Solution Overview

Solution Name:

Resilient Coders

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One-line solution summary:

We train and place POC from low-income communities for high growth careers as software engineers in Boston, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh.

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Pitch your solution.

Resilient Coders uses the flexibility of that model to create a program tailored to the needs of Black and Brown young adults from low-income communities. 

Traditionally, bootcamps have allowed college graduates to change careers and quickly respond to demands of the market. However, with a tuition cost of around $20,000, these programs remain financially inaccessible to our target population, even if cheaper than college. 

Through free nonprofit coding bootcamps, we can teach more than the technical skills; we can present a path towards economic resiliency. We work with populations that have been systemically marginalized, because we see in these communities an untapped talent pool with the potential to drive the industry that powers the 21st century economy. We believe in social justice through economic empowerment, and in the opportunity for meritocracy in tech. This isn’t about one-off bootcamps or hackathons. This is about creating meaningful change.

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Film your elevator pitch.

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What specific problem are you solving?

Communities of color face an uncertain economic future, creating an urgent need for equitable job opportunities that are resilient to changes in the labor market. National studies show that Black and Brown workers are overrepresented in low-paying, high-risk jobs that are most likely to be automated and are underrepresented in well-compensated, stable, and automation-resilient roles that White workers are ~50% more likely to hold. Jobs for Latinx workers face a 28% greater automation risk than those for White workers, and jobs for Black workers face an 18% higher risk, respectively. The situation becomes even more alarming when we put it against the background of the racial wealth gap that plagues the city of Boston: a 2017 Federal Reserve study reported the net worth of White Bostonians as $247,500 and of Black Bostonians as $8. Between the years 1970-2016, studies show that Philadelphia’s poverty rate grew by 10.3% as the national poverty rate remained largely unchanged. Hispanics have the highest poverty rate in Philadelphia at 37.9%, followed by Blacks at 30.8%. 

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What is your solution?

Our Bootcamp represents an alternative system to the “traditional” path through college to the middle class. As the American Dream becomes increasingly remote to the vast majority of Americans, and especially people of color, it’s morally and economically imperative that we build, support, and scale alternatives like Resilient Coders. Equity-led organizations like ours are routinely undercut by more traditional workforce organizations willing to subjugate their students to their business needs in the name of “sustainability.” They charge the student, rather than the employer; they issue  tests; they provide no support to students. We must and will do better.

We believe that by training and placing young adults of color from low-income communities in full-time, high-growth careers as software engineers, we are making these communities and their citizens more resilient to changes in the economy. After completing our 20-week program, graduates are proficient in the most in-demand technologies and nearly triple their salaries.  Because the skills needed to succeed as a software engineer often fluctuate, our curriculum is largely informed by market trends and feedback from our employer partners. This ensures that our students have the relevant skills needed to thrive and stand out. 

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

We are intentional about race. We only serve students from low-income communities. Less than a quarter of our students have college degrees, because this is consistent with the college completion rates of Black and Latinx people, and none of those degrees are in computer science.  None of our students have had prior professional experience as coders.

All of our participants identify as people of color. The majority are Black or African-American  or Hispanic or Latinx. All of our students are between the ages of 18 and 30, with about 40% in the 18-24 age range. 

Resilient Coders is not just influencing our students’ economic wellbeing, but also the wellbeing of our entire communities. Our alumni use their hard-earned salaries to provide for themselves, their families, and their communities, and not to pay us back for their training. Graduates spend much of their money in Black and Brown neighborhoods. In aggregate, in 2019 they spent $3,101,270 per year in their local communities before the bootcamp, and $7,787,977 per year afterward in Boston. We contributed a net $6M+ value add to the Massachusetts economy.

(Our Annual Report: https://bit.ly/RC_EconImpact2019. )

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

Prepare those entering, re-entering, or who are already in the workforce for the future of work with affordable and equitable digital skills, training, and employment opportunities
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Explain how the problem you are addressing, the solution you have designed, and the population you are serving align with the Challenge.

Our solution is well aligned with the Digital Workforce Challenge because we strive to transform the face of tech through innovative thinking. We have gone beyond the limits of a physical office providing an avenue to scale our vision for the future nationally. Through strategic thinking and planning, we are confident that as we continue to grow, we can change not only how and where we in the tech industry work, but also help to eliminate the systemic barriers that plague the industry.

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In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?

Cambridge, MA, USA
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Is your solution already being implemented in one or more of the following ServiceNow locations (Australia/New Zealand, Canada, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, Singapore, the United Kingdom, United States), or are you planning to expand your solution to one or more of these countries?

My solution is already being implemented in one or more of these ServiceNow locations

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What is your solution’s stage of development?

Growth: An organization with an established product, service, or business model rolled out in one or, ideally, several communities, which is poised for further growth.
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Explain why you selected this stage of development for your solution.

We have a proven track record in Boston. In spite of the pandemic and hiring freezes implemented by many of our past employer partners, the placement rate and average salary for our December 2020 cohort were 94% and $92.4k respectively.

Our 2020 success is a testament to our capacity to deliver our program remotely, which opened up a new avenue for scale. In January 2021, we launched a pilot program in Philadelphia. It was successful and drove us to refine our strategic thinking around expansion, exploring the possibility of launching our program in Pittsburgh. This fall, we ran a second cohort with students from Boston, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh.

We envision a future where a coalition of equity-led organizations like ours has re-aligned tech company culture towards economic justice. To actualize this agenda, we’re following a national scaling model to build and support high growth careers that’ll thrive despite automation.

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Who is the Team Lead for your solution?

David Delmar Sentíes

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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for the ServiceNow US Racial Equity Prize? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

Yes, I wish to apply for this prize

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Explain how you are qualified for this prize. How will your team use the ServiceNow Digital Equity Prize to advance your solution?

At Resilient Coders, we make our commitment to equity a priority.

  • We provide a high degree of support: We keep a student-instructor ratio around 12:1, to make sure everyone has the support they need to be successful throughout their learning journey. We continue that high level of support even after someone’s been hired.
  • We don’t charge our students a dime. In fact, we pay them to learn. This is the only way to be economically inclusive. 
  • We don’t look at traditional markers of success when recruiting. There’s no entrance exam. We don’t look at college completion, grades, or references. This carries into our commitment to inclusive pedagogy, which means no tests and a focus on discussion, co-learning, and project-based learning. We conceive of education as a tool for liberation and center our communities of color in all aspects of our work.
  • Our leadership is representative of our constituency. Staff is currently 100% Black or Latinx. The Board is a third White, a third Black, and a third Latinx.  
  • We’re successful because we invest time and energy into mobilizing our allies who organize for more just employment practices at their companies [https://bit.ly/RC_Equity]. We’re organizers. Skills training providers live with the cognitive dissonance that it’s not really about the skills; it’s about the systemic barriers that preclude nonwhite people from entering the workforce at a level that is commensurate with their skills. Therefore, we will be pursuing a model of expansion that goes beyond the bootcamp. 
  • It works.
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More About Your Solution

Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new business model or process that relies on technology to be successful
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What makes your solution innovative?

We currently run bootcamps in Boston, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh, reaching approximately 90 students in total this year. Our main program provides: 

  • A bi-annual, high-intensity 20-week bootcamp that prepares trainees for full-time, high-growth software engineering jobs. They learn the most in-demand technologies: HTML, CSS, Javascript, React, Node.JS, MongoDB, and PostgreSQL.

  • An inclusive pedagogy of co-learning, with project-based evaluations instead of exam-based tests.

  • High standards with low barriers. There’s no entrance exam, and we don’t consider college completion, grades, or references. We find our students during our free-to-join Hackathons and from alumni referrals.

  • A truly free program without tuition or income-sharing agreements. Students receive a stipend for living expenses, providing them an alternative pathway to high-value careers without having to take on the crushing debt of traditional college.

  • 1 year of built-in post-grad alumni support in the form of weekly check-ins with the student and the employer, as well as continued technical and professional development.

  • Students land rewarding careers with significant growth potential as skilled coders at well-renowned employers, including Audible, Wayfair, Liberty Mutual, and The Broad Institute.

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Describe the core technology that powers your solution.

N/A

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Provide evidence that this technology works. Please cite your sources.

N/A

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Does this technology introduce any risks? How are you addressing or mitigating these risks in your solution?

N/A

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Select the key characteristics of your target population.

  • Women & Girls
  • LGBTQ+
  • Poor
  • Low-Income
  • Minorities & Previously Excluded Populations
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In which countries do you currently operate?

  • United States
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In which countries will you be operating within the next year?

  • United States
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How many people does your solution currently serve? How many will it serve in one year? In five years?

We currently run bootcamps in the Greater Boston, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh areas, reaching approximately 90 students in total this year. About 50% of our students reside in the Greater Boston area, many coming from majority-minority neighborhoods or cities such as Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan, Lynn, and Chelsea. The remaining 50% reside in either the Greater Philadelphia or Pittsburgh areas. 

Over the next few years, we will continue breaking down the barriers that hinder communities of color from obtaining high growth, automation-resilient careers. We will do so by increasing the number of students we serve, with projections of 120 by 2022. We will recruit 60 students in Boston, 40 in Philadelphia, and 20 in Pittsburgh.

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

Our short-term and intermediate steps towards this vision are:

Short-term: Equitable Employment Summit

We will convene a national congress of Black-, Indigenous-, and/or Latinx-led organizations with whom we will develop a body of principles. Once we agree on what it means to employ equitably, we can push together.

Intermediate: Shifting culture

Building a coalition of equity-led organizations that shift tech culture towards more equitable employment practices. In this vision, consensus among enterprises is aligned with a body of principles that will have been drafted by a congress of Black, Indigenous, and Latinx technologists, delineating what it means to hire and advance equitably. 

Intermediate: Expansion

In service to our efforts to build this network, Resilient Coders is expanding to meet demand in other cities. Our programmatic expansion strategy is predicated on three criteria in each city: talent pressure, depth of racialized economic injustice, and the landscape of organizations active there. This is the “Unite or Disrupt” model.  We can make this happen. But it can only happen if we expand, not as a proprietary entity, but as a Movement.

Together we can thrust into the mainstream our “radical” ideas of free education and equitable pathways to prosperity. We can disrupt oppressive workforce organizations and bootcamps, or compel them to set the bar higher. 

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How are you measuring your progress toward your impact goals?

Resilient Coders is a data-driven organization that is committed to transparency and objective metrics. We determine our programs effectiveness by evaluating the following relative targets:

  • Placement rates: We measure the net number of jobs we are able to procure for students per city in which we operate. This drives our scaling. We’ve stayed consistently above an 85% placement rate since 2019, even through the pandemic. Our most recent cohort, which graduated in December 2020, enjoyed a placement rate of 94%. 

  • Wages: In 2019, we tripled the wages of our average graduate from $33,000 to $98,300. Despite the pandemic and its economic repercussions, our 2020 graduates made on average $81,700.

  • Economic impact on communities: Because our program centers people of color, our graduates spend much of their money in their communities and in Black and Brown neighborhoods. Our alumni report that, early on in their new careers, 10% of their net income goes towards reimbursing debts or loans and 14% goes to supporting relatives. Ability to adapt as an organization: We persisted through 2020. In spite of the pandemic and hiring freezes implemented by many of our past employer partners in Boston, the placement rate and average salary for our December 2020 cohort were 94% and $92.4k respectively.
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About Your Team

What type of organization is your solution team?

Nonprofit

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How many people work on your solution team?

Full-time staff: 10

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How long have you been working on your solution?

5

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

We believe that our leaders should be a reflection of the communities we serve. Our staff is 100% composed of people of color who grew up in circumstances similar to our students' (race, culture, economic and immigration background). We have a Community Fellows program, composed of alumni with authority: they vet mentors, oversee curriculum, and have the power to remove instructional staff.

Leon Noel, our Managing Director of Engineering, is an internationally recognized entrepreneur. Before joining Resilient Coders, he co-founded SocialSci, a scientific surveying company relied on by over 4000 academic institutions. He is supported by Experts-in-Residence, Vonds Auguste, Erica Mendez, Ellie Nguyen (all Resilient Coders alumnus), and Alex Soto (tech educator and grassroots organizer), who provide technical coaching. 

Stephanie Castaños, our Director of Community Engagement, was a program manager at Startup Institute. David Delmar Sentíes, Founder and Executive Director, is a prominent and visible member of the tech community who has worked with award-winning startups as well as established brands.

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What is your approach to building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive leadership team?

Centering community

We are intentional about race. We only serve people of color from low-income communities. This helps us ensure that all decisions about program, operations, or funding are made with the unadulterated goal of furthering racial justice.

Representative staff

100% of our staff is composed of people of color. We are also building internal recruiting pipelines. For example, we train our own alumni to become experts-in-residence and instructors for our program.

Re-calibration of power

As we grow our board of directors, we want to make sure that we are governed by the community that we serve. As of today 3 out of 5 of our board members are tech workers of color, including one alumna from our boot-camp.

We also recently launched our Community Fellows program, giving alumni real power over our program. Among other things, the fellows vet mentors, oversees curriculum, and evaluates program staff.

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Your Business Model & Partnerships

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

Individual consumers or stakeholders (B2C)
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Partnership & Prize Funding Opportunities

Why are you applying to the 2021 Digital Workforce Challenge?

Winning this challenge would allow us to: 

1. secure funding to invest in building capacity for our solution. That includes investing in our staff (sales, pedagogical, and fundraising), but also investing in advocacy and innovation in the workforce development space.

2. have a platform and a network to promote our radical equity approach to workforce development as we enter new markets. Notably through partnerships with workforce boards.

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In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

  • Human Capital (e.g. sourcing talent, board development, etc.)
  • Business model (e.g. product-market fit, strategy & development)
  • Public Relations (e.g. branding/marketing strategy, social and global media)
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Please provide an overview of your current activities in those locations.

Resilient Coders' bootcamp trains and places young adults of color from low-income communities for high-growth careers as software engineers and is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, serving many students from the Greater Boston area.

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Please explain in more detail here.

  • The placement fee model works for us in the Greater Boston Area, and as we continue to expand our program, we are evaluating how scalable it is to different markets. Are there other funding models we can test? For example, an employer subscription model or social impact bonds for employers.

  • We’re currently planning a four-day summit for the Spring of 2022, at which the leaders of equity-centered nonprofit coding bootcamps and Black and Brown tech workers who are alums of these organizations convene to develop a body of principles, a manifesto, delineating what is, and is not, equitable practice in the recruitment, employment, and advancement of tech employees.

  • We have a small board of 5 currently. We are always actively expanding and looking for fundraisers, job raisers, and community leaders to join our organization.

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What organizations would you like to partner with, and how would you like to partner with them?

As we expand into new markets in different cities, we would like assistance in partnering with local leaders in the communities of our program. 

We know that consulting with a network of community leaders working on similar challenges would be beneficial to the organization and the people we serve.

Creating this community of partners will allow us to eventually establish a national network of equity-centered training organizations in tech. Individually we can’t compete with oppressive economic constructs like income-sharing agreements. But in coalition we can move the conversation. We can shift the tectonic plates of culture in tech towards more equitable practices. 

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Solution Team

 
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