A Mission to Diversify the Tech Industry: DEVELOP(her)

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I first discovered Grand Circus when I heard about the Apprenticeship Program, a course that provides non-traditional pathways to high-demand tech careers for those underrepresented in the industry. My first thought was, “Where can I find a job that allows me to make a real change that will impact my community?”. Lucky for me, Grand Circus was hiring!

Grand Circus program for womenFrom my start at Grand Circus, I was inspired by our efforts to diversify the tech industry. I quickly learned more about the Apprenticeship Program; our Code2040 Entrepreneur in Residence, Tara Reed, who was brought on our team to specifically focus on increasing the number of Black and Latinx working in technical software roles in Detroit; and our diversity scholarships for underrepresented minorities in tech and those who identify as being a woman. And then, DEVELOP(her) was announced!

DEVELOP(her) is a 10-week daytime Java Development bootcamp designed to increase the amount of women in Flint and Detroit’s tech industry, in addition to supporting them as they grow in these roles. In collaboration with The Hagerman Foundation and TEKsystems, we are able to offer this intensive Java coding bootcamp at no cost to the participants! During the bootcamp, The Michigan Council of Women in Technology (MCWT) provides professional development workshops and a post-graduation mentorship program (MCWT Ignite Mentoring) that is designed for early career and mid-career technology professionals.

MCWT workshops range from Real Work/Life Balance, Strategic Negotiations, to Finding your Inner Compass. Women (including me) often think that we need to be 110% prepared at all times, when we should be tackling projects by being brave, not perfect. That’s why the MCWT workshops were such a huge benefit – students could hear from female speakers who were once in their same position who may have asked themselves, “How can I break into a male-dominated industry?”. Recent DEVELOP(her) graduate, Abigail Sadler, explained: “It was great to hear about how these women built their own careers and their advice was invaluable for someone new to the industry. It was also great to learn that a network of supportive and experienced professional women, like MCWT, exists.” That’s exactly what MCWT brought to DEVELOP(her); a connected system of like-minded, powerful women.Grand-Circus-loves-Flint

To me, DEVELOP(her) is exactly what the tech industry needs. This program is creating diversity in tech,
increasing tech education in Flint, bringing together women to form a community and supporting the students as they grow into their roles. I had expressed interest in assisting with this program in any way necessary, particularly, traveling to Flint as needed. Shortly after that, I was given the amazing opportunity to be the Program Manager of the first-ever DEVELOP(her) bootcamp. I was so excited to dive into this and get to know all of these amazing women behind their resumes. After an in-depth interview process that started with more than 170 applicants, we selected 19 outstanding candidates!

The outcomes? Remarkable.

Meet some of our DEVELOP(her) grads:

Meet DEVELOP(her) bootcamper, Tracy Dunlop!Tracy’s Story

Tracy Dunlop from Fenton voiced this at the start of the program:

“Meeting and networking with the women in DEVELOP(her) and Grand Circus has been empowering, to say the least. Entering the classroom each day one can feel the energy, strength, mutual respect and drive to succeed. I am excited to join the developer world with these inspiring women and to start the revolution of bringing women and girls into tech! I feel this program is going to begin a sea change in the way women define themselves. I know it has done that for me.”

Today, Tracy is with PrintSites, a web to print solutions company based out of Fenton, where she is enrolled in the company’s Academy Program and is on track to become a Junior Developer within three to six months!

Tommy’s Story

Tommy Thurman of Southfield shares her story:Meet DEVELOP(her) Bootcamper, Tommy Thurman!

“Joining the DEVELOP(her) cohort changed my life. Before I started the bootcamp I was nervous, unsure of myself and feeling less than. It’s

not that I wasn’t successful – I was. I had an awesome career with an awesome company. However, I was in a field that I was good at, instead of a field I felt passionate about. I longed to code, but no one would let me in their IT department. After reading the book ‘Lean In,’ I felt the

urge to follow my heart in my professional life. Soon after I saw a segment about the DEVELOP(her) bootcamp on the news, so I decided to risk it all and become a developer.

A week after I finished the bootcamp I started my new position as a software engineer at Meridian Health Plan. After the bootcamp, not only did I get a position in IT, I also have relationships with awesome like-minded women, each of them are crazy amazing. But, the best thing I got from the bootcamp was confidence, knowing that I can be the woman that I’ve hoped to be.”

These students are just two examples of women who used DEVELOP(her)’s unique opportunities to their advantage. Opportunities including technical training, soft skill instruction and assistance in Flint, networking events and speed interviewing with companies, and mentorships. However, in the end it was their determination and drive that locked in this new career.

I could not be more proud of all of these outstanding, hard-working women and I cannot wait to watch them apply these qualities as they grow into their new careers in Detroit and Flint’s technology industry.

Interested in this program? Hop on our newsletter at the bottom of our home page to get updates for when we are accepting 2017 DEVELOP(her) applicants!