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Paola, Charlyn, and Sufei

Meet BuzzFeed New York’s All-Women of Color, All-Pursuit Grad Developer Team

Jan 4, 2019 · 3 min read

Inside BuzzFeed’s 200,000-square-foot headquarters in Gramercy, New York City, Paola Mata sat on a comfy, oversized couch and got to work on her latest project: programming the quizzes and listicles that are the Internet company’s bread and butter.

Laptop-toting employees in jeans and T-shirts bustled by on their way to a generous buffet of free snacks as candy-colored electronic music filtered through the space. Paola logged onto her MacBook and smiled. A few years ago, she was stuck in a career as an administrative assistant and unsure of what to do next.

Now she’s an iOS Developer at one of the most influential online media and news companies in the world.

Paola worked hard to get here: she graduated from Pursuit’s rigorous Fellowship program that trains high-need, high-potential adults to become software developers and get family-sustaining jobs in the tech industry.

A community leader and mentor to early-stage developers, Paola also paved the way for two other Pursuit alumni who work at BuzzFeed: Sufei Zhao and Charlyn Buchanan.

Now, BuzzFeed New York’s mobile development team is all women of color — and all Pursuit grads.

This trailblazing trio captures the hard work of Pursuit Fellows — and the hard work of Pursuit to connect talent with opportunity and create an inclusive tech industry. Pursuit’s current cohort of 144 Fellows is split evenly between men and women, and is 50 percent immigrants, and 60 percent Black or Hispanic.

“As a Pursuit alum, I have tried to build community and use my influence as a leader in tech to enable future Pursuit cohorts to achieve the same success I have. Charlyn and Sufei showed the grit and perseverance needed to make it through Pursuit and get hired at BuzzFeed. Now, we’re working together at BuzzFeed and everyday is like a Pursuit reunion.” — Paola

Pursuit Fellows go through an amazing transformation: when they come into the program, they make an average of $18,000 a year; when they graduate, they get hired at leading tech companies like Pinterest, JPMorgan Chase, and BuzzFeed and make an average of $85,000 a year. They then advance in their careers with the help of Pursuit’s 36-month career support program.

Many, like Paola, go on to become leaders in tech.

“Pursuit started me on my journey to success, not only introducing me to iOS development but also teaching me the industry smarts I needed to break into tech,” says Paola, who was honored with the Pursuit Leadership Award at the organization’s annual Bash gala. “They made it feel like this dream was attainable.”

As an iOS developer at BuzzFeed, Paola is responsible for helping to engineer some of BuzzFeed’s most popular products and services: the BuzzFeed News app, native quizzes, and Add Yours, a feature that allows users to add photos to their comments. She also helped rewrite BuzzFeed’s analytics framework, a project that was “super important to the company, even though it’s not as glamorous,” she says.

A tech influencer who helped launch Latinas in Tech NYC, she’s also served as a mentor and community resource to other Pursuit grads. When Charlyn applied to a job at BuzzFeed, the first thing she did was reach out to Paola. Later, Paola helped get Sufei, a classmate of Charlyn’s, get a job as a software developer at BuzzFeed.

“Seeing her working at the BuzzFeed office — a fellow Pursuit graduate, a woman of color, and someone who could relate to my experience — was inspiring,” recalls Charlyn, who began her career in human resources before joining Pursuit in hopes of doing something “more exciting” professionally. “And it hit me: there’s something amazing going on at Pursuit.”

Applications are open now for the Pursuit 6.0 Fellowship. Learn more about Pursuit and how to apply.

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