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In an effort to address both the mounting talent shortage in technology in the state of Washington and gender imbalance in the industry, Ada Developers Academy is launching a free yearlong intensive software developer school in Seattle for women who have no previous programming experience. ADA LogoThe classes are not only free, but students can even apply to receive a $1000 per month stipend. But, you better act fast. The deadline for applications is Sept. 30 – just a few days away. The application process includes a technical reading assessment and a logic assessment to gauge aptitude towards the qualities that will lead to better developers. The first group for the ADA program will have 15 women, but future classes may have anywhere from 20-25, with new classes starting every 3 months. At that rate, ADA hopes to graduate between 80 to 100 women each year to pursue positions as software developers in the Seattle area.

ADA's Nuts and Bolts

The program length and curriculum is designed based on feedback from local companies, discussions with potential students, and input from similar developer academies. The first six months of classes will focus on HTML/CSS, JavaScript, Ruby on Rails and database fundamentals, says Elise Worthy, ADA Program Manager. She points out that students coming out of the program won’t necessarily be programming in Rails, or some of the other languages that they covered. "One of our sponsors, who will have an intern, is a Python shop, and hopefully we can get students in .Net shops, and doing mobile development, even," Worthy says. After the six months of classes, students will take an internship at a local Puget Sound-area tech company for the remaining six months. One of the goals of the program is to provide female students, who have little or no technical experience, an opportunity to learn programming languages in depth, in addition to a hands-on experience, where they can apply their newfound skills as part of a software team that delivers production code for real applications. "You’ll be expected to be in class from 9 to 5," says Worthy. "We’ll have lectures and classwork in the morning, followed by open project time with mentors and instructors. We’ll have guest speakers during the day, and there will be homework."

Who's ADA?

Ada Developers Academy is a project of Technology Alliance, a statewide non-profit organization that has been around for 17 years. “Technology Alliance is a leadership organization of technology leaders that care about a healthy Washington economy. We work on issues including education and research capacity and entrepreneurial climate,” explains Technology Alliance and ADA Executive Director Susannah Malarkey. The year-long program for women in IT was conceived in just under six months, and with the help of the Ada Developers Academy, both the shortage for high-skilled labor and the gender imbalance in software development will be addressed. Currently, 85 percent of software developers are male, the ADA stated in its press release. Washington State’s Department of Commerce, as well as a handful of local companies, provide funding for the program. Worthy says the program's economic benefits are driving the public contributions. "Seattle has the worst pay gap in the nation," says Worthy. "Women make 73 cents on the dollar that men make, and by giving women alternative opportunities into higher-paying technical roles, that does a lot for Seattle’s economy, as well as social benefits."