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How Highspot Is Improving Diversity Through Engineering Internship Programs

Posted in: Highspot News

What can today’s leading companies do to build more inclusive, diverse teams? How can we make real progress toward closing the gender gap in the technology space?

We ask these questions at Highspot because we already believe these challenges deserve our attention and action. It can be daunting to know where to begin, but as Highspot’s head of engineering I contend that with a committed leadership team and a culture of inclusivity on your side, some strategic investments can make a big difference.

One such investment that the team and I are enormously proud to announce is Highspot’s sponsorship of Ada Developers Academy. In sponsoring Ada, we join more than fifty companies including Google, Zillow, Amazon, and others who share a common mission.

Ada is changing the face of the tech industry by providing women and gender diverse people with a tuition-free program that equips them with the skills, experience, and community support they need to become professional software developers. Currently, the U.S. is experiencing a software developer shortage, with more openings than qualified people to fill them. Despite the demand, only 37% of technology software workers in entry-level positions are women, 24% are vice presidents, and 17% are C-suite executives, according to the Women in the Workplace 2018 study conducted by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey. Following what’s known in the industry as the “coding bootcamp” model, Ada combines six months of full-time, full-stack classroom training with an internship at a sponsoring company like Highspot, where students gain real-world software development experience.

A software engineering internship is a formative experience for a coding bootcamp graduate. Internships bridge the bootcamp’s abbreviated technical curriculum with an entry-level developer job. And because bootcamps actively recruit and graduate women, minorities, and other groups underrepresented in tech at much higher rates than universities do, providing internship opportunities for these graduates is an important lever in closing the gender gap and diversifying our shared candidate pool.

In January 2019, Highspot will welcome its first Ada Developers Academy intern to the team. And we could not be looking forward to it more.

What has us so excited about this sponsorship? Partnering with socially-conscious coding bootcamps forms the foundation of a diversity initiative and provides access to engineering careers for traditionally-underrepresented groups. While these internships may not be right for every team at every moment, it’s worth reviewing some of the benefits that will help get your organisation excited about ramping up inclusivity, and partnering with a great program like Ada.

Increase Company and Industry Diversity

Diversity is the crux of my case for partnering with bootcamps over sourcing interns from computer science programs. Coding bootcamps are an especially popular educational pathway for groups traditionally underrepresented in the tech industry. For example, a 2017 survey by Course Report claims that bootcamp graduates were 40% women. This number is a compelling contrast to the 18% of women graduating with CS degrees. Some bootcamps are tailored to, or exclusively setup for, women, minorities, low-income people, veterans, or other underrepresented demographics in the tech industry. Partnering with a respected bootcamp with a diversity-focused mission is a terrific way to contribute to diversity at your company and in the industry.

Invest in Your Talent Pipeline

Investing in an internship program, including building a supportive company culture, can improve your recruiting pipeline for more advanced developers. If you partner with a local bootcamp to source interns, you not only create a pipeline for your interns and junior developers, but you form the basis of a long-term recruiting partnership. One obvious pathway is offering your intern a full-time position at the conclusion of their internship. You’ve invested time, money, and energy into mentoring and moulding them; they’re steeped in your company’s workflow, dev processes, and tech stack; they understand your business and your customers; they’re on-track to contribute to team velocity in the near-future: why not extend an offer?

Enhance Your Company Reputation

Providing an outstanding onboarding experience and intentionally-inclusive environment encourages growth and success for Ada interns and creates the conditions for successful internships. This helps build a great reputation among Ada’s staff and its alumni, making your company an attractive option for more experienced Ada graduates seeking new opportunities at more senior levels.

In addition, investing time and resources in a good cause will elevate your company as an industry leader. You will have the opportunity to network with other sponsor companies and will be able to present your company as not just a business, but a company committed to community involvement.

Create Leadership Opportunities

Investing in mentorship opportunities is an essential component for a successful internship program. It is also a direct benefit to the mentor, and to your team.

We all know from experience that “senior engineer” doesn’t automatically equate to “compassionate, effective teacher.” Like all skills, leadership takes work to master. Thus, mentorship is an excellent professional growth opportunity you can offer — a way that you can add value and new challenges for senior team members who always need interesting new challenges. Moreover, as aspiring mentors level-up their listening, teaching, and other interpersonal communication skills, they become more empathetic team members and help set the bar for inclusive communication practices. They make your company a better place.

At the end of the day, internship programs bring significant value to your team, your company’s culture, and your recruiting efforts.

Ready to join Highspot, Ada Developers Academy, and other company leaders looking to advance the technology space by opening doors for people who will change the world of software? You can learn more about key considerations, investment costs and benefits, and best practices for implementation in my full Medium article.