Improve gender inclusion using agile principles
Pakistan lags behind in including gender in technology; However, coding boot camps help women find jobs and become financially independent. Faiza Yousuf, product management expert and community leader, explained how she uses agile principles to improve gender inclusion at Agile 2021. Starting small is important for testing execution ideas, and there is has things you can do even when you have few resources.
Yousuf, along with Shamim Rajani, his co-founder, modified Agile principles to create and run a coding boot camp for girls in Pakistan. They made simple changes to Agile principles, such as customers became stakeholders, software became quality training, and working software became retention and conversion (hire) rates.
The training camp allows those who attended to be part of the tech ecosystem, Yousuf said:
We are targeting young women, aged 18 to 35 (in some cases up to 40 as well), from low- and middle-income families who lack opportunities. We train them on coding skills and other basic skills and help them get jobs in the tech ecosystem.
The program has two active phases. Phase 1 is website design and development, in which they teach HTML, CSS, JS, and Python. Phase 2 has several tracks, including Node, PHP, WordPress, SQA, UX, and Python. Basic Skills Workshops include Financial Literacy, Business Communication, Entrepreneurial Skills, Workplace Safety, Internet Safety, Work Preparation, Self-Employment Skills, and Conceptual Thinking.
They started with a small goal and a very small team, and the whole program is basically a series of experiments and retrospectives, as Yousuf explained:
We keep what works and reject what doesn’t. For example, we launched a community service program where our graduates will do 10 hours of community service with one of our collaborating organizations and receive a letter of recommendation and mentorship in return. We did a test batch for this and realized that it was taking too long and was not very successful. It also distracted our focus from our main goals, so we put that aside.
InfoQ interviewed Faiza Yousuf on improving gender inclusion in technology.
InfoQ: How important is agile principles to you? How do they inspire you?
Faiza Yousuf: Agile principles have been part of my work philosophy since I started working in technology 11 years ago. The principles are simple and clear in their meaning and this is the most useful and inspiring thing in all of philosophy. Change is the only constant in this world and a good team is the greatest asset for a business. Agile Principles do a great job of capturing these two truths and more.
Agile focuses on stakeholders working together, and at CodeGirls, that’s exactly what we do. Regular checks with stakeholders can help us see the program from different angles and improve what we can. We also have two key metrics to measure our program: one is the student retention rate that we want to keep close to 70% and improve further, and the second is conversions, which means the number of graduates we want. we have placed. in the tech industry. Rather than focusing on vanity metrics like the number of hours of training given or girls enrolled in the program, we focus on the core goals.
Our team is made up of motivated individuals; they believe in the cause and go above and beyond to help achieve better results. A lot of ideas came from the team interactions we implemented, including classroom audits, adding python to Phase 1 of the program, teaching students internet safety, and more.
InfoQ: What is the status of gender inclusion in tech in Pakistan?
Yousuf: We are far behind both in the inclusion of gender as well as in the collection of data on this topic. But the landscape is changing with programs like CodeGirls and TechKaro offering technical training, communities like WomenInTechPK and Pakistani Women in Computing offering advocacy, peer networking and mentoring, as well as great advocacy and advocacy. results of the Pakistan Software House Association Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
We recently launched the first draft of a framework for local businesses to become more gender inclusive. The Diversity and Inclusion Framework for Pakistani IT Companies includes a business case for D&I, relevant statistics, a business action plan, and a benchmarking tool to help businesses set business goals. D&I and assess their performance. We’ve also added details on the appropriate benefits package and tips on hiring practices based on diversity and infrastructure requirements.
InfoQ: You have adapted the value and principles of the agile manifesto to create versions that meet your needs. How did it help you?
Yousuf: These changes have helped us in the following ways:
- Rather than creating a plan, we started with brainstorming, discussions, and running test ideas.
- We have involved people from all kinds of backgrounds to come together and help us on the mission
- The team has remained relatively small; we have three full-time employees, the three co-founders work as volunteers and have contracted trainers.
- We tested a number of ideas, from community service, to bringing the entire program online, to working with UN Equals and other organizations.
- We have built a large network of CodeGirls friends by hosting an active outreach program
InfoQ: What is your approach to continuously improve bootcamps?
Yousuf: Receive regular feedback from all stakeholders, including students, the program team, trainers and recruiting companies. This feedback includes a review of the program (lesson plans and learning outcomes), feedback from trainers / instructors, and feedback on the quality of graduates. We also perform classroom audits to assess the performance of trainers. It helps us improve the program.
Recently, we added Python in the 1st phase of the program after receiving feedback from our local and international advisors and hiring managers. We invite our employees and anyone interested in the program to participate in our orientation and graduation ceremonies. This builds stakeholder buy-in and we are able to receive resources and guidance to continually improve the program.
InfoQ: What did you learn from running this training camp program?
Yousuf: Here’s what we learned:
- Transparency takes you to the next level. Keep things open for everyone to see and have your say!
- Use your influence, both inside and outside your comfort zone. I am an introvert, but I manage communication and strategy for CodeGirls.
- Change starts with an idea, and the next step is to start small and see where it takes you.
- Start when you can; your tribe will find you, but you will need to value and involve them. When we started CodeGirls there were only three of us, but slowly and gradually the local and international tech ecosystem discovered the work, mostly through word of mouth and social media, and we started getting requests for collaboration and hiring, as well as sponsorships. .
- Don’t wait for an elaborate plan; start, learn, document and adapt!
- If you have more than one co-founder, do internal syncs quite often (best done daily). In addition, all meetings should be time-bound and include appropriate agendas; without borders, meetings can become a productivity killer.