The White House estimates that there are half a million tech jobs available in the U.S. alone, meanwhile more than 5% of the U.S. population remains unemployed. There aren’t enough skilled professionals to assume these roles, and despite thousands of people learning to code, the tech workforce continues to be fairly homogenous.
Our society can only benefit from having a variety of people pursue work in tech. A more diverse workforce means more innovative ideas and stronger solutions. That’s why fellowships like General Assembly’s Opportunity Fund are working to make tech education more accessible to underrepresented groups like women, people of color, veterans, and individuals from low-income backgrounds. Students can apply for scholarships and support for our full-time, career-changing programs in either web development or user experience design.
This life-changing program is made possible by generous benefactors like Toptal, the world’s leading network of elite freelance software developers. Toptal has committed $100,000 to help fund ten Opportunity Fund fellows, and an additional $1 million in mentorship support from its roster of senior engineers around the globe.
Toptal’s expansive network includes experienced developers from Buenos Aires to Bratislava, many of whom have volunteered to mentor Opportunity Fund fellows. These global mentors help students work through difficult course topics while also offering real-world advice as they embark on an exciting career change.
Bryant, an Opp Fund fellow in New York, says that he decided to get a Toptal mentor “to ask questions about how the real world of programming works.” He found that the experience exceeded his expectations, “I am learning so much about the programming community.”
Bryant’s mentor is Rodrigo, a software engineer who lives in Recife, Brazil. “I remember trying to get started with programming back when I was a teenager and it wasn’t an easy thing,” said Rodrigo. “Lots of failures before any success and sometimes it was hard to feel like I was going anywhere. I figure if I had a mentor it’d have been easier, I could have learned better and faster. Now I can be the mentor!”
While Bryant studies to become a developer, he is also able to chat with Rodrigo about trends and best practices in the industry. Bryant, who says he always wanted to learn about how programs are built, meets regularly with Rodrigo to go over projects and questions. “The most helpful [thing] I’ve learned so far is that there are frameworks that help you develop mobile applications instead of knowing mobile development,” said Bryant.
Opportunity Fund fellows are receiving expert guidance from their course instructors, support from the GA community, and now a direct line to working developers across the world. Our partnership with Toptal is critical to the success of our students and gives Toptal mentors the chance to continue honing their own programming skills.
“It’s been awesome to work with him,” Rodrigo said of Bryant. “You can learn a lot by teaching. I hope I can help him get comfortable with developing a project from scratch and see it becoming something usable by everyone while fully understanding the tech behind it.”
Connecting talented developers from around the world may not solve all the challenges facing the tech industry, but our global community is helping to bridge the diversity gap in tech, one student at a time.