I ran a poll on LinkedIn, and companies want to know how to get more diverse candidates into their pipelines. Most of what I read so far has been partnering with HUBs, diversity associations, and non-profits and asking diverse employees to refer people they know.
Later, I hope to provide a summary of some of the research I’ve found. For now, I hope my experience helps.
To provide context, I was a teen mom who got my four-year degree while on welfare. It was a tricky exception to get. A bill passed removing the exception as an option from the welfare program shortly after being granted it. I am still so grateful for the opportunity. It changed my life.
I also fought hard to get it. I knew I was going to get a degree. The question in my mind was only ever how. That mindset won me supporters who wanted to see me succeed. There were obstacles, so many obstacles. I’m not going to get into the details at this point. When you determine what you want and are willing to pay the price, I’ve found that strangers will help you simply because they want to see you win. They may be few and far between, but they are there – the good people.
The majors available to the program held the requirement of a high-demand area of study – business or the hard sciences (computer science, math, engineering) were the only options. It was a completely reasonable requirement to me. After all, you don’t want someone coming out of uni with a degree in a difficult to employ area. The optics wouldn’t look good. Computer science (Compsci) was appealing due to the starting salaries, but a quick investigation of the classes told me to take the other route. In my first Compsci class, the instructor stated the average grade was 65%. Financial aid stops when you don’t pass a course. I couldn’t afford to take those chances.
Business school instructors often graded on a curve, with many classes averaging around 80-something percent – definitely passing. My money and future weren’t in jeopardy. Plus, the school was one of the top business schools in the nation. The choice was clear. Looking back, it was the right one.
Long story short, I graduated. I worked a series of jobs and found myself in tech. I wasn’t swimming in the dough at the time. I was working poor. I made just enough to pay the bills, put my daughter in extracurricular activities and start investing in those computer classes so I could make “real” money. I decided to invest in myself and start taking those Compsci classes to become comfortable in a few years.
I felt confident because I was “gifted” growing up. Learning came easily to me. That combined with my father’s experience as a programmer for the military, coding was familiar to me. My father brought home a TRS-80, which I gladly played Pong on, and Space Invaders. Yes, I’m that old.
The 65% average didn’t scare me anymore since I was self-funding my education with the job I had from the degree I received, thanks to taxpayer dollars. BTW, I’ve never been on welfare since getting the job that paid well enough to get me off of it. I’ve been paying taxes for over 20 years and putting much more in than I’ve taken out. I firmly believe that education/training can reduce the rolls because I’m living proof it can be done.
The class was nearly $700. It wasn’t cheap, but it would ultimately be worth the payoff. I was cheap out of necessity, yet I was excited about my future. I don’t think I have ever been so excited about spending several hundred dollars before – but this was different. Not to be cheesy, but it was a dream come true. I was going to become middle-class. It was just going to take some time and some extra effort.