For Marcus Mitchell, getting more African-American kids interested in computer science is a core part of his job. "In this field, being black is unusual," says Mitchell, 40. "Being an engineer is not something that is in the consciousness of many African-Americans." Part of the problem is the perception that software engineers sit in front of a screen all day and don't talk to anyone. "When you work at a company like Google," he says, "that's far from the truth." When he's not leading Google's Checkout engineering efforts, Mitchell, a Caltech Ph.D., speaks to students at historically black colleges and high schools and hosts Lego contests for local high-school students at Google's Manhattan offices. "One of the things I realized in digging into this problem," he says, "is that you have to get to kids younger and younger to get computer science on their radar."
Last updated January 22 2008: 8:01 AM ET