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Meet Ada Developers Academy: The School for Women & Gender-Expansive Coders

Meet Ada Developers Academy: The School for Women & Gender-Expansive Coders

Roberto Popolizio
Roberto Popolizio, our pr at Website Planet, sat down with Trenisha Goslee, Program Director at Ada Developers Academy, a non-profit, cost-free coding school for women and gender expansive adults. They discussed the company’s origins, its evolution, and how it differs from similar coding schools, after which Trenisha gave her expert tips to all people looking to start a career as programmers.

Please Present Ada Developers Academy To Our Audience. What Coding Courses Do You Offer?

At Ada, our core program covers the following topics: python fundamentals, SQL/Postgres, and React. These languages prepare our students to be full-stack developers. We also provide Ada Build Live, which is an 8-week course that students can take that focus on python fundamentals.

What’s Your Story? What Sparked The Idea, And How Has It Evolved So Far?

When Scott Case was recruiting for a software company, something just wasn’t adding up after he encountered four Dans in the hiring process. That “25% of software developers are women” statistic, became real for him. In 2013, Case partnered with Elise Worthy, and they developed an education program (originally part of Technology Alliance) that would give Big Tech companies a less expensive recruitment option while getting more non-white dudes hired. With just 16 students in the first cohort, this program would become unlike anything to exist before it.

Ada’s Model would be simple: the program would be tuition-free to attract and retain the most students. It would also employ a six-month immersion curriculum that prepared Adies (students) for real-world jobs in technology. Their last key principle was integrating a five-month internship with Big Tech (Amazon, Uber, Google, etc.) into the program to facilitate a cost-effective transition into the workforce.

The Ada program also tackled three big issues that could transform the tech industry: the lack of representation of women, the isolation they felt when they entered the software industry, and the need for real-world application of skills during training.

As Ada grew, the data made some things glaringly obvious. There was much more to diversity than gender. Ada’s model evolved when they realized their program needed to address the intersectionality of students’ identities to succeed in truly changing the face of the tech industry. Ada began to identify which communities needed access beyond the broad category of “women.” It became clearer that social, economic, and educational inequities systematically and disproportionately impact certain populations. In 2016, African Americans, Gender-Expansive people, Latin people, Indigenous American and Alaskan, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders, trans people, as well as low-income people, became key focuses. Ada’s leadership team began to diversify and shift to represent these communities. This organizational growth became possible when Ada became a project of fiscal sponsor TSNE Mission Works in 2015. By 2020, Scott and Elise passed the torch to a new CEO: Lauren Sato.

Today, Ada diversifies tech by providing underrepresented groups the skills, experience, and community support needed to become professional software engineers. In addition to equipping with the real-world skills needed to enter the tech space, the Ada brand focuses on antiracism, inclusion, and breaking down economic barriers. 2018 & 2019 had reached a cohort of over 50 students with a 99% graduation rate. Ada was awarded 10 million from Melinda French Gates Equality Can’t Wait grant in 2021. Today 94% of students land full-time software roles and see 160% compensation increases.

What Is The Mission Of Ada Developers Academy?

Ada’s mission is to transform the technology industry by preparing women and gender-expansive adults to become software developers, while training technology companies to be inclusive and equitable in their practices. We primarily serve Black, Latine, Indigenous Americans, Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islander, LGBTQIA+, and low-income people.

We envision the equitable distribution of power and capital for black and brown women, as well as for gender-expansive people through careers in tech.

What Makes You Stand Out From The Competition?

We stand out because we are a FREE program focused on helping women and gender-expansive people change the face of tech. We also provide wrap-around services to our students, including free therapy through BetterHelp, loaner laptops, childcare subsidies, industry mentors/TAs, etc. We are thinking about the whole student at Ada.

Apart From Taking Your Courses, What Else Should People Do To Start Learning To Code?

There are many resources available where people can start. People could start trying out tutorials or playing different coding games to see if they even enjoy coding. Start with just practicing and then working your way up to creating small projects.

What Skills Are Needed To Be A Good Coder?

The main skills would be critical thinking, problem-solving, and perseverance. You should first ask yourself if it’s something you even enjoy because once things stop working and you get frustrated, you have to be able to push past that. After that, it’s about solving problems. You’re given a problem, and your job is to come up with a solution using code.

What Are The Common Obstacles Your Students Are Facing During Their Studies?

The main obstacle is the economy currently. It can be difficult to be a software engineering student and watch large tech companies laying off thousands of people in the very field you’re training to be in. It pushes folks to be open-minded about where they will take their coding skills. It could be contracting work, start-ups, or more recession-proof companies.

What Programming Languages Are Going To Be Key In The Future?

I believe that Javascript and Python will continue to be key programming languages. Javascript because it’s one of the core languages for the web. Python because of its readability and easy integration. Go, or Golang is another fun language getting a lot of buzz. It was created by Google and used primarily for cloud development, and it’s clear that more and more things are going to the cloud.

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