Tech, we have a problem bigger than diversity

It’s called Opportunity.

I think our Opportunity problem is even bigger than our diversity problem because it is one of the root causes of the diversity problem. When I say we have an Opportunity problem, here’s what I mean.

Where the Jobs Are

Here are a  few slices of data that show where the technology jobs are.

This one is from Burning Glass and shows where the job openings are for data science and analytics:

This one shows where the concentration of cyber security jobs are in the country:

The technology hubs in this country are pretty obvious in the dark green areas on this map from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as well, and they line up to all the other data above.

In other words, we’ve created hot spots for technology and we continue to invest in those spots to the detriment of the other areas of the country. If you want to work in technology, your chances are better if you move to one of the dark green states in the map above.

Where the people are

But here’s the thing. Every state in the country is pumping out tech talent. And not everyone can afford (or wants) to move to a hub city.

Even if you eliminate college and high school programs from your thinking, there are lots of coding boot camps across the country. Lots.

Some are big pay-to-play outfits that are basically substitutes for an associate’s degree. Others are altruistic non-profits focused on teaching the under-served populations how to code. Those are the ones I care the most about because they are the ones who have real potential to solve our diversity problem.

Guidestar.org lists over 2500 non-profit coding boot camps with over 16,000 graduates. Many of these are not located in the tech hubs; they’re located in the areas where people need a chance and don’t have one at hand. Areas where change needs to happen.

Those places include South Bronx, rural New Mexico, Alabama, Arkansas… where people need opportunities and new skills.

But they can only create the opportunity to learn how to code… the leap to giving real opportunities to make a living as a coder is incredibly difficult. If you’re training a person in the South Bronx or Shiprock, New Mexico, the likelihood that they will find work in the field is slim to none.

This is the real challenge before us. When I read recently about Amazon building their second HQ in NoVA, I saw it as a huge missed opportunity to make a real difference in forgotten America. Non-profit bootcamps can’t solve this problem. The giants like Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle… they need to step up and make a real investment in creating opportunities for the people who currently don’t have them.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to research some programs providing both training and opportunity, some here in the United States and some outside the US. Hopefully, we can find models that work and can help to spread the technology opportunities to places that need them.