Alumni

Deciphering the Language of Computers

Alumnus Simeon Kakpovi is on a mission to get more Black students into coding.

by Vinciane Ngomsi
Simeon Kakpovi

photo by Justin D. Knight

When Simeon Kakpovi (BS ’18) first came to Howard, he planned to study accounting. It wasn’t until he watched his mentors working on some computer projects that his curiosity, and interest, were piqued. “It’s fundamentally a business degree,” he says, “but there’s significant coding involved where you’re applying those solutions to the principles of business.”

During his sophomore year, he discovered a cybersecurity case study competition on LinkedIn and decided to enter. “I was way in over my head,” he recalls, after being presented with 80 gigabytes of data to sift through and analyze. However, with support of Howard professors, his team catapulted to the final round. 

Now one year into his role as a senior intelligence analyst at Microsoft, Kakpovi is on a mission to introduce more Black students to coding. Since graduating from Howard, he has remained active with Howard’s information systems department, returning each year to recount his own journey as a tech scholar to future robotics professionals. A lot of his own knowledge was self-taught and learned on the job through various projects, but Kakpovi wants to afford future informational technology academics accessible avenues to study the popular trade. In addition to working alongside Black learners, in his spare time Kakpovi also builds websites and creates immersive digital experiences. 

Kakpovi credits a lot of his success at Howard to University trustee Robert Lumpkins and his wife, Sara Jane O’Connell Lumpkins. Together, the duo awarded him a scholarship to fund the entirety of Kakpovi’s studies at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom as he pursued a master’s degree in tech policy. 

“As a child of immigrants, my parents didn’t really know what Cambridge was,” Kakpovi says, “so earning a degree at such a renowned school was really a transformative moment for me. I was able to broaden my view of the world and understand policy from a global perspective. It really engineered the way I see things today.”

While at Howard, Kakpovi co-founded Emerging Coders, a club that exposes Howard students to programming within a welcoming environment. Since 2016, he’s also volunteered almost every year as a tech mentor for Howard’s annual hackathon, a 24-hour competition in which students pitch their business ideas and make them a reality through code. 

Kakpovi also sits on the board of advisers for Howard’s computer information systems department. He uses both wisdom as a recent graduate and professional experience to help the department deliver the most current technical education — what will best help students land jobs after graduation.

Some people were lucky enough to realize Howard was a special place before they arrived on campus, but Kakpovi didn’t grasp the impact of attending the institution until he completed his studies. For the Beninese-American, it’s not just the school; it’s a place that provides invaluable opportunities for anyone who has the privilege of studying there. 

“When you’re part of that Bison family, people really care about you and people will invest in you in a way that you won’t find anywhere else,” he says. “In my journey at Howard, I had countless people really pour into me when I may have otherwise been overlooked. Those reasons and more [are] why I am proud to be a Howard alum.”

 

 

This story appears in the Spring/ Summer 2022 issue.

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