Profiles

Hackbright Aims to #ChangeTheRatio for Aspiring Women in Technology

Today, it seems like companies in and out of the technology industry can’t hire software engineers fast enough—particularly women and other underrepresented minorities. For women considering a career in tech, the opportunities can seem endless and potentially overwhelming.

Navigating the many different paths you can take to begin a career in computing can also be confusing. Coding boot camps are becoming increasingly popular with people of all ages and walks of life looking to kickstart a career in tech. Hackbright Academy, a software engineering school based in San Francisco, is tailored just for women.

“Hackbright was started as a solution for all these different tech companies’ need to hire more women engineers,” explains Angie Chang, vice president of strategic partnerships at Hackbright. “Women find us because they’ve already started learning to code and they want to change their career, but don’t know how to do it on their own.”

Angie is responsible for getting businesses on board with Hackbright’s mission and curates a growing network of companies that work with the school to hire women engineers upon graduation. Hackbright claims to graduate more female engineers annually than Stanford and UC Berkeley.

One of these graduates is Carolyn Lee, a software engineer at a small startup called YesGraph that builds user-acquisition tools for developers. As one of four engineers at the company, Carolyn wears many hats. She landed the job after meeting the CEO of YesGraph at a Hackbright career day, an opportunity she believes is unique to Hackbright.

“I applied to places that weren’t Hackbright partner companies and it was harder to get your foot in the door,” she explains. “They don’t know what our strengths and weaknesses are.”

Angie explains that many companies are still not familiar with Hackbright and other similar coding boot camps, which might lead to a degree of implicit bias from hiring managers when they see them show up on resumes.

“When we started Hackbright in 2012, people said ‘Oh no, you’re not cramming four years of school into three months’,” Angie continues. “But coding schools are filling this really interesting niche. In the past, after getting an undergrad degree in CS, you are torn between getting a job and continuing with a masters. Part-time school is hard. And for online programs, the rates of success are very low. Hackbright provides a community which is very important to success.”

For Carolyn, who was introduced to computer science while studying linguistics at Yale, attending Hackbright was the ideal path to continuing a career in the CS field.

“[Attending Hackbright] was really great for me. I think one of the biggest challenges in making this transition was coming from Yale where everyone wants to make sure that they know everything and joining [computer science] and knowing only 10 things,” Carolyn explains. “For me, learning how to be OK with not knowing things was probably the biggest non-technical lesson I learned from Hackbright.”

This sense of exploring the unknown with a solid community of support is what Angie believes sets Hackbright apart from other coding schools. Forging a career in CS is hard enough, and “the journey is made even harder by voices that say ‘you don’t belong here’,” explains Angie.

“People realize when they come to Hackbright that they’re not alone. You don’t feel like everyone else has been doing this for 10 years so why even bother,” she says.

Image courtesy of Hackbright