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David Delmar Sentíes is the Founder and Executive Director of Resilient Coders, a highly competitive, free, nonprofit coding bootcamp that trains people of color for high growth careers as software engineers, and connects them with full-time jobs. He’s a workforce equity activist, passionate about democratizing access to the high growth careers that are automation resilient. Delmar Sentíes looks forward to a day when Boston’s innovation landscape is led, not by the smartest among the luckiest, but by the smartest, full stop. A graduate of Boston University’s College of Fine Arts, he’s also an artist that combines his love of history with his interest in comic book culture. His Red Cloud Series seeks to present historical heroes in a visual vocabulary inspired by comic book culture.
Where did you grow up? I grew up in Syracuse, NY
How would you sum up your childhood? Incredible. I had the immense privilege of growing up in two different cultures. My parents, who’d immigrated from Mexico, were committed to keeping my sister and me connected to our family and culture. I remember telling my parents one day after school that I’d learned about the war in which the poor Texans were fighting for freedom from the tyrannical Mexicans. This is when I started getting corrective history lessons from my parents. These have not ended, by the way. The last time I saw him, my dad and I got into an argument about whether nationalizing oil in 1938 had been a wise move for Mexico.
What most inspired your career in technology? The need to pay rent. I don’t care about technology. I care about economic empowerment.
How did growing up reading comic books shape your worldview? Probably fueled my passion for history. Many historical figures are larger than life, and would fit right into the frame. In the mountains of Guanajuato during Mexico’s war for independence, El Pípila strapped a boulder to his back to shield himself from Spanish bullets as he ran to the armory in which the Spanish soldiers had taken refuge. And he torched it, which doomed the Spaniards. If this happened in a Marvel movie, we’d be like, that’s totally unbelievable.
What would you like to say to young people wanting to learn to code? I’d show them what sort of salary they can make.
Who’s been the most inspiring figure in your life? I have a lot of comic-book-worthy superheroes in my family. I’ll call out my parents, who are unbelievably tough, and brilliant people.
What motivated you to make the jump from PayPal to founding Resilient Coders? The dire economic situation for Boston’s communities of color
Why focus on code literacy? Money. Full stop. Half of Boston will lead the automation economy. The other half will be crushed by it. We have a moral and economic responsibility as a civilization to provide onramps to automation-resilient careers.
You are a self-professed history nerd. How does your interest in history inform your work at Resilient Coders? Our sense of history pervades literally everything we do. Our pedagogy and our entire ethos is predicated on Paulo Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed.” (more below)* Mark Twain famously said that history doesn’t repeat, but it rhymes. I think we need to write a new verse.
What have you learned from your time spreading code literacy that you apply to your own life? It’s really hard to say. I have the immense privilege of learning literally every day.
In what ways does art influence your mission of workforce equity? I think art and activism are two arms sprouting from the same chest.
What was your favorite comic book growing up and does it still influence you today? Batman. All day. Batman is flawed. He’s susceptible to his feelings. He has a complicated relationship with his own past, his personal legacy, and his own self. I think one of Batman’s biggest “enemies” is the ever-thinning line between the impossibly-powerful villains that are too strong to be good for Gotham, and the impossibly-powerful superhero who is too strong to be good for Gotham.
Who or what company is doing great work to spread workforce equity in the tech industry? Most important thing is to be a great employer. Wayfair, Wistia, WeSpire, there are a bunch.
Where will Resilient Coders be in 5 years? I don’t know about 5 years. But my goal is to be obsolete. I want to shut us down. I want our alumni to tell their grandchildren that they got their start at a coding bootcamp for people of color, and I want those grandchildren to ask why the hell people of color would need their own bootcamp.