A common refrain in tech companies today is: “I’d love to hire her, but she’s just not at the level we need.” This sometimes reflects a double standard, but not always. The reality is that while more women are taking up programming, many are often self-taught or graduates of code school bootcamps. They’re entering the workforce with drive and talent, but without the technical and professional support that’s much needed by employees who are not only new to the industry, but actively marginalized within it.

Frustration with this problem -- and its ubiquity -- is what inspired us to create Bridge: a free, 11-week code school that focuses on building intermediate-level development skills and raising the confidence levels of its talented and hardworking students. Bridge’s overarching goal is to address the tech industry’s “pipeline problem” head-on. We do so by leveraging the incredible number of senior developers willing to teach and craft technical content, as well as the ever-increasing number of women entering the field as junior developers from non-traditional paths.

We’re starting with a targeted approach: we take a small classroom of 10-12 promising students who already have some experience as developers, but who need that helping hand to level up in their current position. Bridge fast-tracks them to the career they deserve, or simply gives them the confidence they need to go after the position they really want. Over the course of 11 weeks, we teach them functional programming principles, React, Gitflow, Agile software development, advanced API integrations, and more.

In addition to technical skills, we boost confidence by helping them with everything else they need to succeed in the industry. We address the fear of public speaking through lightning talks, improve teamwork through projects, and facilitate sitdowns with industry recruiters and talent managers to teach women how to ask for a raise or negotiate a fair starting salary.

The results have been, literally, life-changing. We recently asked our current and former students for feedback on how Bridge has changed their professional lives. With 100% of respondents reporting that they were likely or very likely to recommend the course in the future, we weren’t surprised to see that our hard-working former students put Bridge’s course content to good use. Several of the students mentioned using what they learned at Bridge to get better jobs, or level up at their current position. One student remarked:

“[Bridge] helped me to write my code in a...cleaner and more efficient way and inspired me to deepen my knowledge in functional programming, as well as to practice more to solve problems and algorithms. All of that helped me to be more confident at the technical interview and get a better job.”

And another:

“Bridge has made a huge contribution to my still early stage professional career so far. It introduced me to a new technology like Redux and made me aware of the functional programming paradigm which I ended up being asked to learn in my current job.”

This early success has spurred interest in growing the program to reach more women in the technology industry. Our vision is to create a network of technology companies that use the program’s open source content and iteratively crafted methodologies to actively remove barriers from marginalized groups. We believe this will let companies affect change not only in the industry as a whole, but also within their own organizations.

We’re currently in the process of modelling how we’ll bring the success of Bridge to these organizations - if you’re interested in finding out more, you can contact myself, the Course Director. In the meantime, our second cohort is busy with project work, and we can’t wait to see how they surprise and inspire us next.