With a $10 million windfall, the free Seattle coding school for women goes national for rapidly changing tech’s bro culture

Amber Tanaka was burnt.

Tanaka was working service jobs to support an acting career, realizing that a passion for theater would not lessen the trouble of spending days and nights in low-paying positions., Then the pandemic hit, live performances were halted and service jobs became more difficult to find.

“I really can’t afford to go back to school,” thought Tanaka.

Then 26-year-old Tanaka heard about it ADA Developers Academy, A Seattle-based coding school for women and gender-diverse adults that primarily serves people of color, LGBTQ+ people, and people with low incomes.

Students do not pay anything. And they get a lot.

On average, they earn about $40,000, which includes jobs in the child care and hospital industries. And in less than a year, they could triple their salaries: According to CEO Lauren Sato, the average graduate by 2022 paid $125,000.

Now, Ada itself has landed in an unlikely position that would allow it to expand to four other locations across the country and attack the massive gender imbalance in the tech industry.

nonprofit last july One to $10 million won”equality can’t waitChallenge launched by Pivotal Ventures, the investment company of Melinda French Gates. The one-time challenge, which delivered four such grants after a month-long competition that attracted 550 applicants across the country, aims to expand the power and influence of women.

a The Pivotal Ventures executive praised Ada for its unusual “immersive” training and internship program, which falls somewhere between a traditional boot camp, typically 12 to 15 weeks long, and a bachelor’s degree in computer science.

“The magic of Ada Developers Academy is that it includes an internship,” said Ed Lazoska, a leading computer science professor at the University of Washington. After six months of class time, this is five months of practical experience. Employer bill taking interns: $55,000 per person.

Sato sees Ada as “accelerating the production cycle” of programmers’ development, bringing them into the workforce faster than four-year programs while offering more training than most boot camps.

“It allows us to change the makeup of the pipeline more quickly,” she said.

The coding school, which currently has 120 students, has a better chance of achieving that goal with an additional $10 million in the bank — literally.

Ada got all her Equality Can’t Wait funding within a month of winning the award. Sato observed that the advance allocation, and the lack of terms specifying its use, coincided with a growing trend in philanthropy to rely on organizations to carry out their missions as they see fit.

After this the flurry of activities has started. Ada has tripled the size of its workforce to 60, and moved its Seattle campus to a new location, where it also opened headquarters in April. Aida now occupies two decorated floors of high-rise buildings at the intersection of Pioneer Square and the Chinatown International District.

A class recently spent the morning learning JavaScript, a programming language, and the afternoon dealing with technical challenges during mock interviews.

“I was warned that this was going to happen at a very fast pace,” said Ellen Smith, a 32-year-old who used to work in construction, noting that she has one project every week in her class so far.

Admission to ADA is competitive, and students are required to show elementary technical knowledge. Some are self-educated.

Still, the school is flexible.

when students Camila Tagle, a 30-year-old immigrant and former finance worker from Chile, told administrators she was pregnant, saying she could delay her internship by a semester to give her five months with the baby.

Meanwhile, one of her two young children attends a small on-site day care while in class.

As students work this June day, Ada’s all-female executive staff discussed news from Atlanta, where the school already has students online, and Seattle, in a board room named after academic and civil rights activist Angela Davis. We will open our first campus outside. January.

Deputy Director Alexandra Holian explained what she was hearing from an employee who went to a tech conference in a Georgia metropolis: “She said it was just a brother party.”

lonely and dismissed

That’s what Ada is fighting: An industrywide brotherhood culture, arguably less toxic in Seattle, but stubbornly persisted here and across the country.

According to census data, men account for nearly 80 per cent of the city’s computer and math workers, up slightly from a decade ago. Men account for about 73% of technical workers nationally.

What makes those figures even more surprising is the fact that women took the lead in the computer sector and outnumbered men. Much of its history.

Ada Lovelace, the namesake of the Seattle coding school and daughter of poet Lord Byron, wrote in the 1840s what is considered the first computer algorithm. women working on computing for federal space programs Beginning in the 1930s and during World War II for the military.

But the number of female computer science students declined in the 1980s, Lazoska said. There are many theories about why.

“I think it’s probably a mix of things,” he said. “Part of it was that video games and home computing had become a big deal. And that became a man’s thing. Part of it was that the computing industry has a lousy reputation for how it treats women.” .

“Dismiss” is the word Jennifer Carlson says she hears most often.

Carlson co-founded and led apprenticeA program similar to Ada that mixes Technical training and internship but serves A wide range of underrepresented groups.

Others talk about being alone, says Melody Biringer annual conference She founded Women in Tech earlier this month, held in Seattle.

case in point: bridget frey, chief technology officer at Seattle-based online real estate company Redfin. Frey earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Harvard in 1999, when only 10% of the program consisted of women. She said that she constantly felt that she was “second” in relation to her male classmates.

Lazoska said the University of Washington’s School of Computer Science and Engineering is working hard to attract female students. Delegates give presentations at sororities and develop relationships with high schools known to have top female students, and the school has restructured its introductory curriculum to be more welcoming to students with less formal preparation.

women do little makeup less than a third of undergraduate students at UW’s School of Computer Science and Engineering. This is better than the national average – approx. 20% of computer science bachelor’s degree Women are respected – but Lazoska said UW’s figure is “still terrifying what it should be.”

Where else is anyone looking for talent?

When he co-founded Ada in 2013, Scott Case wasn’t trying to solve the technical gender problem. He needed talent.

co-founder of a startup The case, called EnergySavvy, said it was harder for workers to compete against big companies like Amazon and Google.

“Where can we recruit where no one else is looking?” he asked himself.

Tech boot camps, which were emerging then, were one answer. another, “There’s half of the population mostly ignoring technology.”

He and co-founder Alice Worth resolved to combine the solutions, creating a more intensive program designed to counter industry skepticism about whether boot camp graduates were adequately trained.

Ada’s students impressed employers during their internships, Case said, and many received permanent offers. Talk about the program spread, and large companies such as Amazon and Google began joining smaller organizations looking for Ada students.

Ada’s growth comes at a time when the tech industry is under tremendous pressure to diversify, including Rev. Jesse Jackson, who has repeatedly come to Seattle to offend Amazon shareholders.

Still, Case said employers have a feeling about Ada: “It’s not a charitable program.”

Redfins Frey said, women can bring new perspectives. He recalled bringing in a more gender-diverse technical team to solve a difficult problem. Employees were not using newly developed software to schedule tours.

The new team “took a completely different approach,” Frey said. “They stopped coding. They put their keyboards down and they just listen.”

Employees told coders why the software was more complicated than it seemed, and the team adjusted the software accordingly.

Redfin has sponsored 16 ADA interns and hired 14 of them, the most senior of whom have advanced to the third of the company’s five engineering levels.

“We hire Ada engineers for roles similar to graduating from a four-year CS [computer science] program,” Frey said.

She acknowledged that freshmen with bachelor’s degrees spent more time in the classroom. Frey, on the other hand, noted that Ada graduates generally have more work experience and Better teamwork and project management skills.

To account for the knowledge gap, Redfin has developed a training program for new employees.

“Investing in this has made it possible for us to bring in a broader group of engineers,” Frey said. Redfin’s female tech workforce has grown from just a handful in Seattle and at the company’s San Francisco office when it started 11 years ago to make up 37% of Redfin’s tech workforce today (which also follows last week’s layoffs). It remained so).

Still, as Ada broadened her mission to focus more on women of color, she found that her graduates were not all achieving equal success. In particular, employers were offering low-paid students of color.

“We just went to all the companies and showed them the offer data by different demographic slices,” Case recalled. He said that the problem among Aida graduates has been fixed, but Sato is not so sure and noticed that there is a lot evidence in industry People of color are being paid less than their white peers.

And all that happened in the Seattle area — “our own little bubble,” in the words of Danielle Ishem, Ada’s vice president of equity and policy. He said Expanding nationally with the help of a $10 million grant will bring new challenges.

For example, gender-neutral bathrooms, important to Ada and her gender-diverse students, are a hot political issue in some places, including Georgia.

Abortion laws present another question. Ada is considering moving to Texas, Ishem said, but there are concerns about abortion laws, which would ban the procedure altogether if the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. reverses Wade.

To some extent, Ada creates its own welcoming environment, requiring managers of companies to intern to attend a 12-session digital course on inclusivity and providing social justice courses to students.

The school is still struggling to get where it wants to be, Ishem said. Decided so far: After Atlanta, Ada’s next destination is Washington, DC

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: