When you think about web development, it’s not unusual to picture men at their computers, tapping away in a language that is thought to be understood by only a select few. Enspiral Dev Academy are revamping this seriously outdated image of the tech industry by teaching more women and other under-represented groups how to programme and code.
The nine-week bootcamp is New Zealand’s premiere web development programme, teaching tech skills through pair-programming and practical hands-on exercises. But what really makes the bootcamp unique is its focus on the human aspect of tech. Dev Academy work on developing the students themselves, not just their tech skills. These human skills involve learning how to be collaborative and empathetic, how to negotiate with themselves and others, as well as give and receive feedback.
These skills are highly sought after by tech companies, who talk openly with Dev Academy about pain points they have with recruiting computer science graduates. Upskilling New Zealand’s workforce to be more industry relevant is something that Skills, NZ’s largest industry training organisation, feels passionate about. Skills believes strongly in helping their industries get the right talent and so decided to team up with Dev Academy to sponsor eight Women in Tech scholarships. Women are underrepresented in the tech industry, but they bring along life experience and insights that, when combined with their colleagues’ experiences, can help New Zealand better prepare for the future.
Garry Fissenden, CEO of Skills notes, “When we sat down with Enspiral Dev Academy to co-design how Skills could best partner with them and the industry, we quickly found out that actively doing something to change diversity in the industry excited both of us. So, we worked with them and their firms to make it happen and make NZ better, one trainee and one company at a time.”
Talking with some of the women selected for these scholarships it soon became clear that no matter their background, they all have a tenacious passion for tech.
Lauren Hart had been an accountant for over eight years and decided it was time for a change. “[Over] the last year, I haven’t been happy in my job and it made me really think about whether I had chosen the right career,” she says. “I think I just lost the passion for it and it just became a chore.” In doing research and online courses she discovered how fun and engaging tech is. With her passion reignited and a determination to, “want to go to work and be excited about it,” she applied and was awarded a Women in Tech scholarship.
Rohan Wakefield, CEO of Dev Academy, notes, “It’s been absolutely fantastic that Skills have enabled more women such as Lauren to jump into web development through the Women in Tech scholarships. We’re always amazed by the quality of graduates that come from different career paths. If you want to change your life, Dev Academy is a fast, effective way to do it.”
Lexi Luo, from Wellington, studied Media, Italian and Psychology and went travelling after she completed her degree. The Wellingtonian explains that when she returned to New Zealand, she had to work in corporate service roles unrelated to her studies. “I picked something that I was interested in (to study) and I really did enjoy the subject matter, but to do anything with those subjects you have to do postgrad or further and I felt like I was done with uni.”
Lexi’s roles dealt with data and software management systems and her problem-solving nature led her to want to understand how technology worked. She decided that if she wanted to learn more university wasn’t the best option for her. She spoke with friends who had studied computer science at university and, “there was a lot of mixed reviews, quite a few of them came out with qualification but some of the technical skills weren’t transferable.”
Emma Ashley, who lives in Auckland, was also looking at an alternative education option once she discovered her passion for tech. Emma found herself mesmerized by tech while working in community engagement roles. “I needed my spreadsheet to do something specific, but the program wouldn’t allow it … I did some research and created my first loop to make the program work the way I needed it to, it was amazing!”
Lexi also gave teaching herself a shot and came up against similar problems. “The material online was very useful, but when you’re not applying it to something that fits in with what you really want to do, it doesn’t sink in as much.”
Now all three women are experiencing first-hand what makes Dev Academy so special. “There’s a big focus on group projects, which is great because it replicates real-industry situations, and this is where the creativity comes in,” Lexi says. Shining a light on why human skills are so important, Lexi adds, “If you can’t interact well with clients, you’re less likely to understand what they need, and that is just as important as being able to deliver the technical side.”
Lexi elaborates on her idea of increasing innovative outcomes for tech companies. “I feel that having a female-male balance is more holistic, there are gaps in the experiences that you haven’t had, so if someone else has had those experiences, together you make a more complete picture ... and shape more creative solutions.” Lauren resonates with this, “I think it’s really important to get women in there because they bring a different set of skills to the table and … if you get a group of people with different backgrounds coming together, you’re going to get different results. We bring a lot that men don’t have.”
When asked if she is nervous joining an industry that is predominately male orientated, Emma replied, “At the moment the industry is a bit of a boy’s club, but I think they realise that they need to be more inclusive, so I think they are going to be very supportive.”
We all spend a lot of time on technology, whether it’s for work or for entertainment purposes. Which is why it’s important for the IT industry to reflect a more diverse workforce to make these technologies better for all New Zealanders and others worldwide. Skills is proud to stand beside Enspiral Dev Academy and give women the opportunity to change their lives and the technology we all use.
Visit www.devacademy.co.nz if you’d like to find out more about retraining in tech.