Sparta Global & Code First:Girls: our D&I drive16/12/2019
Over the last eight weeks, Sparta Global has hosted weekly Monday night coding workshops for Code First:Girls at our London Head Office. Our trainers led the workshops and a number of our Academy trainees even volunteered their time to help coach attendees, but Kanisha Ncube, Programmes Associate at Code First: Girls, has been equally instrumental in helping us make the workshops a success.
As the course comes to a close, Kanisha and Sparta Global’s Operations & People Director, Purnima Sen, sat down to discuss their motivations for driving the representation of women in tech and what the partnership between Sparta Global and Code First:Girls (CF:G) is doing to help.
Can you tell us a little more about your roles and experience?
Kanisha: As a Programme Associate at CF:G, my role includes managing corporate and community relationships with partners to organise free London community courses. These partners include Google for startups, Twitter, Sparta Global and KPMG.
I also support our curriculum development, managing CF:G social media channels and helping to organise skill and personal development events (such as Hack your Career, Ones to Watch, the annual CF:G conference).
Purnima: As Operations & People Director at Sparta Global, my role necessitates overlooking all aspects of the operational side of Sparta Global – including running the training academy, compliance, legal, quality and office. I also overlook HR and all aspects of our people strategy. However, my favorite role remains working with the team that manages our D&I function within Sparta Global because this is where my real passion lies.
How are CF:G and Sparta Global investing in Diversity and Inclusion initiatives?
Kanisha: Alongside running over 110 free community coding courses across the UK, CF:G are invested in ensuring employment opportunities are available for our community. For this reason we run programmes such as the BTFutHER programme, alongside free workshops, masterclasses and mentoring schemes to ensure that we educate and create a diverse pipeline for our partners.
Purnima: Diversity has always been in our DNA, but this year we invested in the function by employing a full time D&I lead and establishing a dedicated department. We have always had a good relationship with CF:G but with the opening of our new Head Office we were able to offer the organisation even more support. We are now running CF:G courses in our offices and providing the trainers and space to make this a success. In addition to CF:G, we also work with Code Bar, YBBA, Colour in Code and other partners to donate our space, time and trainers whenever we can. We also recently hosted You Equal Tech, a diversity driven event series that focuses on improving inclusion in our industry. Our event was themed; “Getting in and getting on in tech” and was a huge success!
Sparta Global and Code First: Girls share a common goal: to increase representation of women in technology by offering relevant training and community support. Why did you choose to partner with each other and what attracted you most about each company’s approach to Diversity and Inclusion in the digital sector?
Kanisha: The CF:G/Sparta Global partnership has been so fruitful because of the equal passion from both organisations. Sparta Global is a partner that goes beyond supporting D&I by embodying and advocating for what we stand for internally and externally. This can be seen by the way employees jump on board so quickly to help deliver our courses and how Sparta actively hires from our community.
Purnima: I completely agree with Kanisha that our success as a partnership is in our shared passion for D&I! We feel that hosting courses in our offices and providing training support to CF:G has helped us tenfold in return – bringing relevant tech talent into our offices and introducing us to many participants who go on to join our program. This is very much a symbiotic relationship and the advantages to both has been incredible. We have learnt so much from CF:G and are still adding to our knowledge base because of them.
In your experience, what is the most valuable training approach to develop the future tech workforce?
Kanisha: It would absolutely be championing peer learning and valuing community. Alongside technical training, both of the former elements are intertwined. Understanding what the community wants/needs and being able to learn from the community is instrumental in developing the skills of a future workforce.
Purnima: To me, the development of a future tech workforce needs to start at grass root level. My 11-year daughter put her name down for an after-school tech club and when she arrived on the first day her teacher said; “Are you sure you want to join as you will be the only girl here?”. Needless to say I was absolutely taken aback. We need to encourage our girls, not discourage them – we need to celebrate the only girl in the room, not put her off. This is something I feel very passionately about and this is reflected by Sparta Global’s work. This is the only way we will develop a completely diverse tech workforce that can develop crucial inclusive digital systems in the future.
Beyond training, what do you think is the role of your community ecosystem in helping more women launch digital careers?
Kanisha: An important role our community plays is the role of inspiration. Whether it be guiding an entry level student or helping women transition into tech, our community inspires and supports women of all backgrounds through meetups and mentoring and building confidence in women to explore what the tech industry has to offer!
Purnima: Again, I really agree! The more diverse community we have, the more diversity we will attract. But for me, retention now becomes the most important role of the corporate community. We can have many initiatives to get women into tech but if we cannot have an inclusive environment that supports them once they are across the threshold, then getting on in tech and reaching leadership levels will become an ever-crucial focus. Let’s create a symbiotic ecosystem together to help more women launch and sustain careers in tech – whether they are coming straight from university, returning to work or contemplating a change in career.