Here’s everything you need to know about the Unqork University Tech Track program, our latest and greatest DEI initiative.
At Unqork, we believe that no-code has the power to break down systemic barriers in the tech space. When everyone has the opportunity to build sophisticated applications, regardless of whether or not they have traditional backgrounds in technology, the possibilities are endless.
Inspired by the success of Unqork Veterans ERSG President, Jason Cust, and their executive sponsor and Unqork’s CFO, Dan Murphy, and other DEI initiatives, Netta Jenkins, Unqork’s VP of Diversity and Inclusion, and Abbie Szabo, a DEI Program Specialist at Unqork, started thinking about how Unqork could do more to make tech more inclusive. Soon thereafter, the Unqork University Tech Track Program was born. Here’s everything you need to know about our latest DEI initiative and how we’re empowering people to learn, grow, and excel in a notoriously challenging industry.
Identifying Underserved Communities in Tech
When you look at diversity in the enterprise technology industry, one major discrepancy becomes clear—the tech industry is predominantly made up of “tech bros.” Even though people of color and women are just as interested in tech and just as capable, college-educated white men from the United States continue to dominate the field. A Kapor Center study found that between 2014 and 2020, there had been only a 1% increase in Black representation among the top tech companies. Another recent report from Hired.com revealed that in 2020, companies exclusively interviewed men for open positions 41% of the time, whereas they interviewed only women 4% of the time. Why is there such a lack of diversity in tech?
When you look at diversity in the enterprise technology industry, one major discrepancy becomes clear—the tech industry is predominantly made up of “tech bros.” Even though people of color and women are just as interested in tech and just as capable, college-educated white men from the United States continue to dominate the field.
A lack of equity and access in tech is a key part of it. Not all students go to high schools that offer technology programs, not all adults have time and money to devote to coding bootcamps, and not all job applicants have connections that can help them get ahead. Representation suffers and innovation opportunities are lost when a large cross-section of the population can’t push past the confines of their socioeconomic status and excel in tech.
While working toward improving representation in tech, we must be mindful of who we’re speaking of when we talk about “underserved’ and “underrepresented” communities. For example, veterans are often overlooked in conversations surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion. The social ramifications of poverty, depression, homelessness, and more are difficult for vets to overcome, and it can be hard for them to build connections and re-assimilate into civilian life.
It’s particularly challenging for veterans to secure well-paying jobs after they leave the military. Vets struggle to translate military experience into modern-day resume keywords and phrases, and many employers won’t consider candidates who haven’t spent the past five or 10 years working toward the particular position they’re hiring for. “Oftentimes, people don’t focus on the transferable skill sets that veterans or other underrepresented groups bring to the table,” Netta notes. “When you’re on the force, you’re paying attention to detail and using your analytical skills to make quick decisions and think through the next steps. These are all skills that translate really well to the technology field.”
Netta and Abbie saw an opportunity for Unqork to help veterans and other marginalized groups push past systemic roadblocks, gain access to the technology industry, and show the world what they can really do.
The Unqork University Tech Track Program is redefining what it means to be on a “tech track” by providing veterans, military spouses, and women of color with the support they need to pursue careers in the technology industry.
How the University Tech Track Program Works
The Unqork University Tech Track Program is redefining what it means to be on a “tech track” by providing veterans, military spouses, and women of color with the support they need to pursue careers in the technology industry. In February, we kicked off our pilot program with eight participants from two non-profits, Code Platoon and STEAM Train. Code Platoon provides technical training and career placement for veterans and military spouses transitioning into the civilian workforce. STEAM Train is an organization that supports underserved, underresourced, and underrepresented communities—particularly women of color—and helps them find careers in STEM.
With room to grow and develop new skill sets, participants in the Tech Track Program can overcome barriers and join the technology workforce. “If a Tech Track participant completes our intensive tech training and successfully passes their testing, we guarantee them a job at Unqork as an Application Specialist,” Netta explains. “It’s a very simple thing, but it’s such an impactful way for people who may not have years of experience in software development to break into a challenging industry and join a dynamic organization.”
Five of the original Tech Track Program participants now work with us as full-time as Application Specialists and they’re essential members of the Unqork team. The University Tech Track program is truly a win-win—underserved groups get the support and resources they need to break into tech, and we get to welcome a diverse class of talented Unqorkers.
Abbie credits Unqork’s Employee Resource Strategy Groups’ mentorship guidance for participants. “The veteran’s group was able to welcome the Tech Track participants with open arms and say, ‘Hey, we’re all here for you. If you have questions about anything, come to us.’ Having that support can be life-changing for someone, and really makes or breaks their experience in a program like this.”
The Unqork Mission
The best thing about the Tech Track Program is there’s no end-date in sight. Unqork’s ERSGs know which communities are most in need of tech opportunities and know which organizations to partner with. This both ensures Unqork has a steady flow of Tech Track candidates and allows us to build long-term relationships with partners like STEAM Train and Code Platoon. Abbie and Netta plan to focus on womxn, Black, Latinx, and indigenous communities with a focus on caregivers for our next cohort of Tech Trackers, and we’ll welcome them in summer 2021!
Netta and Abbie also hope that the Unqork University Tech Track Program is a call to action for other organizations. Guaranteeing jobs is no small promise, and it’s definitely not done by many companies. Still, it’s incredibly important work. “We really value equity and access as an organization, and we’re excited about having the Tech Track Program serve as a critical hub for increasing representation and ensuring that underserved groups are able to thrive,” Netta says. The Unqork University Tech Track Program is proof that everyone can learn no-code and anyone can succeed when they’re given the right support.