We know that diversity in the workplace is not only the right approach—but a sure path to greater innovation and profitability too. Diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform their competitors and 15% more likely to perform above industry medians. In the United States, for every 10% increase in senior team racial and ethnic diversity, there is a corresponding 0.8% rise in earnings. Inclusive companies are 1.7 times more likely to innovate and are 70% more likely to capture new markets.
And yet… only 44% of companies have a clear, actionable diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategy. Even when a program is in place to attract and train diverse candidates, it can be difficult to find the right talent to take part.
We checked in with Kurdin Bazaz, Staff Design Program Manager at ServiceNow, a cloud-based workflow platform based in San Diego, to discuss how General Assembly built a talent pipeline that helped her organization meet its DEI goals. If your company is struggling to make diversity a reality, her experience may help illuminate the path forward.
Hiring tech talent is really hard right now. How is ServiceNow approaching it?
Kurdin Bazaz: We’re very intentional about how and where we recruit from. Continuing to invest in partnerships that help diversify our pipeline is a priority.
We started an apprenticeship program in 2020 that was focused on enriching our pipeline with candidates from backgrounds we’re not currently well-represented in—not just in terms of demographics, but in work and life experiences. The initial pilot was small, but our teams took a huge interest in it. So year over year, we’ve increased the headcount and the budget dedicated to hiring these apprentices.
ServiceNow commits to this headcount with good intention and a pathway to full-time employment. This doesn’t guarantee every candidate full-time employment—it goes based on performance, of course—but it’s not intended to be, ‘You’re here for six months, we thank you for your time, and good luck.’ We actually put time into evaluating and making sure that we have room for a pathway into full-time appointments for our candidates.
How does General Assembly support your DEI efforts from a hiring standpoint?
Kurdin Bazaz: We reached out to General Assembly to enrich our pipeline of apprentices coming into the program. They connect us with career changers who don’t come from our traditional product design, UX, or writing backgrounds, but who are looking to bring their skills and start a career within these paths.
What kind of roles have you filled with General Assembly graduates?
Kurdin Bazaz: We started our partnership by offering six-month, full-time contracts to quite a few General Assembly graduates that are right now with us—still embedded with our teams, doing different roles within product design, UX research, multimedia, technical writing and editing.
What has your experience been like working with the General Assembly team?
Kurdin Bazaz: GA was able to find a very diverse pool of candidates for a variety of roles, which is something I didn’t quite expect from a first-time partnership. During our pilot, we partnered with a different organization that was very UX-focused, but as our open roles were growing and more teams were hiring, we realized we needed different skill sets. We reached out to General Assembly, hoping that they would be one to help us solve this—and they were. And so we’ve had a great experience. The apprentices are doing amazing. They’re getting great feedback from their teams, and I meet with them regularly, just to make sure that they’re learning and growing. They’re all just very, very grateful for the experience.
How would you describe General Assembly grads?
Kurdin Bazaz: What stands out the most is their very positive, excited, hungry energy. They come in with confidence, but they’re also really humble, so they’re very easy to connect with—and it’s easy to help them grow. We have a big organization of about 20,000 employees. It can be a lot to take in, but they’ve really stepped up.
Why is General Assembly a good fit for your DEI apprenticeship program?
Kurdin Bazaz: We chose to partner with General Assembly because they’re well-known, have great reputation, and the boot camps they offer are relevant to today’s technology—like UX, for example. We took a good look at their curriculum and it felt like a natural fit.
Additionally, one of our main objectives with the apprenticeship program is to bring in talent from more non-traditional routes. So when we talk about diversity, we don’t just mean diversity in the typical sense of going to a few conferences and setting big goals. We wanted to establish a program that would cultivate diversity of thought stemming from candidates from all walks of life and work experience.
We believe that there are certain demographics and certain personas that don’t always have the same privileges as others—to get into the really well-known schools, programs, or companies to be able to transfer into tech companies. General Assembly has been able to build a strong pool of candidates that meet all of those objectives. They don’t come from your traditional routes. They are career changers who bring really great experience relevant for our functions—but they also need that chance to be able to showcase their skills.
What advice would you give companies starting similar apprenticeship programs?
Kurdin Bazaz: If I were to give a piece of advice to other companies that want to explore apprenticeship programs to bring in diverse talent, I would say: first, trust that there’s great talent there. Be bold to actually take that step. We hear companies talk about wanting to look like their customers and believing in diversity investment—which is a great first step, but then I would encourage them to really look at what they’re doing to make these statements ring true.
Take that leap of faith. You’ll be pleasantly surprised and inspired by the fact that there is really, really great talent out there, just waiting for that chance to show how much they can contribute and how much they can make your product or the way you work even better by diversifying your workforce. Take that one step and start small. You don’t have to start really, really big. Start small. Test your concept, modify it, pivot.
Any parting words you’d like to share with our readers? The last piece of advice I have is to put faith into finding the right organizations that can help you build this talent pipeline. Not everything has to be built in-house, and that’s sometimes a lot of the reason why some companies might not start—because it takes a lot to put training together. But there are really great resource organizations out there that can help you create something unique that fits your organization. I know that from my own experience.
Find and Keep Diverse Talent with a General Assembly Partnership
As it stands, 87% of HR leaders say they’re falling short of their organizational diversity goals. It’s not good enough to talk the talk; we must walk the walk. With over 80,000 tech program graduates, General Assembly is a powerhouse talent pipeline for hard-to-fill positions. We screen for talent—not degrees—so we can deliver a more diverse talent pool that is fully trained and ready to hit the ground running on day one.
Contact us to explore a better way to recruit, hire, and train top talent from all walks of life.