Generally, when people think about who occupies the tech offices in Silicon Valley, they imagine a vast array of engineers, developers and coders. Thus, unless you’re in the upper echelon of talent in those fields, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to break into the industry.
Rahim Fazal and Joel Scott know all too well about that perception and that’s why they’re trying to change it one graduate at a time. The duo co-founded SV Academy, which is based in San Francisco, in 2017 with the vision of shaking up the tech industry by identifying applicants who otherwise wouldn’t be considered for tech jobs, then training them for careers in sales and business development and then partnering with tech companies to get them in the door as fellows.
Fazal and Scott are both tech entrepreneurs who built and scaled software companies that were acquired by Oracle and HP Enterprise, respectively, without any coding experience. Fazal, who grew up in government housing and was fired from his first job at McDonalds, said his path into the tech world was very fortunate, so he was looking for a way to use his experience and network to help others.
“On a deeply personal level that’s what it was,” Fazal said. “We just felt like we wanted to do something that could really help create more economic opportunities for those people that would be overlooked.”
Given their own lack of coding experience, Fazal and Scott identified business acumen as a critical component of their success in tech, which was the impetus for starting a program that hones those business skills, rather than the computer science skills often associated with the tech industry. And by doing this, Fazal said they can attract and provide opportunity to a more diverse group of people, which is the overarching goal of the academy.
“If you don’t go to the right school or know the right people or have the right working experience, it’s very hard to break into this industry,” Fazal said. “We felt if we could create an opportunity by combining job-specific training with employer connectivity, we could help a tremendous number of employers accelerate their growth efforts and at the same time we could help 10x more job seekers get access to high-potential, high-paying career opportunities. And by doing that, create a real systems change in the country.”
So, how does SV Academy work? It is 12 weeks of tuition-free coursework paid for by the tech companies that would benefit from the skilled workforce SV Academy is producing. After those 12 weeks of business development training that teaches human-centered skills, students are then placed into a full-time sales job with benefits and career advancement opportunities at one of SV Academy’s 150 employer partners. During the first year on the job students are paired with a coach, mentor and executives from top tech firms who help students develop job-specific skills.
SV Academy, which recently announced a $9.5M Series A, said it has generated more than $20 million in full-time starting offers for its students, 40% of whom are black or Latino and 60% who are women. These are the kinds of statistics that bode well for SV Academy’s future, as diversity and inclusion initiatives are gaining more traction at organizations across the United States.
As a repeat tech CEO, Fazal said he empathizes with employers that are looking to become more diverse in the way they hire but are struggling to do so. This is why he’s hoping his academy can continue to be a facilitator of progress in this regard.
“What we’re trying to do in closing the gap is provide a pathway,” Fazal said. “An entry-level solution for organizations that do care about D&I and allow them to, in a low-risk way with a few hires or more, actually demonstrate to the rest of the organization that these types of initiatives are not just nice to read about, but they actually create high performance.”
Ultimately, Fazal and Scott’s goal for SV Academy is to support one million diverse and under-the-radar job seekers transition into these high-potential sales and business development roles across the country. In doing so, they hope it will make the tech world more diverse and inclusive, while also changing the way employers go about identifying their talent.
“We sit at the intersection of the future of education and the future of work, which is an interesting vantage point for us,” Fazal said. “When we look ahead, we think in a world where there’s increased automation, there will be a disproportionate value from the market placed on human-centered career paths and skill sets. So, we think about how we can support providing that talent to the market in a way that’s broader than just sales and broader than just traditional enterprise software companies, which is where we started.”
DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION ROUNDUP
Harnessing the Power of D&I Within Your Organization
Michael Papay writes about his experience with diversity and inclusion initiatives and how organizations should harness the power of the people within their organization to begin them in this piece for Forbes. Papay explains how the common approach of bringing in outside consultants and sources to implement a D&I program doesn’t always leave a residual impact.
Indispensable Part of Doing Business
Diversity and inclusion has become an indispensable part of doing business, writes Lerisha Naidu in this piece for Lexology. Naidu, a lawyer at Baker McKenzie in South Africa, draws on personal experience to explain the benefit of promoting a diverse and inclusive workplace, particularly at her firm, as it relates to providing legal services.
A Sense of Belonging
A formalized religious diversity program helps organizations provide an unthreatening, inclusive environment conducive to high productivity, writes Jim Fickess in this Workspan magazine feature story. Fickess’ piece explains how religion is often overlooked in D&I efforts and like other diversity efforts, it needs buy-in from senior leadership.
Making D&I Fashionable
Gucci has appointed Renee Tirado as the new leader of the diversity, equity and inclusion division, reports Nerisha Penrose of Elle. Penrose writes Tirado is tasked with creating, developing and implementing a global strategy to not only help make Gucci’s workplace more inclusive, but the brand’s business initiatives as well.
Diversity Key to Innovation
Companies that have a diverse workforce foster creativity, writes James Tyler of Business Chief. Tyler explains the overall value of diversity, how a melting pot of ideas that different backgrounds bring helps make a company unique.
About the Author
Brett Christie is a staff writer at WorldatWork.