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Diversity – It’s good for business

Diversity in the workplace — specifically the tech workplace — has been thrust into the spotlight again by the Internet explosion over a Google engineer’s internal post questioning the level of science behind the company’s diversity initiatives.

But even the skeptical Googler updated his memo with the opening line, “I value diversity and inclusion.” He should: thorough studies by corporate consultants McKinsey and financial services giant Morgan Stanley have found undeniable correlations between diverse teams and company success as measured in financial returns. The less diverse a company’s staff, the less profitable they are likely to be.

Morgan Stanley analysts ranked more than 1,600 stocks around the world with “a proprietary gender-diversity framework.” The results were plainly visible: Companies in the upper third of having the highest percentage of women employees were profitable, while those in the lower two-thirds actually lost money over time.

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The McKinsey report’s conclusion: “A persuasive argument for diversity and equality can be anchored to the bottom line … Ensuring that more women are working and leading in the workplace is simply good business.” Its one caveat is that far more companies still don’t provide gender-related data, and that data is not standardized from company to company. But among the 1,600 for which data was available, the value of diversity didn’t need to be searched for.

McKinsey’s study focused on company leadership roles, rather than entire employee counts. Given that many engineers go on to become executives, the findings are important to coders as well as CEO search committees: “Companies that commit to diverse leadership are more successful. The existence of the relationship is statistically significant.”

While no company wants to be singled out as “those bros who are losing money,” McKinsey provided aggregate data showing that among the 366 companies they studied, “The reverse is also true, companies in the bottom quartile in both gender and ethnicity underperformed the other three quartiles.”
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That’s solid evidence for diverse leadership, and a diverse company overall, but what about coders, and code-adjacent roles like product management? There aren’t any publicly-available studies on the dollar value of diversity in software engineering yet. But there are plenty of companies, from Slack to Salesforce, who claim their relatively high ratios of women in technical roles are a driver of their success as business.

The most common argument against hiring more women into engineering is, bluntly, “Women just aren’t good at this.” Even the supposed “anti-diversity screed” at Google only claims that qualified women are harder to find.

Venture capitalist Steve Herrod, who served as Chief Technology Officer for tech success story VMware for five years, holds a computer science Ph.D. from Stanford, and was an Infoworld CTO of the Year, wrote a guest column for Recode that broke down the source of the myth: Many people still presume engineering teams are “a bunch of loner nerd boys who grew up playing video games and tinkering with code by themselves in their parents’ basements.”

Not true, he says: “Today even a code ninja is part of a team. That’s why you also need people who can keep track of product priorities and schedules, who can make difficult trade-offs, and who have the people skills to keep team members focused on the goals and deadlines that matter. Technical teams also need people who can interface with marketing, sales, operations, human resources, customers and everyone else so that the company, as it grows bigger, stays headed in the right direction. “Soft skills” are just as critical as coding chops.”

Those soft skills aren’t developed by spending one’s formative years alone at a keyboard. A Hackbright study of unfilled positions at Silicon Valley companies found that while senior coders are always in demand, the larger unmet need is for those with some engineering experience, but who are able to act on broad directives. “That’s two and a half times more empty mid-level spots on the org chart,” former Hackbright CEO Sharon Wienbar wrote last year.

Recruiters who stick to the safe traditional pipeline of candidates whose entire lives have been devoted to teenage hacking, computer science degrees, and a string coding jobs — for whatever reason, a male-dominated demographic — are limiting their options to people who are actually overqualified for many coding jobs, and quite possibly underqualified to grow into more senior roles. The result: More than 8,000 unfilled mid-level positions at tech companies in the Valley alone, many of those at companies which McKinsey’s study predicts will, without a commitment to diversity, lose money.

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Hackbright Academy’s approach is to avoid complaining about barriers and focus on opportunities — to give women with proven potential the specific coding skills they need, which don’t require four years in a computer science department. And to connect them with the companies that actively seek not only diversity, but inclusion. That’s an important difference ignored by headcounts of employee ratios: Do diverse hires feel they’re a welcome and equal part of the team? Diversity is a number HR can point to. Inclusion is something every member of the team needs to feel from within.

Student Spotlight: From Teacher to Software Engineer

Rebecca Saines, Software Engineer, Streak 

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Recently, Hackbright alumna Rebecca Saines sat down with Course Report, one of the top online resources for prospective students considering intensive bootcamp programs, for their Alumni Spotlight. Formerly a middle school math and science teacher, Rebecca decided to pursue her passion in coding by attending Hackbright Academy, with soon after landing a position as Software Engineer at Streak.

Below are some excerpts from their discussion.  Visit Course Report to read the interview in its entirety.

What were you up to before Hackbright Academy?

I was on the pre-med path in college before finally getting the guts to tell my family that I didn’t want to be a doctor. So naturally, I instead graduated with a degree in Spanish. But I had always had a penchant for teaching and working with kids, so I applied for Teach for America and taught middle school Math and Science in North Carolina.

After teaching for five years, my husband George was bitten by the startup bug and we decided to move to the Bay Area. I used that move as an opportunity to transition from the classroom to…literally anything else. I ended up finding a position in customer service in an EdTech company, which is where I started to get more technical.

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When did you decide that you wanted to become a software engineer?

I was always interested in tech in the classroom and I had always had a propensity for math and science, but it wasn’t until I joined that EdTech company that I started to actually parse JSON and work with a database or an API. I kept learning those things as a customer service representative, moved on to manage the team, and then I moved into product management. As a product manager, I missed debugging and doing the technological stuff. When I realized that this piece was missing, that was a huge part of my decision to go to Hackbright Academy.

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Did you think about going back to college or getting a masters degree instead of a coding bootcamp?

I found that the return on investment for a coding bootcamp was so much better than going back to college, which is a much bigger monetary investment and a much longer time investment.

Click here to read the full Course Report interview.

Hackbright Academy is the engineering school for women in San Francisco dedicated to closing the gender gap in the tech industry.  Learn more about Hackbright’s 12-week software engineering program Rebecca completed.

How Scholarship Winner Natalie Miles landed a job at Credit Karma

72584_751438918288_206195_n Natalie Miles is a business analyst at Credit Karma who earned a full scholarship to the Hackbright Academy Part-Time class. Eager to help with tasks at her current role, her knowledge in programming is vital in the current work landscape, and as a woman, she knows the increasing need of females in tech. 

It was during a job transition when Natalie had the idea of getting into the data science field. 

Wanting to learn Python, Natalie, who had previously known about Hackbright, heard about the scholarship application through Hackbright from the Women Who Code newsletter. “I read it all the time and saw that there was a scholarship opportunity. I had been through boot camps and that had always been the first thing on my mind.” Natalie said she liked that it was all women.

“It’s a great way to learn a challenging subject, being with other like-minded people who are similar to you.”

After the application process, which Natalie found to be quite painless, she had heard within two days that she got the scholarship.

“I think for me I would have been reluctant to make that jump had I not received the scholarship. The program was something I wanted to do for awhile and I always pushed back because I knew it required a huge time and money commitment, so having that money commitment out of the picture and knowing it would just be a time commitment on my part made it a go ahead.”

Hackbright’s new Prep Course is twice a week during the evening, for eight weeks that covers the foundations of programming, which amongst the many topics, includes Python, GitHub, basic data structures and functionality. The prep course is perfect for those that want to get more into programming but still need some more experience before taking the Fellowship course.

As far as the program itself goes, Natalie made great friends in addition to a great education.

“It was a very encouraging and nurturing environment. I like the fact that there wasn’t weird competitiveness going on, and it really helped forge great relationships. The cohort I was with was great and I made some really great friends from this class. It’s hard to meet people outside of work so having an in-person class is a really rewarding experience.”

Projects That Carry into Work

As a business analyst at Credit Karma, and a former operations analyst at Lending Club, Natalie wanted to learn programming to help with mundane projects and tasks in her work.

“One of the most important things as far as getting into the data science field is that I have a basic understanding of Python, and [without this education], wouldn’t be able to do.

One of the cool projects I was able to do at Hackbright during class was using an API project to improve a work-related issue. I was able to make a tool to have a presence of Reddit.”

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Eventually, Natalie would like to get a master’s degree in data science or an MBA. “I feel like I’m at such a big advantage knowing how to program—it’s such a valuable skill set. There’s not a lot of representation of women in these roles, and I feel an obligation to help and not be left behind because technology is advancing.”

Natalie’s advice for people who might be interested in learning about the Hackbright program and getting into more technical roles: “If this is something you’re interested in, make sure you set yourself up for success. Don’t keep putting it off because of timing…there’s never going to be a perfect time. Do it now while you have the availability, because you want to be able to focus on this and give yourself a chance to succeed.”

Hackbright Academy is the engineering school for women in San Francisco dedicated to closing the gender gap in the tech industry offering 12-week software engineering programs and night courses for women.