Today we are talking with Lauren Sato.
She’s the CEO of Ada Developers Academy.
Lauren, can you just tell us a little bit more about
who you are and what Ada Developers Academy is doing?
Thanks so much for having us today.
So Ada is a cost free nonprofit coding
school for women and gender expansive adults.
And then within that demographic, we focus on
serving the black, Latines, Indigenous American, Native Hawaiian
and Pacific Islander and LGBTQIA plus communities.
So we operate out of Seattle.
We were founded here in 2013.
So we’ve been running for the last nearly
ten years now, producing a really high quality
talent for the software development market. Okay.
Now there’s people that we’re
talking to in these interviews.
We’re all talking about how difficult it
is for companies to hire technical talent.
The competition for that. Right.
Talent is getting more and more fierce.
It’s tougher for companies to find people salaries
are going through the roof and aided Developers
Academy is bringing a great solution that’s doing
a lot of positive things out there.
We need more people in this talent
group, and you’re providing part of that.
And a lot of people have companies are
traditionally overlooking and we need to fix.
So can you just speak to that and maybe
how that brainstormed into the beginning of the Academy?
Yeah, I’m definitely happy to talk about our origin story
a bit more, but I think the thing that I’m
most excited about is this really unique moment where we
have this massive and growing talent gap in the industry.
We simply cannot find enough people to fill
these software development roles layer on top of
that, this moment in which we’re thinking more
deeply about diversifying the industry.
And most companies now have an internal
goal around diversifying their talent base.
And on top of that, we have this COVID moment
where so many women have left the workforce and they’ve
left because they were in retail and hospitality jobs and
jobs that didn’t provide their families with flexibility or the
security or the benefits that they needed.
And so we have this confluence of events
right now, which makes it a really special
time to be looking at this problem.
And we feel really uniquely well positioned to
be a key player in this moment.
For sure, our founders had some
foresight around some of these things.
I think none of us saw most of this coming.
But yeah, back in 2013, our founders saw
that they were starting technology companies and weren’t
able to find diverse talent, and they wanted
to run their companies differently than they were
seeing in the market because we know now
there’s great data around the benefits of having
diverse teams, particularly in software development.
When you’re creating consumer products and 85%
of your consumer decisions are being made
by women and you don’t have those
same folks represented at the development table.
You’re missing out on opportunities to serve them well.
So that was really what was at the forefront
of the minds of our founders back in 2013.
And we’ve only seen the data around that grow
and the proof in the pudding of companies who
are doing things differently, who are providing opportunities for
folks who come from different backgrounds to really engage
in developing products that meet our needs better.
And just to be clear, you are
not a twelve week University extension program.
You are much more than that.
If I recall, it was six months in
classroom and then an internship program through.
You can just dive into that a little bit
just to provide a distinction for people watching this.
And I think that’s really important because many CTOs out
there have what we’ve deemed a boot camp bias, because
we know that actually it’s a pretty well founded bias
to have because there’s such a wide variance in the
quality of talent coming out of boot camps.
And so it’s right to be skeptical about those pathways.
But we shouldn’t throw that baby out with the
bathwater because we know also that our computer science
degree programs are simply not meeting the need.
And if we’re trying to work with a four year
production cycle for lack of a better word in generating
talent, we’re never going to catch up to the need.
So you’re right.
Ada is a year long program.
We’re six months in the classroom where
our students learn full stack software development.
That’s a really important differentiator.
We focus on really applied learning.
So our students are actively coding,
working on projects from week one,
and that’s another really big differentiator.
They’re not doing a lot of the theoretical work
that you’ll get in a CS degree program.
They’re really focused on how to add value once
they hit the ground in their internships with skills
like pair programming, really strong ability to pick up
new languages quickly because we know that’s a really
critical, lifelong skill for software developers and specifically for
Ada because we work with 30 to 50 companies
at any given time, we’re never going to teach
to all of those individual tech stacks.
So our students come out really knowing how to pick
up a new language quickly, which is incredibly valuable.
After that first six months, they go into
a five and a half month internship at
one of our corporate partners again, where they’re
actively deploying code from very early on.
It’s a very hands on kind of experiential learning that has
them graduating after a year ready to land a job.
In fact, we have a graduation on Thursday, and
I believe that 70% of our folks who are
graduating on Thursday have already secured full time offers.
Congrats to that class.
I can’t talk enough about you
mentioned the boot camp bias.
Even that does exist.
I absolutely agree with that.
But still, there are a lot of companies out
there that they’re having success hiring people from these.
And just some of the anecdotes I hear, I wish
they knew a little bit more the people coming out.
And what better way to hey, let’s just up what
we’re doing in terms of training them and the hands
on experience and the exposure that you’re giving people.
That is a great way to lean in there.
And just to add on the computer science
degrees, the comment I often make is we
are graduating computer science people, and the hundreds
businesses are demanding them in the thousands.
There’s a Delta there. There’s a gap.
And this is a great way to fix that gap.
You mentioned diversity.
What can the companies do to just
prioritize diversity from your point of view? Yeah.
I mean, that’s another major challenge with
our existing pipeline and CS degree programs.
So I think right now in the industry,
about 25% of software developers are women.
And right now, coming out of CS degree
programs every year, we’re at about 19% to
21% of those graduates are women.
Only 4% are women of color.
Just to layer on.
So if you just do the math on
that, we’re actively driving our representation percentage down.
If we adjust, lean on our existing pathways,
I have deep, deep hope that we’re able
to shift that balance over time.
But again, because that’s such a long production cycle and
because if you know a thing or two about updating
curriculum and approaches within University systems, it’s going to take
a little bit for us to get there.
So in the meantime, we do need to look to
some of these shorter pathways, these shorter production cycles, in
order to get the talent that we need.
Again, within boot camps, the diversity
and representation situation varies incredibly widely.
So it does put the emphasis back on the CTOs
to really evaluate the programs that they’re working with.
Well, both for the level of talent coming
out and the representation within those programs.
And that’s a great deal of work, but it’s worth
doing because really our products are so much more effective
and really meet the needs of the consumer.
So much better when we
have diverse teams building them. Yeah.
And to confirm some of the numbers, we have
a database of close to 800,000 people, and we’ve
been able to do some statistics on that.
And it’s 800,000.
It people, 22% of those are female.
We’re talking about.
There are 500,000 open it roles in the US right now.
There’s a good way to solve that problem.
So what’s Aida doom to change the face of technology?
In addition to generating talent, and
we’re growing pretty rapidly right now.
We got a really generous grant from Melinda French
Gates and McKenzie Scott last year in order to
grow our program so you’ll see us popping up
across the country and Additionally growing our digital program
that anybody can access anywhere across the country pretty
quickly over the next few years.
But in addition to that, we’ve also developed a
program for our corporate partners to do some equity
and policy training for their staff because the numbers
going into the industry are pretty alarming.
But even more so, the numbers of
folks leaving the industry are incredibly alarming.
So women, on average, are leaving the
tech industry at about 51%, and that’s
relative to 17% of their male colleagues.
So we have a massive problem around retaining
the talent that we’re bringing into the industry.
That’s where Ada’s focused in this moment in terms
of our own product development, is helping train companies
to build inclusive and equitable environments that retain and
grow the talent that we’re bringing into them.
And that, I think, is one of the most
important trends we need to see in order to
truly change the face of tech and companies interested?
Hey, I’d like to find out more.
How can I hire someone that’s
coming out of your program?
This is something that’s available
big companies, smaller companies.
There’s a room to participate at many levels.
Can you speak to that a little bit?
So we work with companies from startup venture
lab companies to the biggest tech companies in
the world, and literally everything in between.
We’ve got small to midsize,
we’ve got growth stage companies.
And companies engage with us in
a number of different ways.
The first is that because we’re a non profit
program and because our program is free to our
students, our corporate partners invest in those students education,
so they pay in order to have an intern
who many of them end up hiring upon graduation.
And that’s our primary way of engaging
with companies as a talent pipeline solution.
We also engage with companies on the back end
where we are allowing folks to post roles that
they have for more senior positions that are Alum
network, which now is nearly 600.
Actually, after Thursday, we’ll be over 600 alums.
These are women and gender diverse folks who
have been in the industry for several years.
Many are in management positions.
We’ve got a couple of CTOs in our
loan base now, which is really exciting.
So we can engage with companies, whether they’re
looking for junior talent coming through our core
pipeline or more senior talent and management.
And speaking of 600, you’re looking
to add to that even more.
It sounds like you got some classes starting
up and you’re expanding into some different cities.
Can you speak to that a little bit? That’s right.
So we have an application cycle opening in March.
We admit a new class every six months.
And we have in person programs
now in Seattle and Atlanta.
And as I mentioned earlier, our digital program is
available to anybody across the country, and that is
a pretty exciting piece of growth for us because
we know that folks in Oklahoma city should have
access to the tech industry just the same as
somebody in the Bay area and they haven’t historically.
So you can go through our whole program from
the six months of education including the internship, you
can do that all digitally from wherever you are
at in the country now and hopefully that’s a
pretty exciting opportunity for the many women that we
know are still out of work.
Companies are looking for good technical talent.
Here’s a program that is producing a
lot of people with good skills, intelligence,
problem solving skills exactly what companies want.
Seek out Ada Developers Academy and find
some people from here and let’s get
some more people into the program.
This is an incredible solution to a problem that’s
out there, multiple problems that are out there.
Let’s fix this.
Anything else that you need one to say of people that
should come to you, people that need to know about Ada
developers Academy I know you have a big audience of folks
who are in the industry and so I would just say
that one of the really critical pieces of what we do
is supporting our students throughout their education.
We have a community of about
300 volunteer mentors and tutors.
If you’re interested in giving back and helping doing your
part to contribute to diversifying this pipeline we would love
to have you on board as a tutor or a
mentor or a manager of one of our students. Okay.
Well, thank you very much for your time today.
We’ll try and get the word out and we’ll be in touch. Thank you. I appreciate it. Bye.