App-tivism: Daniel Carter ’11 on making a difference in tech

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Daniel Carter graduated in 2011 with a degree in political science and information systems.

When Daniel Carter ’11, political science and information systems, first arrived at UMBC, he thought he’d be an attorney, but he also had an interest in computer programming, so he did the math and decided to add a second major. This led him down a much different path than he’d expected, and when he graduated, he entered GE’s Information Technology Leadership Program instead of law school. But that doesn’t mean he’s not using both sides of his education to call attention to various issues, from diversity in the tech sector to the effects of mass incarceration.

Today, in addition to his day job as a senior software engineer at FireEye, Carter is working on several applications that propose solutions to public policy problems. Right now, he and his childhood friend Julian Porto are developing a project called GETmaps (“GET” stands for “growth economic trends”), which uses geographic and demographic data to visualize small business impact in different areas. Users can view maps that show, for instance, how much a government invests in small business in a certain area, as well as how many small businesses a locality has.

“The point of it is to bring more attention around the impact that small businesses have on the national economy,” he says. The app was born at a hackathon sponsored in part by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and they’re working with that agency now to bring the app to life.

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GETmaps was born at the Free Enterprise Hackathon last October in Washington, D.C.

Carter and Porto are are also the creators of Just Hires, which was mentioned in a recent Bustle article about D.C. tech activism. That app works like a TurboTax-Tinder hybrid to match ex-convicts with businesses looking to hire returning citizens. (At this writing, they have tabled that project to focus on GETmaps.)

When asked which of his UMBC experiences have influenced him the most, Carter can point to way more than just one. He says he wasn’t the most social kid coming into college, but that his involvement with the Filipino American Student Association (FASA) helped to break him out of his shell. He held several leadership positions within that organization, and even had the chance to build the registration site for FASA’s national conference.

“I was, like, 19 at the time, and I had just learned to program,” he says. “That was the coolest thing, to use it to help.”

He also cites the interdisciplinary nature of his education as a major influence on him: “Everything I’m doing…I’ve had a class that touched upon that.” He’d advise incoming UMBC students to take on internships, because, as he says, “the learning doesn’t stop in the classroom…You need to apply what you’re learning in your classes outside of [school].”

He realizes his path has been unconventional in more than one way. But Daniel Carter sees his efforts as part of a larger goal to balance the playing field, not just in the communities his apps are built to serve, but in the largely white, largely male tech workforce as well, especially at a time where calls for more diversity and equal representation have rung out across multiple prominent industries.

“It’s an important subject to me because I want to be able to show and talk to other people who are underrepresented. I definitely want to serve those communities, and that’s where my poli sci background comes in,” he says. He adds that since he’s graduated college, he’s been told by multiple people that his particular career trajectory has inspired them in their own.

“They saw that I’m doing it, so they can do it,” he says.

Julia Celtnieks ’13

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