Case Study: How Scaled Education and Apprenticeships Can Solve Tech’s Diversity Problem

Published

One year into COVID and arguably the most pivotal moments for racial equality in the last 40 years, we are reflecting on how we’ve been driving more diversity in Sales and Customer Success (CS) as functions. In 2020, Insight’s Sales and Customer Success Center of Excellence wanted to help increase representation in our portfolio companies and to create more opportunities for individuals with non-traditional technology backgrounds. We partnered with EdTech expert, SV Academy, who helps individuals launch new careers into the tech industry for several years now, as well as portfolio company Gainsight, to create the CS YOU program which expands equal opportunities in Customer Success. While the program has been an undeniable success, with 10 CS YOU graduates placed in our portfolio since January 2021 and many more on the way, we have learned quite a bit that we hope will help others drive diversity in their organizations. Here’s what we’ve learned:

We must first understand why there is a lack of diversity. This breaks down into three main buckets: 

  1. Selection: Résumé screens and interviews, no matter how carefully they’re crafted, can favor individuals with similar experiences and backgrounds that are relatable to the screener.
  2. Environment: Being the “first,” the “only,” or the “token” is exhausting and may add a mental and emotional load to an already heavy workload, increasing the risk for burnout
  3. Pipeline: People tend to follow the career paths of their families and communities. This leads to homogeneous groups within specific careers and results in few underrepresented candidates applying. Educating different communities on entry points into tech career paths will help in developing talent sources and building pipelines. 

SV Academy launched with a mission to empower one million underrepresented job seekers to forge a path into tech. After experimenting with different models, SV Academy identified that scaled education and apprenticeship programs are the best way to address all three issues. At Insight, we can attest through our partnership with SV Academy that this model has been extremely successful in finding high-potential talent for our portfolio companies. 

What is scaled education and an apprenticeship?

The premise of an apprenticeship is to provide real on-the-job training and skills that immediately boost a candidate’s résumé. To improve the likelihood of success, rather than just funneling individuals straight into a company for an apprenticeship, SV Academy equips them with an understanding of the role and key skillsets required through their scaled education. SV Academy first trains the individuals for 200-300 hours through an intensive bootcamp.

The bootcamp curriculum is carefully crafted to give individuals with zero background in tech, Sales, or Customer Success the tools they need to succeed in their first job and throughout their career. This training is then followed by a 2-3-month apprenticeship. The apprenticeships are so successful that over 90% of SV Academy graduates immediately receive full-time offers and 60% of those individuals are promoted within their first year on the job. Those statistics speak for themselves. 

Why is this a better model? 

Selection:

Scaled education and apprenticeships (as SV Academy has crafted them) enable companies to bypass most of the biases that exist in the “selection” phase. Instead, an intensive bootcamp both trains and vets individuals, and an apprenticeship allows the candidates to quickly prove their full range of skills in real work environments. No longer are the people who interview well given the advantage. Rather, apprentices have a chance to prove their ability to learn, grow, and deliver at the actual job they’d be performing. 

See below for a case study proven out from SV Academy’s CS YOU program where Carin conducted an apprenticeship with our portfolio company, Contentstack

Carin Case Study

Environment: 

We know that minorities leave tech at higher rates. In 2018, Google reported attrition data for the first time, showing Black and Latinx employees left at higher rates than their white counterparts1. It’s hard to be the first, but if you can get the first, the second, and the third in the door, change starts to happen more effectively. Diversity begins to change the fabric of the company and creates an open environment of opportunity to help us ensure we not only recruit diverse talent but retain it. 

SV Academy graduates not only excel in their roles, but they also help drive change in their companies. Many become change agents that stand up for diversity initiatives and take active roles on DE&I committees to ensure the environment and culture continue to evolve.

To aid in building stable environments and peer networks that underrepresented individuals can lean on, the scaled education component is done within cohorts of 30-40 individuals. Each individual receives ongoing support from SV Academy in the form of coaching and mentorship. They can form their own friendships and communities within their cohort and become part of a large and growing network within the technology industry. SV Academy graduates hike together on the weekends, help each other master new career skills, and come back to hire as they become hiring managers building their own teams. This community aspect is critical to driving long-lasting diversity. 

Pipeline:

“If we relied on traditional recruiting methods, our paths may not have crossed with our CS YOU graduate. We are so glad she is part of our team.” – Sanjay Kini, Chief Customer Officer, 6sense

By reducing selection bias, cultivating community, and leveraging the scaled education and apprenticeship structure, SV Academy creates 100+ interns every month who fill an evergreen talent pool of individuals that companies may not otherwise have come across. The Harvard Business Review recently highlighted the importance of cultivating junior talent in order to create a more diverse company over the long term2. SV Academy’s partner companies have found that having a steady pool of apprentices improves not just the diversity of their organization, but also the robustness of their hiring pipeline generally. 

A company is as good as its team, and its team is as good as its hiring pipeline. Scaled education and apprenticeships ensure a solid pool of on-demand, high-caliber talent. Since 60% of the individuals hired at entry-level roles move up within a year, multiple layers of a company can be changed very quickly – helping the company add diverse and talented individuals who shift and strengthen the company. 

Interested in learning more about SV Academy? For Insight portfolio companies, please reach out to Nalanie Nath. For all other inquiries, please email Andrea Spillmann-Gajek at andrea@sv.academy.

Notes:
[1] https://www.wired.com/story/five-years-tech-diversity-reports-little-progress/
[2] https://hbr.org/2021/04/to-build-a-diverse-company-for-the-long-term-develop-junior-talent

Learn More About SV Academy's CS You Program

  • Nalanie Nath, Senior Director, Sales COE

    Nalanie Nath, Senior Vice President, Sales & CS COE

    Nalanie joined Insight’s Sales and CS Center of Excellence with a decade plus of experience across the consulting and technology industries. Nalanie consults with Insight’s portfolio companies to build scalable and effective go-to-market strategies. She also drives Sales and CS due diligence for potential investments. Nalanie began her career…
  • Andrea Spillmann-Gajek, Head of Growth and CS YOU at SV Academy

    Senior executive experienced in building partnerships and organizations in the Social Impact space, mapping technologies to needs. Built teams and ran operations for company expansion from Seed through Series C; 10 to over 100 employees Founded and managed Impact (.org) function, balancing profit and social responsibility at scale Forged…