Community Spotlight: Kevin Lee

November 1, 2019

Tech workers from across the Bay Area have joined TechEquity’s network and are giving their time, skills, and financial support to make their communities more equitable. We’re proud of our growing community full of smart, passionate, engaged citizens and we want to show them off!

Meet Kevin

Kevin Lee was raised in the Bay Area and graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in computer science. For the first two years out of college, he worked as a software engineer at Facebook. For the past year, he’s been a freelancer working on web development, photography, and videography. Kevin has done everything from rebuilding an entire app of a tutoring service startup to shooting a video for a tattoo parlor, and even designing a logo for a rapper!

What is your professional passion these days?

I’ve been trying to make what I do for fun what I do for a living. One of my goals is to win an awwwards, which are website awards for the most innovative web designs. They curate and recognize the most impressive front-end sites over the year. I want to be able to reach a level with my front-end development skills where I’m able to amaze people and make them say, “wow, how was that made? I’ve never seen that before.” I recently gotten really into transit and city planning; I want to see how that will cross paths with my professional passions.

What does it mean to you to be a responsible citizen while working in tech?

I thought a lot about this question while working at Facebook. I want tech workers to realize that getting paid a lot isn’t the end all be all. It shouldn’t enable ignorance of societal issues. There are tons of bigger things that we should all pay attention to, such as a company’s ethics, labor rights, and our ability to unionize. The entire labor workforce should be advocates for one another and we should collectively work together to improve the state of all workers.

We have to ask ourselves — is everyone that works within these tech companies getting compensated and treated fairly? We should aim to be more conscientious about the decisions that we make. I feel like new grads in tech tend to go for the big-name brands that they feel will ‘legitimize’ them; I want to push back on this and challenge everyone to think more broadly about how we can responsibly place ourselves within our communities.

How has TechEquity impacted civic participation?

TechEquity creates a space that allows us all, especially tech workers, to get more civically engaged and involved with the public sector. The events I’ve been to are facilitated in a way that ease beginners into the legislative space while having speakers with such a vast amount of knowledge. There’s always room for discussion and friendly debates surrounding these important, multi-faceted topics.

Furthermore, as a volunteer for their civic tech project for the Oakland Indie Alliance, it’s been really cool to be able to meet the people running the small businesses in Oakland. I’ve been able to learn more about their point of view on what Oakland means to them and what parts they want to hold onto. When we think about what we want to hold onto, we also have to think more about what we are willing to let go — especially in a place that’s being gentrified so quickly. We should stand together as a community to ensure that we are not letting go of what makes Oakland such a cultural, vibrant, and unique city.

Why is it important for the tech community to become more civically engaged?

Silicon Valley likes the following three things: disruption, stepping on toes, and doing things your own way. There’s definitely a place for all of this, but people in tech need to realize that they work at private, for-profit enterprises where often times these beliefs don’t necessarily have the good of all people in mind. The tech community has a civic responsibility to help the public good, and tech can be the right venue to help improve some of the problems we’re facing. A ‘disruptive strategy’ can be a good way to build a company but it requires a lot more thought and civic intent to build a company that is ethical, has fair labor practices, and prevents gentrification of the neighborhoods surrounding them.

Become a civic tech volunteer like Kevin

We are organizing the tech community to advocate for a tech-driven economy in the Bay Area that works for everyone. We believe the tech industry can and should generate widespread opportunity instead of inequality and displacement. Join our growing community today!