Testlio’s Ignite program first launched in 2020 with a mission to help small groups of people from underrepresented communities break into the technology industry through training in software testing. The vision for Ignite centers on using diverse social impact strategies to democratize the professional tech world.

With Ignite, we intentionally built a formula that bridges the demographic gap in training and entry-level jobs in software testing. We focused on recruiting diverse populations and providing resources to boost equity. All participants received 1:1 mentorship, a weekly stipend, computers and devices for them to attend the classroom/use for testing, and much more. 

This year, the Testlio Ignite program graduated its third class with a record-setting 100% completion rate. When reflecting on our success this year, we’re keenly aware that a focus on equity plays one of the most critical roles in our DEI strategy success. 

Equity at the forefront of our social impact strategy

A successful social impact strategy starts with acknowledging that we do not all start from the same place and making adjustments to counter imbalances to create welcoming spaces in tech. Putting equity at the center of our social impact strategy required us to focus on distributing resources to eliminate typical barriers to tech.

Our ignite program seeks to address industry-wide issues and inequalities like:

  • Black people currently fill only 7% of US tech jobs, Latino people fill less than 6%, and Native Americans fill less than 1%. Too often, people of color are not welcomed into the technology industry.
  • 77 million Americans have a criminal record. 600,000 people are released from prison each year. Too often, it is too hard for formerly incarcerated people to land meaningful, well-paying work.
  • There are approximately 26 million refugees globally. The number of refugees admitted into the US has been on a multi-year decline. Too often, the hurdles to work are too high for refugees.
  • Women hold only 26% of technology jobs, even though they make up 47% of the US workforce. Too often, women are forced to choose between compelling technology work and family care requirements.
  • 20% of LGBTQ Americans have experienced discrimination when applying for jobs. Too often, workplaces are not inviting to all sexual orientations and gender identities.

Testlio Ignite actively recruited people who have identities and/or experiences that may make it harder to obtain work in the technology field, including: 

  • Forced migration
  • Health challenges
  • Incarceration
  • Low-income
  • Violence/abuse survivor
  • Black, Latino, Indigenous
  • Women
  • Disabled 
  • LGBTQIA+

With these understandings in mind —- and while defining social impact strategy at large, we purposely focused our efforts on creating equity by providing the participants with all the necessary resources to learn and develop in their newfound careers. We offered direct grants of $150-450 per week and paid for wifi/connectivity, devices, laptops, and resources needed to complete training.

Taking a data-driven approach

A successful DEI strategy, like most business models, should be data-centric to keep the highest ROI for participants. By studying the data, we can track that each Ignite cohort has experienced exponential growth in our program and a higher rate of accomplishments year over year.

  • Ignite I
    • 11 participants started
    • 8 graduated
    • 1 became full-time with Testlio
    • 1 is full-time at another high-tech company while working with Testlio as a freelancer.
  • Ignite II
    • 11 participants started
    • 9 graduated
    • 1 became full-time with Testlio
    • 6 have advanced to Test Lead roles in our freelance network, and 1 remains a tester.
  • Ignite III
    • 12 participants started
    • 12 graduated
    • 11 out of 12 became certified testers through our network Functional Regression Certification Testing

Demographic Analysis

We have been very intentional in keeping our DEI goals in mind when selecting the participants for the Ignite Program, and that is part of the formula for our equitable success.

This data helps concretely measure our social impact strategy’s benefits for all the underrepresented communities we seek to help actively. Once again, it confirms that we achieve more when we focus on real people and create a more inclusive and equitable environment. When we lead with empathy and compassion and support people by providing the necessary resources and crafting our training to suit their learning styles, we witness their success in bridging the gap between DEI and some high-tech opportunities.

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Ignite is a 10-week scholarship-based program that provides all the necessary resources for participants to thrive in an equitable environment. Learn more.

Liza Osterdock is Testlio's DEI & Social Impact Manager.