Karina Lin ’19 Encourages Wayfair to Bring Diversity to the Tech Industry

August 21, 2018
Karina Lin speaks in front of a classroom of middle school students.
Credit:
Karina Lin

When Karina Lin ’19 arrived at Wellesley, she had no interest in taking STEM courses. At the urging of her Ultimate Frisbee teammates, Lin decided to give computer science a try. She’s glad she did.

Now a computer science and sociology major, Lin worked this past summer as a software engineering intern at Wayfair, the online seller of home goods headquartered in Boston’s Copley Place. But engineering was not her only focus during her internship.

Upon learning she’d be working at Wayfair, Lin reached out to Rosa Carson, the head of tech talent development at the company. “When Karina got in touch with me, she said she was interested in diversity and inclusiveness,” said Carson. “She suggested a Community Coding Day. We gave it some thought and talked it through, and it seemed like an activity we could try out. It aligns with our efforts to support diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

The purpose of the July 27 event, said Lin, was to introduce Boston middle school students from diverse backgrounds to computer science. “Our goal was to inspire students from underrepresented groups to get involved with STEM, software engineering in particular, as well as provide a direct experience of being welcomed into our field,” she said. “It also gave the company an opportunity to give back to the larger Boston community in a meaningful way, addressing the discrepancies that we see in the tech industry every day.”

Lin encountered some of those discrepancies in previous internships at tech companies, where she found the workplace dominated by white males, an experience that prompted her “to think about her identity in the context of being a minority.” As a student, Lin said, “Wellesley challenged me to think about topics like my identity and inequality. At my internships, I was suddenly in the minority, and it was challenging to apply my new learnings to real-world situations.”

About 100 Wayfair employees worked as mentors or volunteers in a day that included three workshops that engaged 120 students in activities related to computer science and coding. “Community Coding Day was an opportunity for us at Wayfair to directly challenge the narrative that only certain types of people are cut out for computer science, welcome them into our field, and support them through their potentially first experience in tech,” said Lin.

Carson said the success of the event has led the company to develop an internship opportunity in which Lin will expand the concept into “a longer term and ongoing program.”

Photo: Karina Lin ’19 speaks to a classroom of students at Wayfair's Community Coding Day.