers. By offering Futureforce Tech Launchpad to students in the summer after their sophomore years, Salesforce and CodePath are helping to jumpstart their engineering careers.

Yaw Kessey-Ankomah is an alum of this summer's program and is currently majoring in computer science at St. John's University. During the program, Yaw spent 10 weeks learning full-stack web development, including HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Postgres, SQL, Heroku, and more. Paired with a Salesforce engineering mentor and team, he gained a deeper understanding of how these technologies apply to real-world projects. By the end of the program, Yaw and his team built a habit tracker as their capstone project, and they presented their application in front of Salesforce's engineering executives. 

We caught up with Yaw to chat about the possibilities of his next steps, including celebrating his return offer at Salesforce for the Summer of 2023. 


Tell us about your background and how you became interested in computer science.

My name is Yaw Kessey-Ankomah, and I live in New York. When I started high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do in college, but the decision was about what I would do for the rest of my life. I loved math from a young age, so I initially went to college to pursue pharmacy. I was taking general chemistry, biology, and other health sciences classes, but I needed to apply the full extent of my skills or realize my potential. That's when I looked into tech and decided to take Harvard's CS50 course, Intro to Programming. I wanted the next level, so I transferred my major to computer science. In my first semester of computer science, I heard everybody talking about internships, which was overwhelming because there were so many opportunities in tech. Learning about CodePath put me at ease because I could access their many resources and offers, which helped me through that first year of computer science.

When did you first become interested in computer science and what were some aspects of it that interested you?

What interested me in computer science was that I could build something that would work. In pharmacy, we study and then take a test–it's not applicable. Whereas with computer science, you can take the code and tweak it to make it your own. Then, you can reflect on what you want it to do. That was what initially interested me. Then I became curious about how people make websites and web applications. So, I wondered if I could get there in the future. I asked, "How far can I take this?” and “What can I make?"


What were some of the challenges you experienced early on in your journey, and how did you overcome them?

Well, for starters, my parents didn't support me at first–with the change over to computer science–because I had already completed some pharmacy courses. They didn't want me to start over from the beginning. That was a little challenging. Another challenge was seeing my peers doing internships and feeling pressure to compare myself. I thought to myself - How can I obtain this internship? How can I better myself communication-wise and coding-wise? There are many opportunities in tech and across many fields like healthcare, sports, and everything. It's a lot to process, so I must remind myself to take it one step at a time. Don't worry about the big picture right now, just the small details. Then, later in life, you can specialize. It's important to believe in yourself and have the mindset that you can overcome challenges and accomplish what you want.


When did you come across Salesforce and CodePath, and what role have the opportunities played in your computer science journey?

It was a funny story. So, it was my first semester taking CS courses, and everybody was working on their resumés and LinkedIn profiles. I was looking at other people's profiles to get a sense of what I should have on mine, and that's where I saw CodePath. When I looked into it, I saw they had a technical interview course, but it wasn't open at the time. The mobile development course was open, so I decided to take that. The course helped me realize that mobile development was not for me, but at least I tried and got a sense of what mobile development was–which was pretty cool. Then, while I waited for the technical interview course to open, I saw the Salesforce Futureforce Tech Launchpad program. After discovering CodePath, their site quickly became my primary source of information. There were so many opportunities that I was interested in–from resume help, to interview prep, and other resources. CodePath became the main foundation for knowledge about how to build my career.


What aspect of Futureforce Tech Launchpad did you find most beneficial?

In the very first weeks, we learned full-stack web development technologies. We learned a couple of front-end technologies, and in the following weeks, we learned back-end. At the end of each week, we had to complete a whole project. It was overwhelming because so much information was thrown at us. I had to remind myself to take it easy and not stress. But that experience was beneficial because it put me in a position where I could use these technologies to help me later on in my future to work on projects or apply them to another field. The most beneficial aspect of Futureforce Tech Launchpad was learning things you will use in the real world. 

Also, you are networking with other people. You have very good teaching assistants, very good courses, and the way they run them is very beneficial. It's not just learning all these technologies, but we also had the chance to sit down and talk 1:1 with industry professionals, which helped me get a better mindset on what I could do with the tech. We also worked on communication skills like teamwork and using Github–which is not something you go into much detail about in school. 


How is the material you learned different from what you learned in university computer science classes?

In school, it is very traditional. You learn, and then you take a test or submit a project. You feel restricted in what you are learning. But for the Salesforce program, we learned all these technologies, and then we applied them in labs and projects. Then, in the final five weeks, you were able to work on something that you thought was impactful in the world. My team, for example, chose to make a habit tracker. It had a habit-tracking functionality that allowed you to log your habits–say, walking two times a day. It helps you keep track of that; then, you can look back and encourage healthy habits in the future. So, I feel like that was very impactful.


How did the course change your vision of your future in tech? 

Right now, I am open to the possibilities. I am still figuring out what I want to do, but I have a better sense. I'm not fond of front-end stuff like working on wireframes. I might be more into the back-end side, like the functionality of databases and other similar aspects. Last year, I had no idea what I was going to do. I am very grateful to Salesforce and CodePath for all the opportunities they offer and how they choose to help underrepresented people. 

Before the program, I was on a plateau. I didn't know what I could do or where I could go. After Futureforce Tech Launchpad, I am increasing my skills and improving personally. I can see my next steps on this trajectory. I am facing up toward the sky.


What would you tell another student considering Futureforce Tech Launchpad?

I would tell them to apply. You never know, and Salesforce and CodePath offer so much help. You won't feel like you are going to fail. It's more like they are here to help you along the process. All the TAs are good instructors, the mentors from Salesforce are excellent, and the program gives you everything you need to do well and get off on the right foot. I recommend Futureforce Tech Launchpad to anybody who may be interested in it.

Be sure to stay up to date on the Futureforce Tech Launchpad program here. Applications are open now.