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How Partnerships Are Bringing Diversity & Inclusion to Tech
Year Up expands economic opportunity by partnering with tech companies
If you read the diversity reports published annually by many large tech companies, the reality is very clear. “We know we have work to do to increase underrepresented talent in our workforce.” (Google) “We will continue to strive for better representation across our company” (Pinterest). “Clearly there is more work to be done (Salesforce).” America’s largest tech companies are struggling to build teams that reflect the race and gender make-up of the United States. Why is it difficult to hire and retain a diverse workforce in America, even for high-growth, cash-rich companies?
Answering that question is critical if we want America to be a melting pot with equal opportunity for all. While this post will not aim to answer that question it does feature an innovative non-profit on the frontlines of this issue - building partnerships with tech companies to help them diversify their talent. Emily Schaffer leads Year Up’s partnerships with tech companies like Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, and many others.
What is the purpose of highlighting Year Up here, in a newsletter about building better technology partnerships? I have two objectives in featuring Year Up:
building mastery in a craft like partnerships benefits from examining the craft from different perspectives, including how those outside the technology industry approach partnerships.
every single hiring manager plays a role in making their company stronger. And every single American plays a role in contributing to the strength of this country. Data shows that diverse teams deliver better results. And history shows that economic inequality threatens democracy. Therefore, US hiring managers in the tech industry play a key role in building diverse teams in tech AND undoing economic inequality in the United States. Many TfT readers hold this dual responsibility - and opportunity.
My conversation with Emily opened my eyes and I hope you benefit also from her perspective. As you’ll see, she ends with an important reminder: “We all can do something -- what can you do?”
The best and most challenging aspects of partnering with tech companies
What every hiring managing should understand about hiring diverse talent
How Year Up measures success in its partnerships with tech companies
Key quote: "In the last year, I have fielded more calls from CEOs, Corporate Board Members, and Investors than ever before. All recognized their power and opportunity to create change, though most have been daunted by the transformative change that true inclusion and integration would require in the workplace."
Year Up and its partnerships
What is Year Up and how does Year Up partner with technology companies?
Year Up is a non-profit organization built to connect talent in our communities with the hiring needs of companies. We recruit young adults who are motivated, eager to grow and have big goals for their lives, but don’t have access to professional careers or college, usually because they work many hours at low wages to support themselves and their families. We train students for roles in Information Technology, Quality Assurance, Data Analytics, Project Management, Software Development, etc., and companies bring them on for internships to apply their skills in real-time, shoulder to shoulder with a team. After the internship, 85% of students launch careers aligned with their Year Up experience (about half of these folks stay on with their internship company) and make more than 50% more than they would have before Year Up.
Technology companies are great partners for our work because there are many roles that rely on a strong technical skill set, but not necessarily a college degree -- a huge financial barrier for much of the US population and the overwhelming majority of people of color. We believe that talent is distributed equally but opportunity is not, and we are passionate about creating career paths for underrepresented diverse talent too often left out of family-sustaining careers.
What’s your current role?
As Managing Director of Technology, I work with executive leaders at large technology companies to develop talent partnerships for Year Up. As more companies are recognizing the pitfalls and challenges of limiting early-career talent to those with college degrees, they are exploring new ways to build diverse pipelines of talent. Often this means working with programs like Year Up, who can help source and train people ready to take on jobs they are hiring for.
What is the profile of a Year Up partner in the technology sector? What are some examples of tech companies you work with?
We work with large companies across the technology sector, and our biggest technology partners are Facebook, Salesforce, Amazon, LinkedIn, Workday, and Microsoft. We also partner with smaller technology companies like PayPal, eBay, NCR, DocuSign, and many more, along with the technology organizations in financial services and healthcare companies, like Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and Kaiser Permanente. Most workforce organizations like Year Up operate with state- or county-level funding. We are a national organization that can provide talent with consistent training across the country, which is rare in this field.
When you partner with a company like Google or LinkedIn who is your stakeholder for a partnership? How do you typically reach that person?
Our first stakeholder is usually an executive leader, often CEO or CIO, who sees the potential for Year Up to contribute to their talent pool. Those relationships are typically the result of an introduction from another executive that we already work with. I find that executive leaders are often thinking about the culture they’re building in their organization and the legacy they will leave as a result of their leadership. Thus they’re often very eager to create career pathways for young people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to work at a top company.
The social benefit to working with Year Up is a big reason people want to learn more, we see our mission as connecting our talent to market demand. This means that we must be meeting a business need and adding value to a company. After an executive leader sponsors the first round of partnership with Year Up, we typically work with the line of business leader after that, as they know best what they’re looking for on their team.
Can you talk about an example of a Year Up partnership with a technology company that has been particularly successful? How did it start? How did the partnership grow? What were the ingredients within the company that you think have led it to be a strong partnership?
It’s hard to pick just one! Salesforce was a founding Year Up partner when we launched our San Francisco site back in 2008. We now know Salesforce as a company that values contribution to society, but at the time, Salesforce was less than 10 years old and had around 2500 employees. Their CIO at the time, Kirsten Wolberg, signed up for 5 interns before we had data on the skill level interns would enter with and the value they would bring to a team. Kirsten had one of her team members, Ebony Beckwith, lead the Year Up program, and under Ebony’s leadership, the program has expanded beyond our wildest dreams in those early days. Salesforce has taken interns from every class since 2008, and now hosts about 170 interns per year, in San Francisco and across the country. The partnership grew because managers at Salesforce thought broadly about how Year Up interns could build their business, and from internships, Year Up graduates have taken on full time roles on the Salesforce team. Year Up graduates work in all aspects of Salesforce’s business now -- from Account Executives to Finance and Quality Assurance.
The path from being a valuable program to a strategic pipeline of talent is all about systems and business alignment. When we first started working with Salesforce, Year Up interns didn’t meet the requirements for hire in some roles, even when they had been performing in the role as an intern, because they didn’t have a college degree. We built pathways with Salesforce to address this gap in partnership. Salesforce now holds a quarterly meeting among their leaders to discuss aligning Year Up intern skill sets and locations with the hiring needs of the company and addressing hurdles to success for interns.
What is one principle you use when building partnerships? Could you give a specific example of a time when this partnership principle helped you achieve your objectives?
At Year Up we found partnerships on the basis of providing clear business value to the companies we partner with. An example of this principle in action is our partnership with Facebook. The Enterprise Engineering team was looking for talent that was eager to take on a range of tasks, from the more mundane like resetting conference rooms to providing Audio/Visual support during major events with speakers. These weren’t tasks that required a college degree, and the leaders valued that Year Up interns and graduates were eager to take on whatever work was assigned. As Facebook built out the Data Analytics team that helped power Facebook Ads, they looked to Year Up to develop an entry-level Data Analytics track based in Tableau and Python. And when we couldn’t provide enough interns to meet their talent needs, they launched a partnership that brought a Year Up site to the Facebook campus, recruiting students from the neighborhoods surrounding Facebook’s headquarters. The expansion of our partnership has been driven by focusing on the ways in which our mission meets their growing business demands.
Year Up serves its mission through the market, so if we aren’t truly meeting a market demand for talent, we aren’t able to provide transformative career opportunities to the young adults we serve.
Can you share a success story of a Year Up graduate working with one of your tech company partners?
There are a ton of incredible Year Up graduates recognized for both great work and lifting while they climb, like Jay Hammonds and Brandon Lovell. Year Up recently released results from a RCT (random control trial) study that Year Up graduates earn 34% more than the control group 4 years after graduating Year Up. The Year Up program is remarkably effective, and not just for stand-out individuals. Year Up’s effectiveness is a testament to how many young people in our community are talented but don’t have access to family-sustaining careers.
Sandy Khamiseng came to Year Up after one of her co-workers at In-N-Out Burger in Mountain View, CA, told her about the program. In-N-Out could almost cover bills for her and her son, but she aspired to a career beyond food service. Sandy learned Information Technology skills at Year Up and did an internship at Facebook. She accepted a job offer and stayed at Facebook for 4 years while she finished her Associate and Bachelor degrees. Sandy then took a role at Seagate in Cybersecurity, where she has been advancing steadily for 4 years, and is about to finish her MBA from Santa Clara University. Clearly Sandy had far more talent to offer than was recognized in her job at In-N-Out, yet what might her path have been without a Year Up experience to get her on to the first rung of the corporate ladder?
It sounds like Year Up partners with some of the largest and most successful companies in tech, like Microsoft and Salesforce. These are companies that many new grads from top universities and recent grads with relevant job experience are trying to get an offer from. What is your pitch for partnering with Year Up?
Many of our biggest partners are companies that have no shortage of applicants from top-tier universities. The benefit to working with Year Up for early-career talent is accessing a diverse talent pipeline trained for specific roles. In addition to technical training, Year Up interns are known for strong skills in business communications, giving and receiving feedback, and meeting corporate norms like demonstrating initiative and reliability. Year Up students and interns often hold additional responsibilities like caring for their own kids, financially supporting family members, and working an additional job to make ends meet. These experiences build resilience, drive and a sense of responsibility that translates into strong performance on the job. Business leaders don’t come to Year Up because they can’t find other talent, rather they prefer a Year Up intern or graduate for the unique assets they bring to their team, like drive, adaptability and persistence.
I imagine some companies are not willing to partner with Year Up. Can you share some reasons why a company passes on the opportunity to bring Year Up participants in?
A primary reason that companies don’t partner with Year Up is because early-career work is outsourced to contracting agencies. This yields operational efficiencies, but it makes the first rung on the corporate ladder that much higher and favors those with an existing corporate network and expensive degrees. It’s also more difficult for a company to develop a diverse pipeline of talent to advance into higher level positions. Early-career talent working as contractors don’t get access to the same professional development opportunities that someone on their team working directly for the company would get access to, so it’s even more difficult for them to build skills that could help them land a job on the inside.
The tech companies you partner with are typically used to clear metrics for measuring a partnership - revenue, new users, page views, etc. Given that Year Up’s focus is on talent, how do you demonstrate the value of partnering with Year Up? How do you convince companies to continue to invest in and expand their partnership with Year Up?
Year Up is a non-profit organization that advances our mission through the market. Young adults come to us eager to launch careers, and we only succeed when we meet the needs of companies looking to hire. We utilize metrics that let us know both how well we are serving young people and enabling them to launch careers, and also how well we are meeting the talent needs of our partners. We expect for at least 85% of our graduates to land a job or enroll in school full time within 4 months of graduation, and at least 70% of those jobs are directly related to their technical training track and internship. We also gather manager feedback on the skills and performance of their intern. We use this data to inform a “performance review” with interns and to gather aggregate data on how well we are training to meet the needs of hiring managers. The most significant metrics we use to measure how well we are meeting the talent priorities of our partners is in the percentage of interns converted into full time positions, and the placement rate of graduates into roles aligned with their training and internship.
Year Up’s model relies upon corporate partners financially supporting internships, so if we aren’t meeting the needs of our partners, the revenue impact will drive improvement quickly. We achieve our mission when young people have the skills and experience to launch careers, and our business model drives alignment toward that goal.
How Tech Companies are Different
You’ve been helping Year Up grow for over a decade and during that time you’ve worked with a wide range of companies in different industries. What do you find different about partnering with technology companies? What makes tech companies easier to partner with? What makes them more challenging to partner with?
It’s been a true joy to work with so many leaders in technology to build robust partnerships. People drawn to technology often think creatively and are in the business of building the future. In tech, much of the value chain is connected to intellectual property built by humans (rather than, for example, large machines that create widgets) so people really matter in the world of technology. A tech salary can be truly life-changing for someone who hasn’t had access to generational wealth.
The greatest challenge in partnering with tech companies is the lack of diverse representation across gender, racial and ethnic lines. Many companies have the intention of building a more representative and inclusive workforce, but don’t see the ways their own policies and culture may contribute to the problem. Year Up has developed an advisory services business called Grads of Life, built to help companies recruit, retain and advance a more diverse pipeline of talent. If Year Up is all about creating access to a diverse talent pool, Grads of Life is all about preparing companies to be ready to benefit from that talent.
What Hiring Managers Should Understand
What do you wish every tech company hiring manager understood about the pool of talent that you’re seeking to create opportunity for?
Some hiring managers feel that they’re getting “less qualified” talent when hiring people who don’t yet have a college degree, even when the role they’re hiring for doesn’t align to or rely on college-related skills. The college degree has served as a proxy for job skills for decades, though research tells us it’s a better proxy for economic status. Degree inflation shuts out more than 78% of Black/African American people and 84% of Latinos in the US. Year Up partnered with Harvard Business School to study the impact of degree inflation on the labor market and companies and you can read all about it in “Dismissed by Degrees.” On the contrary, if a hiring manager can hire for the skills they need, they will be more likely to hire from a diverse talent pool that brings perspectives valuable to decision-making and business performance. When we hire early-career talent, we are building our next generation of technical and business leaders. Those leaders will need skills beyond what can be recognized by a transcript, and hiring managers need tools to assess and hire beyond a college degree proxy. .
Addressing the Opportunity Divide
You mentioned earlier that “talent is distributed equally but opportunity is not,” which really resonates for me. During the 10 years you’ve been at Year Up there’s been some big changes in our country. On one hand, we’ve had Black Lives Matter, MeToo and last summer, massive protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castille, Alton Sterling, Eric Garner and many, many more. At the same time, there’s been a growing backlash against the growing economic power of large tech companies. How have you seen these changes impact Year Up’s pursuit of its mission to close the Opportunity Divide and help participants reach their full potential?
In my 10 years at Year Up, and in the almost 20 years I’ve worked to address educational and economic inequity, I’m probably more surprised by how little has changed in our country in that time. I grew up learning about the Civil Rights Movement as if it resulted in the end of segregation. But data tells us that our schools, neighborhoods and workplaces are just as segregated as they were before Civil Rights. The murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests of last summer made visible the lived reality for Black Americans, but the conditions that most Black Americans live with remain largely unchanged.
Many corporate leaders now recognize that the path to equitable economic opportunity requires corporations to hire in a more equitable manner. In the last year, I have fielded more calls from CEOs, Corporate Board Members, and Investors than ever before. All recognized their power and opportunity to create change, though most have been daunted by the transformative change that true inclusion and integration would require in the workplace. I’m invigorated by the efforts of organizations like OneTen that are developing a community of CEOs and HR teams to support this transformation.
If we want to live in a world where every child can achieve their aspirations and every person deserves dignity, regardless of the bank balance of their parents or the zipcode they grew up in, we must create that reality at every level of our society -- every school, every neighborhood, every workplace. We’ve got a long way to go but I know it’s possible. We all can do something toward this effort -- what can you do?
How to partner with Year Up
If a This for That reader is interested in partnering with Year Up, what kind of commitment is required from their company? And what kind of things typically need to be cleared within a company to move forward with Year Up?
I am eager to talk with anyone who is eager to bring Year Up to their organization, and we have options to meet different priorities.
If you’re interested in hosting interns and have hiring demand in Information Technology, Financial Operations, Sales and Customer Support or Software Development, we’d love to help. Companies sponsor interns for a fee of $27,500 for an intern to work 30-36 hours per week for 6 months. This includes their up-front training, an educational stipend and ongoing professional development.
If you’re interested in hiring a graduate or someone with more career experience, our staffing firm YUPRO can help. They operate similarly to how a staffing company might place directly or via contract, but they structure their contracts to support the best interest of the talented young adult, with coaching to support strong performance, full benefits, etc.
And if your company wants to learn more about how policies and practices might be unintentionally limiting the talent pool, our Grads of Life team can consult on how to achieve powerful results. For a taste of their work, you can check out the Opportunity Navigator, a tool designed to help companies diagnose their areas of opportunity and challenge in hiring, retaining and advancing equitably.
As a non-profit, we also rely on donations to provide vital support services to the young adults we serve. If you’re interested in investing in the largest income gains created by a workforce program, you can make a tax-deductible donation.
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