Tag Archives: technology careers

Should You Apply to the Ada Developer’s Academy?

Even though there has been an increase of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) occupations since the 1970s, women in the computer sciences remain sorely underrepresented. Just 15% of software jobs are held by women and 1.5% of open source contributors are women.

The Ada Developer’s Academy (Ada) — named for Ada Lovelace, purportedly the founder of scientific computing — is addressing this skill gap by training women to become software developers.

Ada is currently accepting applications for its second class slated to begin September 2nd.

“Ada is increasing opportunities for women in the traditionally male-dominated tech industry while addressing an acute and ongoing shortage of local developer talent,” said Elise Worthy, Program Manager & Co-Founder of Ada. “Our program is providing women with a solid footing in technical careers and tackling head-on the gender imbalance at local software companies, who recognize that Ada is a great opportunity to create a more equitable, diverse culture in tech.”

Established in 2013 as an intensive software developers training school exclusively for women, Ada offers six months of classroom-based instruction followed by a six-month internship  with Puget Sound-area tech companies. The internships prepare students for the transition into junior developer positions. Students completing the program also receive a certificate from Bellevue College.

Because of the immense time commitment (classes meet from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays), the women are awarded a monthly stipend.

Why a full year program?

Search the web and you will find 8-week hacking programs, but those programs are not sufficient enough to prepare students with limited or no technical background.

“We want to make sure that students are fully prepared. Learning to program in a classroom only gets you halfway there. The internship component is key: students experience being on software teams, working with legacy codebases, deadlines, and production code,” said Bookis Smuin, Lead Instructor at Ada. “The internship is just as important as the classroom experience in preparing the students to be productive and successful developers.”

The first class of students numbered 16. For this upcoming class, 24 students will be admitted.

Potential students do not have to possess prior programming experience, but should demonstrate technical aptitude.

According to Worthy, a majority of the women interested in programming are novices and have had limited access to technology education in high school and college. In fact, many of the students in the previous Ada class were switching careers. They held bachelor’s degrees in everything from theater to linguistics.

Of this first class, 25% relocated to Washington State from as far away as Florida  and half were women of color.

Ada did not release any information as to the specific ethnicities of the first class; however, according to a 2013 government report, African-Americans and Hispanics, regardless of gender, have been consistently underrepresented in STEM employment. In 2011, 6% of STEM workers were African-American and 7% were Hispanics.

So, Ada may be helping fulfill an ethnic diversity deficit in STEM jobs as well.

What do the women learn in the classroom?

The curriculum covers web development, how to work on agile development teams and lead software projects. Students work on projects that simulate real applications under real deadlines.

Specifically, students learn the Ruby on Rails tech stack (Ruby, Rails, JavaScript, HTML/CSS) and Agile Methodologies (pair programming, test-driven development, user-story creation).Through their training the students become adept at information gathering and creative problem solving as well.

“We’ve been so impressed with the student’s progress over the past six months. They’re developing full, production-ready applications on agile teams. They’re not only becoming fluent in code, but in the development process,” said Scott Case, COO of EnergySavvy and Ada Co-founder.

In May, the current class of Ada students held a demo of the civic apps they created as part of they’re coursework.

How can this education be offered for free?

As part of the Technology Alliance, Ada relies on sponsorships from Seattle-area tech companies who cover the students’ tuition, actively engage as mentors, and provide hands-on experience through internships.

Sixteen Seattle-area tech companies, including Expedia, EMC Isilon, EnergySavvy, Zillow, Marchex, Redfin, and Nordstrom, are now sponsoring Ada students.

Ada’s Future

Ada is on its way to training software developers who will fill a few of the 20,000 open STEM positions within Washington State.

Perhaps other organizations will take note of Ada’s approach to training software developers and duplicate the model. The need for diversity in tech is nation-wide.

Interested in applying to Ada Development Academy? The application deadline for the upcoming class is June 16, 2014 at 5 p.m. PDT.

Women interested in making a career change to software development are encouraged to apply.

There May Be Something There That Wasn’t There Before

Ah, but maybe it was there before and it just took a new perspective.

If you think you’ve got a pretty accurate worldview, watch this TedTalk and we’ll see. In 2007, Hans Rosling showed us that in a world filled with increasing amounts of data, we desperately needed to visualize that data in a new way.

As a pre-test, Rosling asked the following set of questions to a group of Swedish undergradute students who were studying global health:

Which country has the highest child mortality…

  • Sri Lanka or Turkey?

  • Poland or South Korea?

  • Malaysia or Russia?

  • Pakistan or Vietnam?

  • Thailand or South Africa?

If you’re still feeling pretty confident, then that’s great – I make it a habit to read the local and world news almost daily and felt like I had to make some second guesses, but didn’t feel like I’d be too far off. What’s more, Rosling reveals that each pair of countries was deliberately chosen so that one country would in reality have twice the child mortality rate of the other. Shouldn’t be that hard then.

I was right for 5 2 out of the 5 questions, and the Swedish students were just about as accurate. How come we were so wrong, and how does data visualization come into play? First go make yourself a nice cup of tea, then come back to watch Rosling’s TedTalk, see how well you scored and among other things, see how just profoundly the Internet has impacted our world.

Without spoiling the video (if you’re still reading this and you haven’t watched the TedTalk, go watch it! I’ll wait, it’s okay), what strikes me most is that much of the data presented was not new in any kind of raw sense. These changes throughout the world haven’t happened overnight, yet it took a new kind of data visualization – Rosling used Gapminder – to make these changes easy to notice and understand.

In what turned out to be an at-once fitting and ironic search, I attempted to find a Creative Commons licensed image on Flickr to accompany this article and met with little success. (Thank you, Tony, for finding an image!) Type in ‘data’ and you get generic tech pictures, creepy doll faces and Lieutenant Commander Data from Star Trek. Type in ‘data visualization’ and you get a plethora of complicated circles, rectangles and spikes. ‘Statistics graphics’ yields slightly better results, yet I became very aware that the way we typically represent data in charts and diagrams has not changed much over the years. Rosling’s TedTalk helped me reflect that maybe it really is time for us to upgrade the way we visually represent data. If I was feeling pretty confident about my answers to those five questions, how many other situations are there where my perspective is so skewed, and what would it take to see something new?

Looking Ahead

The term ‘big data’ is becoming a more prevalent topic in computer science as we collect more and more information about ourselves and the world around us. Since Rosling gave his talk in 2007, it has become even more necessary for people to create news tools that help us better understand all of this information and decide how to react to its implications. Something tells me that pie charts and scatter plots aren’t always going to cut it anymore.


Think you might be interested in a career in big data? Check out what contributors at Forbes and Computerworld have to say.

Six Reasons to Plan a Career in Technology

Women are underrepresented in today’s exciting and growing field of Information Technology. Come join us and make a difference in the world now. There are as many reasons as there are website to get involved with tech. Here are my top six.

  1. Make a difference. Everything runs on technology today and there is a growing global shortage of technology workers.
  2. Create new products and technologies to meet men AND women’s needs. Most products today are created by males, but you can help create exciting new products or services that today’s women and market want and need.
  3. Build a career that comes with hugely unlimited opportunities for growth, challenge and satisfaction. You can try out different areas of technology and move around to learn and grow.
  4. Build financial stability for the future. Pay in a technology career is lucrative and opportunities great. Give yourself a solid foundation for your life.
  5. Build your own business — become an entrepreneur. You can choose your path to success if you desire to own and manage your own business. Many choices exist to reach this exciting destination.
  6. Increase diversity within the companies that serve diverse customer bases. Women make up half the workforce and numbers consistently show that women make a majority of buying decisions for their families. Step up for an opportunity to share with the rest of the market what you know they want and need in products and services.

Create your own path to success: Talk to your family, school faculty, friends and people already employed in technology to gain insights into options for a technology career. Ask for your school to arrange for women in IT speakers to come and present to your class about the diversity of opportunities open to you.

Post By:
Debbie Christofferson, CISSP, CIPP/IT, CISM 
International Board of Directors, Information Systems Security Association 
CISO Advisory Council Chair (ISSA) 
ISSA Distinguished Fellow (www.issa.org)
www.linkedin.com/in/debbiechristofferson

Photo by Dean Johnson