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4 nonprofits fostering diversity and career advancement in IT

By: Sarah K. White on Dec 22, 2022

Despite a recent push to address diversity issues in IT, the industry as a whole has a long way to go. From hiring practices to advancement opportunities, most IT organizations are falling short, despite their best intentions, when it comes to fostering diverse workplaces where individuals of all backgrounds can thrive.

As a response to this ongoing lack of diversity in IT, several organizations dedicated to fostering diversity and advancing IT careers have been founded. These organizations focus on helping everyone from young adults to seasoned pros break into the tech industry, grow their careers, and find the guidance they need to be successful — all the way up to the C-suite.

Some diversity-focused organizations offer opportunities for corporate sponsors to partner in an effort to diversify their IT talent pipelines, while others offer standout technologists and IT leaders the chance to develop community, gain career insights, and learn career advancement strategies from peers and mentors who have had similar experiences in the IT industry.

Following are four standout organizations having an impact in bringing greater diversity to IT.

NPower uplifts underserved communities

For communities underrepresented in IT, access to opportunity can be a big barrier. Nonprofit NPower is working to change that by fostering opportunity for those outside traditional IT pipelines through its tuition-free Tech Fundamentals program, which has helped young adults from underserved communities, as well as military members, military spouses, and veterans, forge new careers in IT for over 20 years.

NPower recognizes that every student’s situation, background, and support system will look different, providing support for students who may need help finding rent relief, childcare, and mental health services. Students are taught the IT skills necessary for roles such as desktop analyst, business analyst, and junior project manager. Students are also given access to certification classes, resume workshops, interview practice, and support through the job search process.

“When you join NPower, you’re getting a family that will support you and your goals for the rest of your life. That’s very powerful,” says US military veteran Will Galey, who now works as an IT analyst EO&T apprentice at Citi after completing NPower’s program.

The organization, which was launched through a partnership with Microsoft, has a robust community of alumni, to whom it offers advanced programs in an effort to help ensure there’s diversity not only at the entry-level, but up the ladder to the C-suite.

NPower seeks volunteers and mentors from the IT community and provides ways for corporations to partner with NPower, including apprenticeship and internship programs, as well as full-time placements to help diversify companies’ IT pipelines.

DevColor empowers Black IT careers

BIPOC IT workers can often feel isolated working in an industry well-known for its lack of diversity. Nonprofit DevColor aims to change that, by providing opportunities for Black technologists to connect, gain career advice, and create community among those who share their workplace experiences.

The organization’s A* program brings together more than 50 cohorts of six to 10 mid- to senior-level leaders in the tech industry. These cohorts meet monthly over the course of a year, giving participants the chance to gain perspective, advice, and career help from others in the program. Through the group’s support, members can learn to navigate difficult conversations at work, obtain the necessary skills for high-level negotiations, and gain the confidence to “exhibit higher levels of self-advocacy,” says Rhonda Allen, CEO of DevColor.

Brian Mariner, a member of DevColor, says that although he had built up a “reasonable set of professional network opportunities,” he “didn’t have a lot of confidants in the industry either from school or professionally.” But after joining DevColor’s A* program, he has been able to develop a solid community of peers in the industry, enabling him for the first time in his career  to be “surrounded by software industry peers” and not feel like the “other” in the room.

Year Up diversifies the IT talent pipeline

Year Up is a nonprofit that aims to bridge the opportunity divide by serving economically disadvantaged adults ages 18 to 24. Students at Year Up attend a yearlong program where they learn IT skills for technical roles, followed by an internship with one of the organization’s many corporate sponsors.

During the first six months of the Year Up program, students receive training for soft skills and technical skills, and they learn what it will be like to work in a corporate tech environment. Once they complete the training, they spend the next six months working as an intern for their corporate sponsor, checking back in regularly with the Year Up program throughout.

The program is rigorous, and students are often juggling full-time jobs and other schooling while they complete it. But students are offered extensive support to help accommodate their schedules outside of Year Up and the internship.

“Much of my success in pursuing a career in IT is attributable to Year Up for creating a coaching environment which helped me to uncover my potential and aspirations,” says Mikayla Dyer, who now works as an Agile Scrum master at Morgan Stanley since completing the program.

For corporate sponsors, partnering with Year Up is a great way to give back and help foster diversity in the industry. It’s also an investment in a new talent pipeline and future employees, as Year Up interns come to the company fully trained and continue to receive support and career training throughout the internship process. By the end of the full year, most interns are offered a full-time job with their internship company, while some opt for other opportunities at a different company. LinkedIn is one such organization that has developed a deep partnership with Year Up.

ITSMF develops Black IT leaders

Much of the IT industry’s efforts to diversify the workforce focus on entry-level recruitment. ITSMF, however, is focused on helping Black IT pros climb the ladder in the industry by offering community, mentorship, training, and support in hopes of impacting the marked lack of Black representation at the executive and leadership levels.

ITSMF was launched in 1996 as a direct response to the dismal representation of Black IT professionals in the industry. In 1993, only 3% of IT management roles were held by Black technologists. Today, Black professionals hold just 7% of positions in the tech industry, and only 2% of tech executive roles, according to data from the Diversity in High Tech report published by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

For many members, ITSMF events were the first time they saw a room of IT leaders who look like them. Robert Scott, vice president and dean of the ITSMF global institute for professional development, was a vice president the first time he attended an ITSMF event. He remembers being “absolutely floored, to the point of silence,” as he looked around the room and saw “all of these people that looked like me, that were at my level, and that I never knew existed.”

ITSMF offers mentorship programs through three academies: Executive Academy, Management Academy, and Emerge Academy. The Executive and Management academies offer 10-month programs, while the year-long Emerge Academy program is aimed at midlevel and executive-level women of color in leadership positions.

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