MEDA’s Mission Techies Young Adult Program Bridging Diversity Gap in Tech

YAP_Ana_Avilez_BlogAs this morning’s sun shone through the window of Mission resident Ana Avilez’ cramped, one bedroom San Francisco apartment she shares with five other family members, the space seemed to be a little brighter than usual. That’s because the 24-year-old has successfully completed MEDA’s free Mission Techies program for young adults, with the promise of a career in the tech sector now on the horizon.

While Ana’s Tuesday started with her daily ritual of taking care of her two young daughters before heading off for a morning of cleaning houses, this afternoon presented the opportunity to celebrate with her fellow participants.

Ana (photo, left) knows there are few Latinas in tech, but she refuses to let statistics be an obstacle.

Mike Isaac’s article, “Behind Silicon Valley’s Self-Critical Tone on Diversity, a Lack of Progress,” featured in this past Sunday’s The New York Times, showcases the continuing paucity of minorities in tech. In 2015, Google’s workforce is just three percent Latino and two percent African-American; Facebook hired only seven African-Americans in the last year, out of 1,200 new hires, which is under one percent of these latest employees. These numbers mirror those at other tech giants, although most of these companies have acknowledged the problem and are seeking solutions, looking to programs such as the Mission Techies to create a much-needed pipeline. This is evidenced by recent Mission Techie campus visits to LinkedIn and Facebook.

As Ana scrubbed her clients’ houses this morning, she had time to think about what to say in her speech given this afternoon. Leo Sosa, technology training coordinator at MEDA, asked Ana to give this speech. Explains Sosa of why he bestowed Ana with this honor: “Ana immediately showcased the drive and determination that is needed to succeed. Despite having an already busy day taking care of and providing for her family, she always made her way to her afternoon Mission Techies classes. Ana was a quick learner and was always willing to help others in the class.” (Watch Ana Avilez’ story.)

Mission Techie Ramiro Quezada gave the keynote speech. Ramiro had serendipitously attended a “Get Connected!” event at Plaza Adelante last December, where he signed up for low-cost internet at home and attended a workshop on computer hardware. After taking apart a laptop for an hour, the young man was hooked. He immediately signed up to become a Mission Techie.

The graduate of the winter cohort of the program has seen his life quickly change for the better, as he is looking forward to his job as an installer at Comcast, which starts in a month. Ramiro looks to provide for his family, which includes a five-month-old daughter. He told the current graduates that they can have a positive outcome, too.

Also in attendance today were three members of the Full Circle Fund. This organization aims to “explore key issues, identify opportunities for impact and then select nonprofit innovators to support with unrestricted grants and our members’ expertise, connections and resources.” MEDA’s Mission Techies program was recently selected to be given the assistance of the Full Circle Fund; its members are poised to follow the program through for a year.

Explained Amy Niles of Full Circle Fund on why they chose the Mission Techies, “Your stories sold us. This is important to what is going on in San Francisco right now.”



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