Techtonica- Bridging the Tech and Opportunity Gap
Empower local women and non-binary adults with low incomes through free tech training and job placement.
Pitch us on your solution
Techtonica aims to solve the growing income inequality in the Bay Area for working-class people and their families. Low-income women and non-binary adults, especially Black, Indigenous, and People of Color are heavily underrepresented in tech and are at most risk of displacement due to the tech industry. Learning tech skills can lead to lucrative and stable incomes but many people either lack access or simply cannot afford the training. Techtonica’s solution is to partner with tech companies who are ready to build diverse and inclusive engineering teams. We secure corporate partnerships in the form of a pre-recruitment fee to provide free tech training, living/childcare stipends, laptops, and job placements. Through our program, people gain the tech skills needed to break into the tech industry and are on the path to financial stability through a career as a software engineer.
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What is the problem you are solving?
According to the Kapor Center, anywhere there is a large tech presence, there is significant income disparity. This diversity gap impacts underrepresented people's quality of life. Top tech market cities like San Francisco have large and rising income disparities--in 2013, the Gini Coefficient placed 94102 (the Western Addition and Tenderloin areas of San Francisco) at .6121 (compared to .469 nationwide and .508 in Rwanda). 54.9% of families in 94102 earn less than $35,000 per year, which is less than the average amount spent on a 1-bedroom apartment for a year city-wide ($42,000). Through Techtonica, we aim to solve the tech gap by providing the necessary skills to obtain stable high-paying careers for local people while eliminating the financial barriers that low-income women and non-binary adults face.
Who are you serving?
Because our apprenticeship program is explicitly for local women and non-binary adults with low incomes, we work closely with local community organizations serving the same communities. With our partners' help organizing and advertising, we offer free public coding workshops that acquaint people with the definition, career pathways, most important skills, and earning power of tech. Techtonica conducts outreach by inviting nonprofit communities, distributing flyers in lower-income areas, and publishing targeted ads. Once accepted into our program, our participants fill out weekly surveys to provide staff with feedback about topics, program management, mentoring, volunteers, and more. We are always striving for continuous improvements in order to serve our key demographics in the best way possible.
What is your solution?
Select only the most relevant.
Where our solution team is headquartered or located:San Francisco, CA, USA
Our solution's stage of development:
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
Techtonica's solution is innovative because unlike other tech training programs, we are completely free for our participants. We provide our participants with training, living/childcare stipends, laptops, and job placements. This helps to eliminate the key barriers that low-income people face when it comes to obtaining additional education. Our programs are also significantly longer than other tech training programs (6 months versus 3 months) and our hiring partners are able to add to our open-source curriculum.
Why do you expect your solution to address the problem?
The current problem is that there is a lack of diversity in technical roles and income disparity/displacement of the local community caused by the tech industry. Our key audiences are women and non-binary adults with a focus on people of color. The entry point to our service are our free coding workshops in partnership with other local nonprofits. Our steps to change are 1. Building a community of volunteers, donors, and participants. 2. Develop and continue to improve our open-source curriculum. 3. Secure partnerships with corporate hiring sponsors. 4. Provide full-time training and placements. 5. Expand cohort sizes, the number of cohorts, and locations. We will measure our impact by tracking the number of graduations and placements, survey results from our hiring partners, long-term tracking of graduates and diversity numbers of hiring partners. Through our work, our goal is to help create more stable local communities, increase diversity in tech to mirror the diversity that is represented in the Bay Area, and lower the income disparity and displacement. Our long-term goal is to expand to top tech cities.
Select the key characteristics of the population your solution serves.
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
How many people are you currently serving with your solution? How many will you be serving in one year? How about in five years?
Currently, we run two cohorts per year. Depending on the the application pool, we accept anywhere from 13-20 women and non-binary adults per cohort. At the max we serve 40 people a year and at a minimum we serve 26 people per year. At this point 34 women and non-binary adults have graduated from our programs. 100% were placed into software engineering roles, 88% are still at their initial placement, and all are still in tech. We recently accepted 13 new participants into our first cohort of 2020 and will accept 20 people for our second cohort of 2020. In five years, we aim to expand our offerings to other major cities which means our biannual programs can exist simultaneously.
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
Our main goals for the next five years is to grow our staff, maintain long lasting hiring partners and to expand our offerings to other cities so we can further our impact. One of our main goal is to expand to San Jose where there is a large tech industry as well as a large income disparity. We currently offer our programs to San Jose residents but find that the distance to our San Francisco office is a slight barrier. Our goal is to replicate what we have created in San Francisco to better serve the local community in the South Bay. In addition to expanding to San Jose, our goal is to expand to other growing tech cities such as Austin, Seattle, and Denver.
What are the barriers that currently exist for you to accomplish your goals for the next year and for the next five years?
The primary challenge Techtonica faces is securing enough sponsors/hiring partners for each new cohort every six months. While we have a more sustainable business plan than most nonprofits, we are still relatively new and have found it usually requires a year or more to build relationships with companies and get them on board as sponsors and hiring partners. Biases against junior software engineer and low-income people of color make potential sponsors worry about Techtonica participants’ intelligence, initiative, and preparedness.
Also, as a nonprofit, we struggle to compete with the high salaries in the tech industry and at for-profit coding programs. It takes a lot to be able to convince people to work for Techtonica at a lower salary instead.
How are you planning to overcome these barriers?
We address their concerns by working with them to set standards for criteria and curriculum. To increase the amount of outreach we do, we’ve recently hired a Partnerships Manager, and each member of our advisory board has agreed to commit at least one advocate-level sponsor annually. This expanded, more personal outreach will move people past biases and trust concerns to more clearly see the benefits of sponsoring. To personalize the cause, we’ve also incorporated interaction between potential sponsors and program participants. Finally, with the help of supporters in marketing, recruiting, and communications, we’re strengthening our pitch. With more sponsors we could pay higher salaries and reduce expensive turnover that risks delaying the entire program.
If you selected “My solution is already being implemented in one or more of ServiceNow’s primary markets,” please provide an overview of your current activities in those markets.
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If you selected Other for the organization question, please explain here.
How many people work on your solution team?
We have 4 full-time staff and two part-time staff.
For how many years have you been working on your solution?
Why are you and your team best-placed to deliver this solution?
A majority of our staff relate to our key demographics, and majority are class straddlers. Our staff are all community builders and all come from a background of working directly with the community. On the technical side, our engineering manager has over 10 years of experience with engineering.
With what organizations are you currently partnering, if any? How are you working with them?
Techtonica partners with the St Anthony's Foundation, Bayview YMCA, and other community organizations to offer free coding workshops. Additionally, we have hiring partners that help sustain our model of providing free tech training, living stipends, laptops, and job placements with companies such as Indeed, Rally Health, AppDynamics, Blend, SurveyMonkey, Pure Storage, Pantheon, Grove Collaborative, and etc.
What is your business model?
Techtonica provides local women and non-binary adults with free tech training, living/childcare stipends, laptops and job placements. We are able to offer this to our populations through partnership with tech companies that are interested in building diverse and inclusive engineering teams. Companies pay a pre-recruitment fee that help support our programs.
What is your path to financial sustainability?
With a full-time Partnerships Development Manager on staff, they will seek new partnerships and continue to foster the relationship with our current partners that help sustain us financially. Additionally, we often apply for grants and host events for fundraising.
Why are you applying to the Digital Workforce Challenge?
The primary barrier Techtonica faces is securing enough sponsors/hiring partners for each cohort every six months. ServiceNow would help us overcome this by helping us with outreach and sharing about our solution. If Techtonica were a winner, we could use the funds to further our outreach and marketing strategies. Additionally, we would be able to expand out network and get new companies on board with our solution.
What types of connections and partnerships would be most catalytic for your solution?
If you selected Other, please explain here.
Companies such as Intuit, Apple, Google, and large tech companies would be helpful to partner with on building diverse talent. However, any tech company that is looking to build local diverse talent would be a great and fruitful partnership.
With what organizations would you like to partner, and how would you like to partner with them?
Techtonica would like to partner with ServiceNow and other tech companies that are interested in helping our their local community while also filling talent need. We would like to build long-term partnerships with tech companies to be their go-to for building out local diverse talent for engineering pipelines.