Why this Google engineer is teaching students to code

San Francisco-based Googler Ernest Holmes first started coding when he was in high school. “From then on, I was hooked and knew I wanted to become an engineer,” he says. By the time he was a freshman at Morehouse College, Ernest was participating in the Google in Residence program (GIR). That program introduced him to the Google internship program which he took part in for three consecutive summers before joining us as a full-time engineer.

Early exposure to coding helped set Ernest up for success, but some of his classmates weren’t as lucky. During his first computer science course in college, he realized many of the students were only then getting their first coding experience.

“There were some students who, like me, had their interest piqued early on, while others had never coded before in their lives, and they just wanted to take a computer science class to figure it out,” Ernest says. “For that second group, it was like they were starting at a disadvantage because they’d never been exposed to the concepts, and they were entering into college life at the same time. That can be overwhelming.”

Ernest started tutoring sessions for his classmates and quickly learned that if they’d been exposed even just a few years earlier, it could have changed their paths. Inspired by this idea, in 2019 — at the same time Ernest began his career as a full-time engineer at Google — he founded the nonprofit CodeHouse to fulfill his personal goal of bringing the joy of coding to the next generation.

“CodeHouse is a nonprofit that partners with schools across the U.S. to introduce students to careers in tech through exposure to large tech companies, hands-on training and financial assistance,” Ernest says.

A group of people stand together on an orange rug.

The Codehouse team.

CodeHouse brings software engineers, product managers and designers from Google and other tech companies, as well as representatives from colleges and universities around the U.S., to meet with students and share their career stories.

“Throughout the year, we host Tech Exposure Days to make learning about careers and opportunities in tech a fun and engaging experience,” Ernest says. “We want students to leave with more knowledge about what’s out there in the tech industry as well as connect with role models who look like them in careers they hadn’t even considered.”

To date, CodeHouse has worked with more than 2,500 students through its events. With support from fellow Googlers Michelle Asamoah and William Bell, the CodeHouse team continues to grow and so does its mission.

“We started CodeHouse by hosting events to help expose students to tech while they’re in high school, but we want to be a long-term partner for them on their journey through college and into their professional careers,” Ernest says. “To do this, we kicked off our CodeHouse Scholar initiative last year where we’re offering $20,000 scholarships, mentorship, and a technical skills training session for incoming freshmen going to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and majoring in computer science.”

In the first cohort of scholars, CodeHouse identified 30 students from across the U.S. to be sponsored and receive scholarships. These students will participate in a technical skills workshop that includes an introduction to basic coding languages like Python and they’ll learn about different careers in computer science. Ernest and the CodeHouse team hope to scale this program to additional career fields in tech so students can get even more exposure and skills training before college.

“I fell in love with computer science,” Ernest says. “As an engineer at Google, I know that I can create anything that I can imagine. I want to introduce as many people to that feeling and this field as possible.”

To learn more about CodeHouse, visit thecodehouse.org. You can also follow them on Twitter, Instagram or their Facebook page.