Ali Levitan, Author at General Assembly Blog

How to Build Diversity Within Your Tech Team


On March 5, 2020, General Assembly publicly launched CODE for Good, an enterprise training coalition that reskills existing non-tech women and underrepresented groups into software engineers to improve diversity in the field. A lot has changed since early March, but our passions and initiatives remain stronger than ever. 

We launched CODE for Good as a way to make progress against these critical issues:

  • By 2028 there will be 4 million CS-related roles in the U.S. and only 19% of CS (Computer Science) grads to fill them.  
  • By 2030, roughly 14% of the global workforce will need to change or upgrade occupational categories, as digitization, automation, and advances in AI will disrupt the world of work.
  • Gender diversity in tech needs to improve. According to NCWIT, there are only 26% of women in computing-related roles with only 7% Asian women, 3% Black women, and 2% Hispanic women.
  • In the U.S., where many in our GA community are located, there is a long history of violence and harassment against People of Color. Discrimination is especially visible in the tech industry, where Black and Hispanic talent are underrepresented and face wage gaps versus their white peers.

Since CODE for Good launched, the coronavirus recession has hit Black Americans particularly hard, amplifying racial inequalities. As a global community, we should all be angry about the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, the harassment of Christian Cooper, and the many unnamed others who have been harassed, exploited, violated, and killed due to their race.

Meanwhile, digital acceleration spurred by COVID-19 is forcing leaders to prepare for automation and think about the immediate need to future-proof their teams.  According to insights from McKinsey, “Now is the time for companies to double down on their learning budgets and commit to reskilling… Building your reskilling muscle now is the first step to ensuring that your organization’s recovery business model is a success.”  

Savvy enterprise partners like CODE for Good launch partners, Guardian and Humana, are admirable examples of investing in the diversity of teams at this critical time while facing digital acceleration head-on. 

CODE for Good class, General Assembly and Instructor Team, and Guardian and Humana executive stakeholders.

The first-ever CODE for Good cohort kicked off a 3-month live online Software Engineering Immersive cohort on May 4, 2020. The students come from roles like Helpdesk Technician, Learning Coordinator, License Associate, and more at Guardian and Humana, and will have new jobs as software engineers at the end of the program. This incredible cohort showcases the diversity we can bring to the tech industry – it is 60% female, 50% BIPOC, and includes veterans, parents, and individuals who identify as LGBTQ.

As a company, we have learned three substantial things from this partnership and others, such as Adobe Digital Academy, Disney’s CODE Rosie, and Capital One Developer Academy (CODA): 

  1. Scale: Many companies want to champion a reskilling initiative, but it’s challenging to take an entire cohort (20–25 people) of existing employees out of their full-time jobs for three months, hold their current roles, and successfully place them all at the same time into a technology team (after the three-month Immersive course). 
  2. Target Audience: There is a massive need to reskill across all geographies, and this type of program is especially impactful with a diversity lens focused on creating opportunities for women and underrepresented groups.
  3. Price: While the value proposition and ROI are clear, it’s hard to fund a full $400K cohort without testing with a subset of employees in a shared cohort first.

Solution: GA’s CODE for Good, the first-ever multi-enterprise live online cohort.

These learnings prompted a lot of thoughts and dialogue at GA. For example, What if we make it easier for companies to hit their business and diversity goals by only committing to reskilling five existing employees at a time, focusing on women and underrepresented groups?  What if we made it even easier, and rolled it out as a live-online, multi-enterprise Immersive course (that’s pandemic-proof)? Finally, how easy would it be to commit only $100K for five spots per enterprise partner to reasonably scale while testing the model? 

These ideas came to life with CODE for Good, and we already see positive results just halfway through the first cohort. Mid-course surveys show a perfect NPS score of 100, and both students and instructors feel the impact.

Let’s dream big.

The sky truly is the limit. We’d like to see CODE for Good gain momentum and expand across companies, industries, geographies, and more, as we’re confident the results will speak for themselves. We’re excited to see graduates champion this program within their organizations and beyond.  

We’d love to hear from all of you directly if improving diversity in the tech industry is something that you believe in and that you’re championing.  Who wants to be part of the next U.S. launches or become a launch partner for CODE for Good Europe?   

We couldn’t have launched this program without the support of many people who helped make it happen. Here are some personal notes of “Thank You!”:

A huge thank you to the entire Guardian team for being a first-mover on this concept and pushing me to lock in the other partners to get this concept off the ground in 2020.  Another big thanks to the entire team at Humana for getting GA to a unanimous, ‘YES, let’s do this!’ 

I’m also grateful to Joyce Russell, President of The Adecco US Foundation, for submitting me to attend Fortune’s Most Powerful Women NextGen event in December ‘19, where Ellen McGirt, Senior Editor at Fortune Magazine, handed me the microphone to pitch CODE for Good in front of 200 female executives. I was thrilled to meet the Union Pacific Railroad team there, and their five employees will be reskilled as part of the next cohort!

Thank you to my kids, Jake (6) and Sophia (3), for crashing all of my Zoom calls to tell my colleagues and my clients that they both want to be engineers when they grow up. Finally, thank you to my husband for teaching me and my kids more about technology as an engineer himself.

Ali Levitan is the Head of Global Strategic Business Development & Innovation at General Assembly.

Since 2011, General Assembly has trained individuals and teams online and on-campus through experiential education in the fields of technology, data, marketing, design, and product. Learn more about how we can transform your talent and our solutions to upskill and reskill tech teams across the globe.

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