CollabNet, #YesWeCode, And Making A Difference In Tech - InformationWeek
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IT Leadership
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1/23/2017
07:00 AM
Eric Robertson, Vice President, CollabNet
Eric Robertson, Vice President, CollabNet
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CollabNet, #YesWeCode, And Making A Difference In Tech

There are ways to meet computer technology job demands by creating a more diverse workforce.

As an executive at a Bay Area software company, I’ve experienced firsthand the challenges of hiring new talent. Technology career opportunities are on the rise, and young people looking for career direction have many options if they choose to study computer science in college.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics estimates that there will be one million more IT jobs than computer science students in the U.S. by 2020. The software development field in particular is expected to see a much higher than average growth rate of 17 percent

Credit: Pixabay
Credit: Pixabay

While the opportunity is clear, there are some glaring holes in the high tech industry -- with the workforce in particular -- that need to be filled. Tech leaders like myself are challenged when it comes to recruiting top talent because there are many jobs and a limited workforce.

In addition to the surplus of jobs, we are tasked with creating a more diverse workforce, an issue I’m very passionate about. Lack of diversity and a small talent pool have created huge market gaps that have the potential to negatively impact the technology economy.

I’ve heard a lot of discussion around solutions for attracting top talent. But, the answers for those of us who hire may be to look no further than the untapped talented and creative populations in local communities, which have the potential to make a significant impact on the U.S. technology economy.

Meet #YesWeCode

At the beginning of 2016, I began seeking new opportunities for my employer, CollabNet, to get involved in technology diversity initiatives. When a neighbor told me about the organization she works at, #YesWeCode, I knew it would be a great fit for us.

#YesWeCode is an initiative founded by Dream Corps president Van Jones to help address the substantial shortfalls in tech jobs. It aims to help 100,000 young men and women from underrepresented backgrounds find careers and success in the tech industry.

#YesWeCode helps tech leaders at companies like CollabNet with identifying “homegrown” local talent and bringing them into a constructive learning environment; investing time in them by providing quality training and mentorship; and innovating the tech employee recruiting process to help meet hiring and retention needs, while supporting a more diverse work environment.

#YesWeCode offers Agile software development training through a variety of educational outlets, including developer boot camps, community and vocational colleges, online degree and training programs, and military career advancement centers. The #YesWeCode initiative is an opportunity to transition people from all different backgrounds and age groups into a growing knowledge-based economy.

I was thrilled to learn that #YesWeCode not only taps into unreached talent but is dedicated to making an impact that will extend beyond simply filling open jobs. My CEO, Flint Brenton, was also passionate about this initiative, as he is involved in driving many nonprofit community activities and programs, and he enthusiastically agreed to partner with #YesWeCode and asked me to lead the charge.

To kick things off, we led a Scrum training course for a group of #YesWeCode students, or “Coding Corps” members, who had applied successfully to participate. Since then, 75 percent of the Coding Corps Scrum training graduates have been placed in industry jobs or apprenticeships in the San Francisco Bay Area. Now certified ScrumMasters, they left the training with management-level skills to facilitate the organization of a product development team.

The beauty of this program is that we are just one of many #YesWeCode partners who have launched impactful programs to bridge the job gap and bring in a more diverse workforce. Our Coding Corps alumni left the program inspired and prepared for their careers. I had the opportunity to visit one of these training courses, and students like Philip Barnett had positive things to share.  

“The Scrum mastery class is an excellent jumping off point into my tech career,” said Barnett. “I think it’s a great way to understand how the technology sector, especially in development, is really transforming into a more Agile practice and one that is much more about iteration and catching mistakes earlier in the process. It was a great experience.”

CollabNet’s Coding Corps participants get a unique opportunity to develop skills that will advance their careers. As a company, we have the privilege of nurturing and hiring new talent. Further, we are contributing to our industry by teaching hirable skills that will open new doors for a young and diverse tech community of the future.

Eric Robertson
Eric Robertson

This program has also inspired CollabNet to refine existing in-house training processes and develop new practices that will enhance the knowledge and skill sets of our employees.

#YesWeCode in action

Although the lack of diversity is clear in high tech across the country, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has recognized that Silicon Valley (San Francisco Bay Area) is particularly plagued with low employment rates for people of color in tech jobs.

As the leader of the #YesWeCode partnership at CollabNet, I am honored to drive a program that will help increase tech diversity in the Bay Area. We provide free Agile and Scrum software training to the Coding Corps members who are accepted into our program.

[Once you have hired young tech talent, the key is to manage them. Some advice on managing the younger workforce.]

The CollabNet training and certification courses for Coding Corps members focus on the Agile methodologies that can be leveraged for success in any software or application development project. Attendees learn how to apply an Agile framework for managing quality at speed and for achieving cost savings, which are both necessary for organizations to remain competitive in a fast-paced industry. They also learn how to manage the development lifecycle in a way that drives collaboration and visibility across all people and processes.

“I just completed the Scrum class,” said Coding Corps alumnus John Holman. “I’m super excited! It builds on what I learned at Dev boot camp and also gives me instant expertise in a very valuable field.”

Software developers are in higher demand than ever, and #YesWeCode is doing its part to bring in members of highly talented but untapped communities to fill the workforce needs. The initiative is a tool for leaders who are eyeing the bigger industry picture and recognize that there are too many tech jobs and not enough workers.

It’s been an honor to lead the program at CollabNet and to witness great examples of career development and personal growth. As a part of the software development community in San Francisco and other parts of the country, we have a responsibility to offer talented local community members a chance to cultivate their abilities, work on their skills and join the workforce. It not only boosts the economy locally, but it helps real people improve their lives and realize their dreams.

Eric Robertson is VP of Digital Transformation and DevOps at CollabNet. Prior to CollabNet, Eric served as Director of services and portfolio management for enterprise solutions at Unisys and Cisco where he led product management for Cisco's cloud automation and SAP ALM extension offerings. Eric has successfully held product development, services and management roles with enterprises and start-ups and has provided consulting services to Fortune 500 companies.

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