Long seen as a consistently hot industry, tech is at a turning point. Industry leaders are actively seeking new ways to infuse artificial intelligence and edge computing into health care, real estate, manufacturing, and retail, but a recent surge in layoffs has prompted caution.
Now, professionals looking for a promising career are asking themselves not only how to break into the tech industry but how to survive and thrive within it. The answer might lie in inclusivity-focused efforts designed to make tech careers more accessible and less daunting to a wider range of professionals.
“Inclusive computing means that anyone who is interested can discover computer science and feel like they belong there,” says Carla E. Brodley, dean of Inclusive Computing and the founding executive director of the Center for Inclusive Computing at Northeastern University.
It also means that everyone who wants it should have access to the degree programs with the most job opportunities, Brodley says. Computing- and IT-related degrees are still among them, as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts growth of 15% in that sector by 2031. Northeastern is committed to ensuring students of diverse educational backgrounds can transition into and excel in these fields.
“The Align program started here in Seattle. And it started as a way to think about, ‘How do we make computer science available to more people?’ ” says Dave Thurman, dean and CEO, Northeastern University Seattle. Whether students discovered computing too late to change their undergraduate majors or have worked in another industry for years, the Align master’s in computer science program lets them advance in this fast-growing field.
Align students undertake four specially designed classes—the graduate-level equivalent of eight undergraduate courses—in discrete math, object-oriented design and computer systems and algorithms. After two semesters of accelerated learning, students are fully prepared for the remaining coursework in the remainder of the graduate-level curriculum. “There is no second admissions hoop to jump through,” Brodley says. “Once you’re in, you’re in as long as you remain in good standing.”
One path to more inclusive access to tech careers is building programs that offer students with bachelor’s degrees in non-tech backgrounds a foundation in information science through accelerated courses in our master’s in information systems bridge program that prepare them to succeed at the graduate level.
“This is inclusivity at its maximum,” says Ram Hariharan, an associate director of program management for Northeastern in Seattle’s multidisciplinary graduate engineering programs. “If you have a non-technical background, you can check out what the information systems program is like by enrolling in a basic programming course. At the other end of the spectrum, for those with programming skills already, you can enroll in an advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning course.”
Peer and professional mentoring, lectures, networking events and other opportunities to try new things opens doors that might have gone unnoticed. “Companies benefit so much by having diverse talent throughout their organizations, says Sue Harnett, founder and CEO of Rewriting the Code. “We can’t ever assume that we can anticipate the needs of others. Everyone brings a set of experiences and backgrounds to the table and having diverse thought to be able to shape those products and services are going to produce the best of the best.”
Northeastern’s free “Build Your Tech Talent” workshop series, designed for prospective students, is one example of opening doors to exploration. Taking place this spring, these on-campus workshops will introduce participants to basic quantum computing, Python programming (in a workshop Hariharan will teach), and more, allowing them to start building their skills without first committing to a degree program.
Those interested in continuing their tech education at Northeastern can pursue courses in programming languages, deep learning, natural language processing, and other in-demand skills while also gaining communication and presentation skills essential to success.
Inclusive education strategies are paying off. Northeastern’s Align program has attracted a diverse, student body, which is 54% women, much more than the national average. The Align program has graduated more than 1,000 students, many of whom have joined the Seattle offices of companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple.
“We particularly love working with Northeastern’s Align program, as they offer a high caliber of culturally and intellectually diverse students,” says Bernice Au, a university recruiter at Meta.
Nana Bonsu, senior Student Programs recruiter at Amazon, sees the breadth of impact inclusive education and hiring has on industry. “When we look at our hiring process, when we look at all of our partnerships, a lot of that is focused on making sure we are getting diverse applicants, we are getting diverse employees, who internally will become VPs and so on to help grow the company globally.”
Founded in 1898, Northeastern is a global research university and leader in experience-driven lifelong learning. Our Seattle campus, launched in 2013, is in South Lake Union. We are dedicated to delivering an education that’s industry responsive, employer aligned, student centered.