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One Day Magazine

Build Your Tech Skills and Networks

Service+Tech is a new professional development network where service year alumni (including Teach For America alumni and corps members) can get on a path to careers in tech. Or they can pick up skills to do what they already do, more effectively.

By Susan Brenna

February 27, 2019

An illustration of people working in technology.

“I’ve seen a lot of organizations sponsor computer science curriculum, things that help further computer science instruction in the classroom,” says Adam Roberts (D.C. Region ’07), who directs K-12 strategic partnerships for Salesforce. “But I don’t know that I’ve seen a lot of organizations help the adult in the classroom get into technology as the next stage of their career.”

That is changing.

The nonprofit organization Service Year Alliance, founded by retired General Stanley McChrystal to make national service a more common and expected career choice among young Americans, has launched Service+Tech. It’s a platform and professional development network—exclusively for corps members and alumni of national service organizations, including Teach For America—intended to do two things.

One goal is indeed to pave the pathway into technology careers for people coming out of service organizations like City Year and YouthBuild, particularly those under-represented in tech. The idea is to allay their anxieties about putting tech careers on hold for a year or two by inviting them into a thriving tech network.

“Ten years ago you needed a computer science degree to get a foot in the door,” says Roberts, who himself earned a CS degree and informally advises the Service+Tech initiative. “But now there are roles that don’t require as much capital-T tech expertise if you have the intellectual curiosity, the grit, and the ability to scale up quickly.”

Service+Tech will connect service-year educators to opportunities for free and discounted courses, meet-ups, speaker series, and career fairs. “It’s good for both entrepreneurs and for teachers and students to have products and tools and platforms made by folks who deeply understand both technology and K-12 education,” Roberts says. By growing that pool, Service+Tech is “amplifying and magnifying the impact both parties can make.”

A second objective is equally important, according to MacKenzie Moritz (Greater Philadelphia ’06), the chief of staff and chief partnerships officer for Service Year Alliance. That is to connect corps members and alumni to high-quality opportunities to build out their tech skills, so they can keep doing what they’re doing, only better.

“We know that technology skills are already needed in so many jobs, but so many people feel like they have to figure it all out on their own how to develop them.” Moritz says. “By giving people a way to be part of a supportive community, we hope we will take the luck out of that equation and will give the next generation of social leaders the opportunities they need to have an impact.”

“I’m from the East Coast and was not aware of tech in all its glory as an option growing up,” says tech investor Siggi Hindrichs (Massachusetts ’11), who is joining the Service+Tech speaker series. That changed when Hindrichs went to law school in Silicon Valley and sampled startups and venture capital work outside of class. “I thought I had no applicable skills for working in tech and was totally unemployable outside of law. That turned out to be wrong, but it took exposure, encouragement, and some experimentation to figure that out.” The highest value of the initiative, she believes, may be to demystify tech careers for working educators so they can demystify them for their students.   

What Service+Tech Offers You:

Meeting and hearing from service-year alumni about how they transitioned to tech at companies including Google, Facebook. Amazon, LinkedIn and others.

Skills development, from technology-focused bootcamps to degree and credentialing programs. Partner organizations include Per Scholas, Make School, General Assembly, Y Combinator, and Code for America. Partners also include Northeastern University's Align Program, which offers a Master's degree in computer science for people who majored in something other than computer science. Scholarships are available for people who've done a service year.

Biweekly speaker series, local meet-ups, career fairs, newsletters with rolling opportunities.

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