A growing computer coding academy in Seattle aims to transform the tech industry by training various software engineers. And in the process, it transforms the lives of students as well.
Haben Foto was just one of them just a few years ago.
Foto grew up in Eritrea, living in big tents as his parents fought for Eritrean independence from Ethiopia.
“We have to hide from war planes that would bombard the camps,” she said. “Education was at the forefront of what they fought for, education and health.”
When she was nine, they moved to the capital, Asmara.
“At that point, were you exposed to the idea of coding and technology? KIRO 7 reporter Linzi Sheldon asked.
“Oh my God no !” said Foto, laughing. “No, I think the first time I saw a computer was in high school in the late 90s.”
Foto studied English literature and education, encouraged by his mother.
“She always pushed me to be— [she told me that] you have to go to the only university we had, ”she said. “I’ve always had that in my head. That I must be somebody.
This prompted her and her husband to come to the United States for higher education and opportunities. Then she heard about a computer coding boot camp.
“I heard about Ada from a friend who worked with me at the Red Cross,” she said.
Ada Developers Academy started in Seattle in 2013 to encourage more women in the tech industry. This year, dozens of students will sit in in-person and virtual classrooms and take six months of classes followed by an additional five-month internship. But it’s not that easy to get into it.
“It’s pretty rigorous, the application process,” Sheldon said.
“Oh yes!” Photo okay.
“They ask a lot of you,” said Sheldon.
“Once, if you go all the way, then it’s like half the battle is won,” Foto said.
“Just to get in!” Sheldon said.
“Just to get in,” Foto said, “because a lot of people want it.”
It took several years, two kids, and a few beginner coding lessons from a friend on Facebook for Foto to finally study and apply.
“I did it the first time – and yes! Foto said laughing.
“Our admission percentages hover between 15% and 20%, so it’s quite competitive to get in, which only meets the need and really the reason for our growth,” said Lauren Sato, CEO of Ada Developers Academy.
Sato explains that the tuition is free and funded by many local partners, including big names like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google. Students can get zero rate loans for their living expenses.
“We’re looking for people who really need this opportunity, who don’t necessarily have the means to go back to school,” Sato said. “We prioritize serving the Black, Native, Latin, Native Alaskan and Pacific Islander communities because we know these are the most underrepresented groups in tech… and now we truly are women. and a broad genre. So anyone who doesn’t identify as cis[gender] men can apply to Ada.
They’re tackling a big problem: According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 25% of tech jobs are held by women. Of this group, 7% are Asian women, 3% are black women, and 2% are Hispanic women.
Sato says Ada creates a sustainable community where students learn to learn new skills quickly, speak out against injustices in the workplace, and stand up for themselves.
“The average entering salary for an Ada student is around $ 45,000 and the average salary, the starting salary when he graduates is around $ 117,000,” Sato said. “So they’re seeing a really dramatic increase, which then might cause them not to negotiate as hard because it’s such a drastic change from where they came from.”
In July, the academy caught the eye of Melinda French Gates and her investment firm, Pivotal Ventures. He gave them $ 10 million. With this funding, they are expanding to Atlanta this year; Washington, DC, in 2023; and three more markets after that.
To be sure, however, the academy is not easy.
“I remember the first week being… exhausted beyond measure,” Foto said.
She remembers suffering from impostor syndrome and the academy offering childcare services when the pandemic resulted in prolonged school closures.
It was all worth it, she said. All the support, she said, meant the world. Foto got an internship at Microsoft and started working there as a software engineer last February.
“Are you proud of yourself?” Sheldon asked.
“I do!” she said. “So much!”
She said she felt proud of the financial stability she can provide for her family, the future she can plan for, and what she can do for others.
“I come from a community where you help your people a lot,” she said, “and now I can do it.”
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