Faces of CNM: Brent Kie
Brent Kie, a Deep Dive Coding grad and current assistant instructor at Deep Dive Coding.

Faces of CNM: Brent Kie

The Deep Dive Coding grad is on a quest to help people exit poverty by embracing technology
November 20, 2018

Brent Kie’s future and his career prospects are on an upward trajectory, but his journey is about more than his own success. The Deep Dive Coding graduate and current assistant instructor at Deep Dive is on a mission to inspire others.

“I want to connect with underserved populations and inspire them to pull themselves out of lower-income brackets and stop working paycheck to paycheck,” says Kie, a member of the Pueblo of Laguna. “I want them to find something more sustainable. And technology provides that. Being a Native American or a minority, you’re always fighting the odds and facing stereotypes. I’ve always wanted to create something for myself that would help inspire other people like me, people of color and people from similar backgrounds. If they can see somebody like me doing well in technology, it will help them believe.”

His uncle served that role for him when he was growing up on the Pueblo of Laguna. “He was a computer science major at UNM,” Brent says. “He would bring home a laptop and show me some low-level programming. I was hooked. In middle school, I helped install a network and server for Laguna Middle School. That was my first step into technology.”

After graduating high school, he earned an associate degree in computer science from the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute, then he spent time working as a social media manager, web developer and musician. Looking for a way to give back, he joined the AmeriCorps Vista volunteer program in 2014.

BrentKie.FacesofCNM2.jpg“I wanted to be part of building a community that creates sustainable technology jobs that will be here to stay,” he says. “The big thing is helping people learn new skills that will create longevity in a career that’s going to be around for a while. There’s definitely job security in these fields.”

Brent found his way to Deep Dive Coding (DDC) through a partnership between AmeriCorps and CNM Ingenuity, which runs DDC. Brent spent his first year of service at DDC focused on connecting people in poverty with opportunities in technology. He advised potential students, informed them of financial assistance opportunities, and ran DDC’s social media outreach, sharing the success stories of students who dramatically changed their lives through coding and technology.

After completing his one-year commitment to DDC, Brent wanted to keep going. He signed up for another year with AmeriCorps at DDC, and he decided to participate in the immersive, 10-week, 40 hours-per-week Deep Dive Coding Bootcamp. He completed it in June.

“The immersive learning really does make an impact,” he says. “It made me feel challenged like I hadn’t been in a while. Some people might think, ‘Whoa, that’s a lot of information in a short period of time.’ But I thrived off of it. For anybody who craves knowledge, it’s for them.”

And Brent says the bootcamp isn’t just for those with technology backgrounds. Far from it. “Some people who have gone through the bootcamp didn't start with any technology background,” he says. “Some of those people have been the most successful. It just takes determination and perseverance. Anybody who wants to attempt it and has the desire can do it. I’ve seen it firsthand.”

DDC has produced 300 graduates since its launch in 2014, including 24 grads who started their own businesses. The average starting salary for DDC grads who seek full-time jobs in Albuquerque is $47,000 per year.

“We try to keep the environment (at DDC) like a startup atmosphere,” he says. “You’re not just learning code, you’re also working as a team. The skills you learn go a long way.”

Brent has been such a standout at DDC, he was hired as an assistant instructor at DDC in September while he continues to serve as an AmeriCorps volunteer.

“This experience has resulted in extremely positive changes in Brent’s life,” says DDC program director Andrea Sisneros-Wichman. “On a personal level, I can see the confidence and enthusiasm exploding in him. On an educational level, Brent has learned amazing skills in social media marketing, community outreach, advising, tutoring, and web and software development. As a result of his experience here, Brent will have career opportunities that he never thought possible.”

When Brent started that first year at DDC, Andrea said she was simply hoping for somebody who could answer phones and post on social media. “What we got was somebody who is innovative and inspiring.”

His outstanding work for AmeriCorps and DDC was recognized in September, when he traveled to Washington, D.C., to accept the national 2018 Excellence in AmeriCorps Award for his work to build capacity for STEAM Education in New Mexico. The “A” in STEAM stands for “art” and how it can be incorporated into STEM. Yes, Brent is also an advocate for the intersection of art in STEM. “Making websites come to life with the use of color, motion and font is beautiful,” he says. “There is an aspect of art taking place. On a web page, you can tell great code. It’s beautiful.”

As for winning the national award, “it made me realize that all the hard work is paying off. Everybody in my family was very proud. Especially knowing where we come from, technology is not always prevalent.”

In the near-future, Brent says he wants to keep contributing to a developer community here in the Albuquerque-area and continue to evolve in his software development skills.

“Over the long-term, I want to give back to my Pueblo community, the Native American community,” he says. “I want to find ways to bring technology back to the reservation in positive ways and use it to build up infrastructure. And I want to inspire young people of color. If I can inspire people, that’s more than I could hope for.”