Marina Harrell is the co-founder and the Vice President of the Morrisville-based non-profit Code Edge. She has over 25 years of experience in the software development industry employed at various commercial software companies.
Marina has always been passionate about developing and growing leadership in underserved young people in her community. In 2012, she and her husband started Code Edge to introduce computer science topics to underserved school-aged youth. The mantra of their organization is “Get The EDGE”—Engage in learning always, Dedicate yourselves to working hard to reach your potential, Gain knowledge by achieving all that you can, and Excel in your skills so that you have access to a better future.
1. What is in your pockets?
Usually in my pocket, I have lip gloss because my lips get so dry.
2. What exciting thing has happened recently for you or your organization?
We started Code Edge as an avenue for underserved students who were African American and Hispanic to have access to computer programming. I am a software developer by trade, and I wanted to teach my children how to do computer programming. As I looked around at some of the major companies that taught computer science to children, some of the companies like iD Tech were extremely expensive.
There is a socioeconomic gap between children who are underserved in being able to have access to that information. So my husband and I—he’s also a software developer—started our nonprofit called Code Edge, and we partner with community-based organizations who have large populations of African American and Hispanic students. We also provide workshops for the school system and other populations of children, but our main target audience is underserved African American students.
We want to introduce them to computer programming. Many times, it’s hard for them to take an interest or really believe that they’re able to do computer programming. So, we introduce a very fun way through programming games. Our main target is students who have no interest in computer programming, and to try to make it fun. For them to say, hey, I can do this. And so that’s one reason why we started the program, and we’ve been in existence for over 10 years. As a matter of fact, this year is our 10th-year anniversary, which is exciting.
3. What is your favorite coffee spot?
Cocoa Cinnamon is my favorite coffee shop in the area. My favorite drink is the Al Mokha Latte.
4. What keeps you up at night?
I really worry about the state of America in terms of what we’re going through and in terms of all of the shootings. I have two sons, they’re in college. One is a freshman and the other one is a junior. My freshman attends East Carolina University. He’s majoring in computer science. My junior, he is attending UNC Charlotte, and he’s majoring in marketing. And so, what keeps me up at night is worrying about their safety in terms of gun violence that has been happening on the college campuses. Those are some of the things that I lay awake in bed at night and think about.
5. What is your favorite restaurant or happy hour?
My favorite restaurant is 42nd Street Oyster Bar. I love shrimp and crabs. I’m originally from Washington D.C. And in the Maryland area is Maryland crab cakes. My other favorite restaurant that we attend is Cape Fear Seafood Company. As you can see, a common thread between all of those restaurants is seafood.
6. What is next for you or your organization?
Number one, we want to kick back up our in-person workshops. We’re looking at reaching out to some of the libraries in the Durham area and partnering with them to provide programming on Saturdays for underserved population of students.
The other thing that I’ve really been thinking about is, I am also a software developer by trade. I’m a manager in a software development company, as well. And what I have seen is the pipeline of African American technologists. It’s very difficult for me, as a manager, to have a huge pipeline of African American technologists. So one of the things that I’ve really been thinking about is for 10 years, we have focused on school-aged students, and we will continue to do that. But how can my population also help provide a pipeline of diverse software engineers into technology companies?
So we’ve been really thinking about some programming around how we can assist with interviewing, resume-building. Just specific, hands on, pragmatic skill sets that African American technologists can learn. So that they can become resources for companies who are who are interested and who have a culture of wanting to hire a diverse population of candidates.