Instructure Blog

Voices of Instructure: Removing the Barriers to Entry

Working with a service organization and giving back have always been key parts of my life: I volunteered with the Girl Scouts and the Red Cross, and as a high school student, I taught HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention to middle school students. While studying Public Health at the University of Pennsylvania, I joined a group that taught dance to students at West Philly elementary schools, and we would put on a spring show for their parents and teachers. It was fun and incredibly rewarding to give back to the community there.

After graduating, I worked as a substitute teacher at public schools in Richmond, Virginia, teaching fifth grade and pre-K. It was my first time working with kids that young! From there, I joined HealthCorps, which is a non-profit that places recent college graduates at schools to provide health education. I was placed in Charlotte, North Carolina, where I taught lessons on nutrition, physical activity, mental resilience, mindfulness, and more to high school students.

I later returned to the University of Pennsylvania, this time as an academic coordinator at the dental school’s Community Oral Health department. They did a lot of outreach and education in West Philly, which is a community that means a lot to me—I had volunteered at some of the schools where Penn Dental students taught the kids about oral health.

During my time at Penn Dental, I developed an interest in tech (side note: the university had just switched over from Blackboard to Canvas). Penn also started to use a number of different software, and part of my role involved learning how to use them and sharing that knowledge with the department. I also started going to meetups and events for women interested in tech, which was very eye-opening for me. That eventually led me to a position at Practice (later acquired by Instructure).

Being in tech inspired me to learn more—while I’m not in a technical role, I wanted to meet other people in the industry—and I volunteered at a conference for women in tech. I met a woman who started a program for middle school girls interested in STEM, which was incredibly inspiring. I’ve heard the phrase “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.” So if you haven’t met anyone who looks like you or sounds like you in a job you’re interested in, it’s hard to imagine that in the realm of your possibilities. That has really stayed with me—to be visible and talk about your own experiences working in this type of field to someone who can look up to you. 

That experience deepened my interest in initiatives and programs that work to promote and improve diversity in tech. There are plenty of bootcamps and technical training programs these days, and while there aren’t very many specifically focused on women or underrepresented minorities, we’re starting to see more take off. Disney has a program called CODE: Rosie, which offers technical training and apprenticeships to their female employees in non-technical roles. At the end of the program, participants have the opportunity to take on a technical role at the company. 

When we think about a supposed lack of talent in the pipeline or diversity in tech, one important thing to consider is removing the barriers to entry that prevent people from finding or joining companies: making sure you can see them and they can see you. Then, once they’re there, it’s not enough to just get a more diverse talent workforce in the door: it’s what organizations are doing to support them so they will want to stay. So it’s important, and a good reminder during Black History Month, for organizations to keep that in mind: what are you doing to make underrepresented groups feel safe, welcomed, and included? How are you caring for the most vulnerable in your workforce?