Solution Overview

What is the name of your organization?

Ada Developers Academy (Ada)

What is the name of your solution?

Changing the face of tech

Provide a one-line summary of your solution.

Ada Developers Academy prepares women and gender expansive people to become software developers, and trains tech companies to foster more equitable working environments.

Film your elevator pitch.

What specific problem are you solving?

Ada was founded in 2013 by leaders of several Seattle-area tech start-ups who were frustrated with the difficulty of achieving diversity on their engineering teams. We work to increase the economic power of underrepresented minorities and low-income women and gender expansive people in tech. Currently, women represent only 25% of the computing workforce and 11% of senior leadership roles in tech.  These numbers are driven both by the lack of effective and accessible pathways into the field, and the fact that the drop-out rate for women in tech (41%) is more than double that of their male counterparts (17%). The problem gets much worse when we look at intersectional diversity: only 3% of computing professionals are Black and there are zero Black or Latinx women CEOs of Fortune 500 tech companies.

Technology is a critical socio-political driver that is determining our future across myriad sectors. Research shows that if underrepresented populations aren’t involved on teams developing new technology, the technology itself adopts the biases of its creators. So, this lack of representation not only causes vulnerabilities in our communities, but it also has major implications for how our increasingly technological society develops. Furthermore, the current reduction in talent acquisition and hiring threatens to set us back years in gender and racial equity. Without a more equitable tech industry, inequities in American society, culture, and politics will be exacerbated. According to the Pew Research Center, by 2030, innovations in the tech sector will substantially impact the health care sector, social connectivity, citizen engagement and public activism, education, labor markets and jobs across sectors, the environment, politics, media, transportation, health, aerospace... and the list goes on. Our action or inaction on representation in tech in this moment will have significant impacts on how our society evolves.

The technology sector is the wealth engine of our time, and women have been kept out of it for far too long. Even in the face of dramatic shortfalls in talent, the industry has not been able to effectively reduce the barriers to entry for women. By 2026, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that there will be 1.2 million unfilled computer science jobs in the US. While increasing slowly, the number of graduates hovers around 73,000 annually - only 14,000 of whom are women. The economic impact of this gap could grow to $1.62 billion by 2026, if the shortage continues to grow at its current pace.  While numerous market-driven solutions (such as training programs and bootcamps) have arisen to attempt to meet this need, there remains a massive gap in the market - and an incredible opportunity to effect change.

Women lack access to the high-paying, flexible jobs they need to build economic power, like software engineering. Families lack access to childcare and basic income needed to go through a retraining program. Traditional education models are too expensive, too long, and lectures, learning focused on the theoretical, and competitive classrooms don’t work well for BIPOC women and gender expansive folks.

What is your solution?

Ada exists to address two intractable problems: 1) the lack of available talent for tech roles without sufficient existing pathways to fill this gap; and 2) the crisis of un- and underemployment of women in this country, which has increased with the pandemic. Current solutions to the problem of lack of available tech talent (bootcamps and CS degrees) actually exacerbate existing inequities for women, gender-diverse, BIPOC and low-income people. Bootcamps end up mostly serving white men, and are costly - not only in terms of tuition, but the time off required to complete such programs. For this reason, Ada is tuition-free, provides internship stipends, wraparound supports and financial assistance for low-income students. 

Ada’s solution is able to uniquely address the problem of un- and under-employment of women through a one-year program that leads participants to careers with a high level of flexibility, excellent benefits, a significant increase in wages, and the distinct opportunity for longitudinal career growth. Ada prepares women and gender expansive adults to be software developers, while advocating for inclusive and equitable work environments. We provide cost-free training in software development, primarily to people from Black, Latine, Indigenous American, Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islander, and LGBTQIA+ communities, and low-income people. Our immersive, mission-based coding program fast-tracks participants into high paying software development positions in less than a year through 6 months in the classroom and 5.5 months in an industry internship – all free for the student. Because our goal is to transform the tech industry to be more inclusive, we also focus on retention and changing company culture in addition to educating students. 

Ada’s end goal is to create a self-perpetuating flywheel that invites low-income women and gender minorities into tech, and retains and grows them into leadership roles, enabling them to hire and develop additional women and gender minorities. Bringing white cisgender women into tech is enough of an uphill battle, but educating BIPOC and low-income women, transgender, and low-income students means we are up against even more barriers. When we realized that applicants of color were also not making it through technical assessments, we created our preparatory program, which provides preparatory support and an expedited application & admissions process for applicants. The program targets low-income students and underrepresented minorities in tech, and provides students with free technical training, support, mentors, study groups, and workshops to prepare them to become competitive applicants.

In order to make Ada accessible to the people most likely to be economically displaced as the tech industry continues to grow, they need additional support beyond training. In order to persist through any retraining program, low-income students need more than just a technical education. We provide wraparound supports like childcare, mental health care, computers and financial assistance for living expenses. By providing these wraparound supports, low-income students persist in our classroom program and in internship. Financial assistance helps low-income students pay for living expenses during the full-time classroom time portion of our program, followed by an internship with a monthly stipend for living expenses.

Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?

Ada’s programs are designed to equitably address demand for qualified software engineers while accelerating pathways to economic prosperity for low-income women and gender expansive people. All participants are women or gender-expansive, around 72% are people of color, 40% are racial minorities underrepresented in tech, and 34% are LGBTQAI+. The overwhelming majority of our students are low-income, seeking to launch careers in high-earning, stable jobs. Typically, 80-85% of Ada’s students are low-income when they enter our Core program.

Feedback from the community we serve is at the forefront of our program innovation – we created our preparatory program, alums workshops & ongoing supports, and our corporate education program in response to feedback from students and alums. Ada’s Latinx, Black, and transgender coalitions have provided particularly valuable feedback for updating our programs, such as adding therapy/healing sessions for Black and brown students, and developing a corporate social justice and equity education program to enact systems level change. As we update curriculum, we prioritize the voices of neurodivergent people and Black and brown students. Alumni are also involved in the leadership of our organization through our board of directors.

Intern managers and mentors at our partner companies also benefit from Ada’s programming. Because our goal is to transform the tech industry to be more inclusive, we are focused as much on retention and company culture as we are educating our students. Every corporate partner we engage with receives our corporate education and accountability programming that includes onboarding, training, measuring, and holding each company accountable to creating safe and supportive work environments. Ada also provides a robust matching process to connect teams with individual students (including vetting, training and working with managers and mentors). Our goal is to foster working environments that are more hospitable to women, gender expansive people, LGBTQIA+ folks, and underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities in order to retain them in tech careers long-term, and move them into positions of leadership where they can advance equitable policies and culture in tech. Our Corporate Partner Training program is a five-month series on transforming tech work environments, with equity and inclusion workshops, racial caucusing, a virtual workspace, study resources, and coaching from Ada staff. We are expanding this corporate accountability work.

We measure our impact on the culture of tech by surveying the companies we work with over time and recurring surveys of graduates. We survey alums periodically to understand their experience of equity in the industry, whether they are advancing into leadership positions with influence, and whether they actively advocate for more equitable systems. Alongside salary and industry retention questions, we ask how happy Ada alums are in their jobs, and what challenges, positive and negative experiences they are having. This feedback is at the forefront of our program innovation – we created our preparatory program, our ongoing alum education program, and the corporate education program in response to student and alum feedback.

How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

Ada has ten years of experience delivering this program, and our staff, leadership, and Board is reflective of the communities we serve – nearly all are women or gender expansive, the majority are people of color, many are parents, and many are LGBTQIA+. Our lived experiences directly influence how Ada’s programs are designed and implemented, and reflect the diverse needs of our diverse student population. Our executive team is all female or gender-expansive, all but one are parenting, and 71% are people of color. Together we have scaled companies nationally, run nationwide immersion programs, and have worked in partnership with communities of color to include the perspectives of those with lived experience in our program design. Our leadership team brings a wealth of experience in non-traditional education, program design and business. Intersectionality is a lived experience for our participants and staff, and something we center in our work together.

We also gather community feedback to evaluate and adapt our program design. We gather Net Promoter Scores (NPS) from students and interns, and gather feedback from alumni, managers and mentors in order to assess the quality of our programming and add new components as needed (which influences the iteration of our curriculum). Feedback from students and alum is at the forefront of our program innovation – we created our preparatory program, alum continuing education, and corporate education program in response to feedback from students and alums. Ada’s Latinx, Black, and transgender coalitions have provided particularly valuable feedback for updating program design, such as adding therapy/healing sessions for Black and brown students, and developing a corporate social justice and equity education program to enact systems level change. 

Our instructional staff is also reflective of the communities we serve – the team includes 11 instructors and 2 curriculum developers (4 women, 6 nonbinary people, 3 men) with a wide range of experience in the tech industry and computer science education. Instructors typically have undergraduate degrees in Computer Science, Software Engineering, Technology Education, or Information Systems, and several have graduate degrees in Education, Bioengineering, Electronics Engineering, and other areas. Ada instructors have worked in a variety of roles in the tech industry including software engineering, backend development, web design, data management, bioinformatics, DevOps, and more. Many instructors also have experience in coding education either for youth or adults (including bootcamp settings), and curriculum development. Several members of our Board are women working in the tech sector.

Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?

  • Create a more inclusive STEM workplace culture including through improving pay transparency, decreasing bias in hiring and promotion, introducing and upholding healthy behaviors and organizational role models, and/or bolstering wraparound supports for wor

In what city and state is your solution team headquartered?

Seattle, WA, USA

What is your solution’s stage of development?

Growth: An organization with an established product, service, or business model that is rolled out in one or more communities

How many people does your solution currently serve?

Last year, we served 1,002 participants across our Core, preparatory, and alumni programs. We also provided corporate equity training for 270 intern managers and mentors. Previously:

- Ada has served 1,000 participants and generated $50M in new salaries for women and gender-expansive adults in the tech economy since our inception in 2013. 

- Ada alumni work at over 150 different tech companies. Amazon (120), Nordstrom (53), and Indeed (51) have hired the most Ada graduates. 


Why are you applying to the Challenge?

Ada is facing a unique challenge in this moment of economic contraction in the tech sector. Throughout our first ten years of operation, tech was growing explosively and acquiring engineering talent aggressively as a key business strategy. Simultaneously, many companies were understanding the wide ranging benefits of prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion in their strategies including in talent acquisition. This made Ada’s program model a perfect fit for a tech sector eager to hire diverse new talent, especially big tech companies like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, etc. As the tech economy began to cool in 2022, we saw that those big tech companies were the most exposed and affected by market swings. Many of our traditional big tech partners have laid off talent, cut budgets, and instated hiring freezes.

As tech moves away from talent acquisition as a primary business strategy, we are also seeing the major implications of the rise of artificial intelligence-enabled products throughout the industry. Tools such as GitHub’s Copilot now allow developers to dramatically increase their productivity, creating instances where individual developers are able to deliver a volume of output that used to require several people. Ada is responding to this shift by building AI instruction into our existing curriculum to give Ada graduates a leg up, and developing a new upskilling curriculum for tech companies seeking to upskill existing employees into new engineering and AI-enabled roles.

In addition to funding, we are applying to the Challenge to support the development and evaluation of these new strategies to tackle emerging market barriers. Ada would benefit greatly from access to partners across industries and sectors, learning modules to refine our program strategy through a market-informed approach, and a peer-to-peer network to build a community of practice that is responsive to shifts in tech. 

Who is the Team Lead for your solution?

Lauren Sato

How is your Team Lead connected to the community or communities in which your project is based?

Lauren Sato joined Ada as CEO in January 2020, with a wealth of experience in creating market-driven solutions to our most intractable social problems. Her lived experience as a woman of color and a parent directly reflects the experiences of much of the community Ada serves. Prior to joining Ada, Lauren spent 15 years working in startups, exploring talent development, social finance, user-generated content tech, and coworking. 

Lauren began her career at Year Up, building an impactful program from the ground up and then scaling it through public-private partnerships. Following Year Up, Lauren was employee one at Canopy, an impact investing startup aimed at reducing the barriers for institutional investors to deploy capital to social good enterprises collaboratively. Her subsequent time at the technology startup RealSelf focused on growing from 100 to 300 employees and ultimately achieving a 60% female tech company, with 36% women in technical roles. Then, at The Riveter, Lauren focused on building collaborative spaces across the country for women to learn, grow, and start companies together. As CEO at Ada, Lauren is excited to use her expertise in scaling to make this proven model for getting women and gender nonconforming folks into software development careers available across the country.

Lauren is thrilled to be leading Ada as it leverages the tech industry - the wealth engine of our time - to redistribute economic power and solve a massive gap in the tech talent market. 

More About Your Solution

What makes your solution innovative?

Solutions to the tech workforce pipeline problem like bootcamps are typically expensive, do not provide internships, and deeply lack inclusion and equity. In comparison, Ada’s programs are fundamentally innovative because they are 1) tuition-free; 2) provide an internship with a stipend; and 3) provide wraparound supports including financial assistance to support students holistically. Furthermore, our programs are specifically designed to meet the needs of Black & brown women and gender expansive people, and we also work directly with company partners to shift the culture of tech from within to be more inclusive. Ada’s work is innovative for the tech industry, and transformative for every student. We are filling the unmet need for talent AND we’re getting Black and brown women and gender expansive people into tech, while educating students and managers to recognize and address biases in the industry. 

Beyond the inherently innovative nature of our programs, Ada is approaching the problem of gender and racial representation in tech in a new way in the current economic climate in tech. Since the close of 2022 and through the first half of 2023, we have seen dramatic contraction in demand for new software developers due to large scale layoffs and the introduction of AI-enabled development tools such as GitHub’s Copilot and Amazon’s CodeWhisperer.  An industry that was achieving marginal improvements in representation through talent acquisition strategies is now frozen at 25% female, 5% women of color.  As the adoption of AI tools increases, we have an opportunity to move the needle on gender representation if we can prepare Ada graduates – all women or gender expansive, and mostly people of color – to be the most competitive developers on the market, including via upskilling within their own companies. 

Ada is deploying two new strategies to respond: 

  1. Adapt our current full stack software development curriculum to incorporate the use of AI-enabled development tools. Even with widespread industry adoption of AI-enabled dev tools, our students will continue to need to know how to code, both to efficiently and effectively prompt engineer, and to bugfix AI generated code.  But they also need to know how to leverage AI-enabled development tools to amplify their productivity through prompt engineering. We need to adapt our curriculum to achieve these learning outcomes.

  2. Shift our market placement from talent acquisition to talent development, or upskilling.  Companies are increasingly driven to convert internal talent from nontechnical roles into technical roles, particularly from departments that contain more diverse employees and/or departments where roles are being eliminated due to technological advancements. Some companies have attempted to do this internally, but have struggled to build equitable and effective programs, and have come back to Ada with demand for our model.  

The gender imbalance in who develops the tech that impacts our lives every day – and who builds wealth in the sector – will only be exacerbated as the current majority of software developers become dramatically more productive. We must diversify AI-enabled talent to create a future with more inclusive and relevant technologies that truly benefit everyone. 

What are your impact goals for the next year and the next five years, and how will you achieve them?

Our overarching impact goal, succinctly, is to change the face of tech. We do this in two ways:

1. Increase the employment of women and gender expansive people as software developers

2. Shift culture of tech companies to foster more inclusive working environments for women and gender expansive people, especially those who are Black, brown, and/or LGBTQIA+. 

We will achieve these goals through five primary strategies:

1. Train women in software development

2. Provide wraparound services to ensure participants can persist in the program

3. Engage target populations through outreach and preparatory programming

4. Train employers to foster more inclusive work environments

5. Provide continuing education for Ada graduates to promote industry retention

In the current moment, our training strategy (item 1) must expand to address the need for AI-enabled engineering talent, and to meet the increased demand for talent development of existing tech workers. 

While the magnitude of this challenging moment is daunting, Ada has a long history of bringing the technology ecosystem together to solve hard problems, and we believe that we can do it again to meet this moment. Ada has a proven track record of converting nontechnical talent into software developers.  Over the past ten years we have served over 800 students, creating $50m in new salaries for women in tech who have remained in the industry at a rate that far exceeds industry standard (88% for Ada alum vs. 51% industry standard retention for women), and who earn promotions on par with their computer science degree-holding peers. 

As with several large leaps in technology historically, now is the time to ensure women and gender expansive people are leading the change. Just as Grace Hopper, Patricia Crowther, and Elizabeth “Jake” Feinler led the way to computers and the Internet as we know it today, we believe pivoting our training strategies to include AI and upskilling components will allow Ada graduates – all of whom are women or gender expansive people and most of whom are people of color – to lead the way forward in tech. Due to the exponential rate of change the industry is experiencing now, if we take our hands off the wheel, we will set ourselves on a path towards intractable social and economic disparities that will amplify community vulnerabilities and destabilize our local and national economies. We are seeking ecosystem partnerships with organizations committed to ensuring an equitable future in the tech industry.

How are you measuring your progress toward your impact goals?

Ada measures our progress toward short term goals through student outcomes, and toward long term goals through industry impact. We measure our immediate impact by:

  • Student progress across curricula (measured by our Learning Management System)

  • Learning and employment outcomes (classroom retention, graduation, hire rate, salary increase rate)

  • Surveys of companies who host interns and receive training

And long-term impact by:

  • Retention in industry

  • Ascension in leadership

  • Long-term accountability measures with corporate partners

We use a Learning Management System to assess student progress in technical & social justice curricula, and to track needs for wraparound supports. We pair support with technical assessments, mock interviews, and provide learning plans and mentors/tutors as needed. We assess our prep program through admittance, attendance, and student satisfaction. We conduct mid-point and final evaluations for student internships. We utilize an instructor effectiveness tool to assess the quality of our instructors. We look at retention rates, graduate rates, hire rates in the industry, and salary rate increases after graduation as indicators of success. Once graduates are hired, we continue to survey them to learn about their needs. 

We measure our impact on the culture of the tech industry through recurring surveys of graduates, and by surveying the companies we work with over time. We engage in longitudinal tracking of alumni to understand their experience of equity (or lack thereof) in the industry. We assess whether alumni are in a position to have influence (leadership) and whether they actively advocate for more equitable systems. Every corporate partner we engage with receives our corporate education and accountability programming that includes onboarding, training, measuring, and holding each company accountable to creating safe and supportive environments.

We know Ada works for our participants:

  • Our classroom retention rate is high, at over 99% since our inception.

  • Our graduation rate is 98%.

  • Over 90% of Ada graduates are hired into full-time software developer jobs within 6 months of graduation.

  • The all-time average salary rate change for Ada graduates is 175%.

  • The percentage of underrepresented minorities participating in Ada (now 72% POC) has grown as we have developed more responsive programming for these populations, including our preparatory program, zero-interest loan accessibility and wraparound supports. 

  • Ada has served over 1,000 participants and generated $50M in new salaries for women and gender-diverse adults in the tech economy since our inception in 2013. 

  • Ada has over 80 sponsor companies to date, sponsoring our students through internships.

  • Ada alumni work at over 150 different tech companies including CISCO, Comcast, eBay, Expedia, Facebook, Google, Hulu, IBM, Kickstarter, Microsoft, Groupon, BuzzFeed, Redfin, Getty Images, GoDaddy, Samsung, Snapchat, Tableau, Uber, and Zillow. Amazon (120), Nordstrom (53) and Indeed (51) have hired the most Ada graduates. 

Describe in simple terms how and why you expect your solution to have an impact on the problem.

PROGRAM GOALS: Increase participation of women in the technology workforce & tech companies become more equitable and inclusive

ACTIVITY #1: Coding education in the classroom and applied learning internship

OUTPUT #1: Diverse people are trained to become software developers

OUTCOMES #1: Graduation rate (over 95%), demographics (over 70% students of color, 80% low-income students, 30% LGBTQIA+ students). Hire rate within 6 months of graduation (target 90%) and salary rate increase (target 160%). We have seen outcomes above these targets consistently throughout our programmatic history. 

ACTIVITY #2: Student support services, including financial assistance, childcare, therapy, technology access, and coaching

OUTPUT #2: Number of students accessing wraparound supports

OUTCOME #2: Low-income and BIPOC participants are holistically supported and persist through Ada's programs. 

     

ACTIVITY #3: Recruitment and outreach to target populations, preparatory programming

OUTPUT #3: Number of prep program participants advancing to Core

OUTCOME #3: Target populations overcome barriers to entry via preparatory programs

ACTIVITY #4: Corporate equity training for company partners

OUTPUT #4: Number of employers receiving equity and inclusion training

OUTCOME #5: Tech companies shift their culture to foster a more inclusive environment for women, especially from historically underrepresented communities

ACTIVITY #5: Alumni services

OUTPUT #5: Number of alumni participating in continuing education

OUTCOME #5: Ada graduated hired in full-time software developer jobs are retained and promoted in the tech industry

OVERALL PROGRAM IMPACT: A greater number of women and gender expansive people, primarily low-income & BIPOC, enter and are retained in the tech workforce, with more equitable and inclusive company cultures that foster their retention. 

If your solution is tech-based, describe the core technology that powers your solution.

The Ada Developers Academy core program teaches full-stack web development. We believe that full-stack web development is a skillset that allows students to grow quickly, and to choose what specialty of software development they want to pursue in their post-Ada careers. We cover Python, SQL, Flask, HTML/CSS, JavaScript, React and computer science fundamentals. Our complete curriculum is online and open-source. 

The education portion of our program is split into three units focusing on 1) programming fundamentals (core programming concepts, computer science fundamentals, test-driven development, exception handling, data structures, Big O, object-oriented programming and version control with Git/Github); 2) backend development (design, build, and maintain a database using PostgreSQL, and design APIs); and 3) frontend development (design & build static websites using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and develop web apps). Learning is supplemented through daily readings, problem sets, algorithm exercises, projects, and a three week capstone project.

We focus on teaching skills that are readily transferable from one technology stack to another, making Ada students adaptable and flexible candidates for all types of developer positions. Students have been

successfully placed in internships and jobs working in many different programming languages and tech stacks.

Ada Learning Objectives:

  • Learn how to learn: create a model of independent self-learning study skills to facilitate learning new technologies.

  • Write Code: implement features in high-level code for medium-sized systems.

  • Debug Code: establish a model of debugging skills to facilitate debugging, reading, and understanding existing code in medium-sized systems.

  • Communicate about Code: apply coding and communication skills combined to team-based software development.

  • Prepare Themselves for Internship: combine their code skills and job-preparation workshops to prepare themselves for a successful internship in software development.

  • Build Communities rooted in Social Justice: integrate skills learned from social justice, advocacy, diversity, equity, and inclusivity to co-author a supportive learning community.

As a culmination of each student’s classroom learning experience, they create a Capstone project to showcase what they have learned in the program. Goals of the capstone project include:

  • Demonstrate self-direction, time management, and independent learning

  • Learn and implement new technologies

  • Complete a product life cycle from conception to delivery

  • Utilize agile practices learned to assist in project completion

Students are in the Ada classroom for six core hours a day, five days a week for six months. Our classroom features community over competition. Students are encouraged to support each other both inside and outside the classroom. A typical day caters to a variety of learning styles and consists of reading and before class, watching videos before class, and small group activity-based learning in class. This focuses classroom time for discussions and small group activities. Students learn by doing and our Instructors are the guides in the process. Students can sign-up for 1:1 tutors, ask questions from TAs during afternoon project time, connect with industry mentors, and also seek guidance from alumni from past cohorts.

Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new business model or process that relies on technology to be successful

Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Software and Mobile Applications

In which US states does your solution currently operate?

WA, GA

In which US states will your solution be operating within the next year?

WA, GA

Your Team

What type of organization is your solution team?

Nonprofit

How many people work on your solution team?

Ada employs 33 full-time and 9 part-time staff. We also hire 5-10 contractors for specific services including fundraising consulting, graphic design, public relations, IT and database architecture, and other services as needed.

How long have you been working on your solution?

10 years

What is your approach to incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusivity into your work?

Equity is integral to the culture of our organization, from staff training to caucusing to working with staff, students, corporate partners and board members to be actively anti-racist in our beliefs, actions, systems, and processes. Intersectionality is centered in our work, and a lived experience for our participants and staff. We actively work to be anti-racist, inclusive, and equitable, with a focus on the impacts of intersectional diversity. 

Our program model is specifically designed to recruit, engage, and meet the specific needs of underrepresented communities including people of color, low-income people, and nonbinary and transgender people. We deeply understand the specific barriers these groups face related to employment and accessing tech education, and we developed our outreach and Core programming to be responsive to those needs, with staff that reflect the communities we serve, outreach to community organizations serving these populations, multiple points of entry to preparatory programming depending on prior coding knowledge, mental health supports, financial assistance, childcare stipends, equity and inclusion training for all students which includes a wide range of education on gender expression, affinity groups, and personalized tutoring and mentoring which often pairs students with mentors and tutors of shared identities.

Our leadership team, staff and board represent the communities we serve. Ada’s leadership is predominantly women and people of color. Our seven person executive team is all female, all but one are parents, and 71% are people of color. Our board is a working board and composed of community members with the experience and expertise to further our mission. Our board members are 27% Black, 7% Latine/Latinx, 13% Asian, and 7% Middle Eastern/North African (53% BIPOC), and 47% white; 8 women and 7 men. Our curriculum review committee is ethnically diverse and includes students with neurodivergent learning styles. Our holistic learning approach and wraparound services decolonize software engineering education, providing both comprehensive technical training as well as training in equity and social justice.

While we welcome all women and gender expansive folks to apply to Ada’s Core program, we want to provide clarity around which applicants we prioritize in the admissions process. While we acknowledge there is no hierarchy of oppressions and value everyone’s unique lived experience, we know that some communities are systematically and disproportionately impacted by health, economic, and educational inequities. Therefore we prioritize: 

  • African Americans: Descendants of enslaved people throughout the United States

  • Gender-Expansive people: Transgender men & women, and nonbinary folks

  • Asian Americans: Cambodian, Vietnamese, Thai, Laotian, Hmong, Indonesian, Filipino, Malaysian, Burmese, Brunei, Timor-Leste

  • Latine/Latinx people

  • Indigenous American and Alaskan Natives

  • Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders

  • Low-Income people

Your Business Model & Funding

What is your business model?

Our business model provides values to two key constituencies – women and gender expansive people seeking employment in the tech industry, and tech companies seeking diverse software engineering talent. The products and services we offer to each of these groups are as follows. 

Products and services provided to women and gender expansive people seeking employment in the tech industry:

- Preparatory programming to prepare prospective applicants to apply to Ada’s Core program 

- Six months of full-stack software developer training

- Applied learning internship with educational stipend

- Wraparound services to meet students’ needs holistically, including financial assistance, childcare subsidies, laptops, mental health supports

- Coaching and career services

- Continuing education for Ada alumni 

We know that these constituents want and need these services because 1) technical training is critical to entering tech as a software engineer, 2) low-income participants cannot afford to go nearly a year without income 3) our target populations need additional wraparound supports to meet their needs holistically so they can persist in the program, 4) career services and networking opportunities allow participants a foot in the door at tech companies, and 5) women and gender expansive people, especially those of color, are more likely to leave the industry than their counterparts and need continuing education on technical, professional, and personal topics to promote retention. 

Products and services provided to tech companies seeking diverse software engineering talent:

- Well-trained software engineering interns

- Equity and inclusion training for intern managers

- Access to a pool of candidates for permanent software developer roles

- Access to job boards to post positions targeting Ada students and alumni

We know tech companies want and need these services because 1) they struggle to recruit highly qualified, diverse candidates for software engineering roles, and 2) their team and company cultures are often inhospitable or unwelcoming to women, gender expansive people, people of color, LGBTQIA+ people, and other populations underrepresented in tech. 

For ten years, we have had an incredibly strong product-market fit. However, the market is now shifting and we must adapt our product accordingly. We know from our relationships with internship partners that more and more companies are relying on AI-enabled software development tools on their engineering teams, and junior developers with that skill set will be more competitive in the market. We also have seen big tech companies moving away from talent acquisition as a strategy, and seeking out upskilling opportunities to train existing employees within their companies into higher skill roles. 

The cost of developing and delivering these products and services is funded by revenue from corporate partners seeking to host interns, and from philanthropic partners seeking to invest in STEM education, tech workforce development, economic empowerment of women and gender expansive people, and equity and inclusion in tech, and economic justice. 

Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, to other organizations, or to the government?

Organizations (B2B)

What is your plan for becoming financially sustainable?

Though Ada is nonprofit, our financial model is proven and strong, with a large portion of our income coming from contracts with companies hosting interns. Our funding model is sustainable, as contracts with tech companies cover the bulk of our operational costs as well as student stipends during internship. Since industry shoulders the majority of the cost of our programming, Ada is completely free for our students. While corporate partners help fund a large portion of our costs, philanthropic dollars help us provide the full suite of holistic supports our students need to succeed, including wraparound supports (i.e. child care, laptops, mental health supports, etc.), coaching and career services, and preparatory educational support. Philanthropic funding helps us provide these supports and continue to best serve our majority low-income, and Black, brown and Indigenous students. We work with a professional grants and consulting team to continue to grow our fundraising program and infuse philanthropic capital to sustain wraparound supports, outreach, and career support services.

Share some examples of how your plan to achieve financial sustainability has been successful so far.

Historically, Ada has primarily been funded by corporate partnerships. In 2022, we generated over $10M in revenue from corporate partners seeking to host Ada interns. We also received charitable donations and some corporate and foundation grants, but these comprised a relatively small percentage of our revenue when we were a smaller organization serving around 100 students per year. 

In 2021, Ada received two multi-year philanthropic investments from the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge (five year investment) and the Cognizant Foundation (18 month investment) totaling over $11M to support equity and innovation in our programs as we expand to serve more students. Part of this funding was used to invest more deeply in our fundraising team to build our organizational capacity to generate philanthropic revenue. In 2022, Ada raised over $1M in foundation grants and over $200,000 in individual giving. Grants received in 2022 include:

Cognizant Foundation - $250,000 

M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust - $250,000 (capital)

Truist Foundation - $75,000

Boeing - $70,000 

King County Digital Equity - $62,800

Ceres Foundation - $60,000

Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta - $50,000 

Shihara Family Foundation - $50,000

Seattle Times Community Connect Grant - $50,000 in-kind 

Marie Lamfrom Charitable Foundation - $40,000 

Medina Foundation - $25,000 

Alliant Credit Union Foundation - $25,000

Ellison Foundation - $20,000 

Lacewing Foundation - $10,000 

Byron W. and Alice L. Lockwood Foundation - $10,000 

Solution Team

  • Alexandra Holien VP of Revenue and Marketing + Deputy Director, Ada Developers Academy
  • FS FS
    Fiona Smith Chief Strategist
 
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