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Introducing Careers in Tech: Ada's one-week courses

Geoff Stevenson

2021 is, hopefully, an Olympic year. We’ll get to be reminded of those less familiar sports like Fencing or Air Pistol. They look interesting - perhaps even fun - but most of us have no idea how we might have ended up playing a sport like that, never mind whether we would have been any good at it. 

For too many people, jobs in tech can feel like fencing at the Olympics - even when they get a glimpse of it, they have no idea how they would end up in a job like that, never mind if they would be any good at it! The difference is, jobs in the tech sector are booming. 

This is a lose-lose situation. Employers miss out on talent and diversity, and those not fortunate enough to have the resources, networks and role models miss out on opportunities. 

Ada is committed to tackling this, and our 1-week course introducing careers in tech is designed for just that. We caught up with Geoff, the Regional Manager of Ada’s Manchester campus, to discuss the thinking behind the course structure and how it can be part of the solution.


Who are the short courses aimed at?

Our target audience is someone trying to get a glimpse of tech careers, but very much peering in from the outside. There are lots of unknowns around the careers themselves, and even more obscure is the path they could take to get to one of them. 

We aim to clear away some of that fog, and help the young people on the course map out a route forward. This is about levelling the playing field. It means we get into the detail on different kinds of roles in tech and connect participants with industry professionals at different points throughout the week.

We also do a lot of myth busting here. There are a lot of assumptions and stereotypes around careers in tech that only get in the way and the course is designed to tackle that head on.

What is unique about Ada’s short-courses?

We took the decision early on to design something multifaceted. Given the barriers that are there, it’s not enough just to talk about different career options, or just to learn a new skill. Rather, we’re striving to create a set of conditions that can allow someone to make meaningful progress towards a career. Securing a job and moving forward in a career isn’t like climbing a ladder, where all you need is the next rung; it’s more like a building project - with many interrelated tools, skills and materials. 

Our course therefore needs to be holistic. We address the types of careers there are available, some of the skills needed and allow participants to build the skills and understanding for themselves with a hands on practical approach. 

What sort of skills do you focus on?

Knowing where to go next and how to move forward towards  a career is also about building confidence and self awareness. We need to have an idea about what we’re good at, what motivates us and energises us and what we value. And we need to to start building an image of ourselves as someone who fits in here. 

That’s why we run sessions on personal values and growth mindset. It also bridges nicely to the collaboration and teamwork strand. We dive into agile methodology, but more importantly get hands on with a mini product design and development project, working in small teams. These projects are then pitched to industry professionals. It’s amazing what our participants can achieve in such a short window, and I think sometimes they surprise themselves!

What tech skills can people expect to learn?

Our technical strand running throughout the week uses the fantastic p5.js library and editor for JavaScript.  For many of our participants this is their first introduction to coding and it provides a great visual and creative entry point. 

collage of brightly coloured simple portraits made with p5.js coding
Images created using p5.js code by some of our participants

Of course, careers in tech are hugely broad and only some of those require an ability to write code, but we love how even a short instruction like this can take away some of the mystery surrounding coding for those on the outside. Teaching the basics of coding helps in understanding how modern products like websites and apps are made. For some, this provides that Aha! moment which can lead to them becoming our programmers of the future.  For others, it births a familiarity with some of the language and concepts which ensures they feel less of an outsider as they explore other roles and opportunities. 

We’ll be running more courses throughout the spring and summer so watch this space! Need more convincing? Just hear some of the amazing feedback we’ve had from our most recent short courses:

I wish I'd done this course a few months ago when I was doing apprenticeship applications. This has helped me to understand those agile modes of working, hear how it is practised in a professional setting and realise that I have done agile projects without knowing it. It's given me the ability to relate my experiences to what the tech industry may be looking for, and see which roles I may be suited for and what I really enjoy doing.

Having professionals as well as our peers giving us feedback on our work was something I didn't expect going into this week and the response was very much appreciated. Amazing opportunity and experience, grateful to have this to reflect on going forward.