Diversity-focused school Ada Developers Academy cuts 45% of staff amid tech industry hiring pullback – GeekWire


Kurt Schlosser
2023-05-24 12:59:27

Ada Developers Academy graduates at a graduation event on Jan. 7, 2019. (Jenny Crooks Photo)

Ada Developers Academy, the Seattle-based tuition-free software development boot camp for women and underrepresented sexual, gender and racial minorities, laid off 45% of its workforce, the nonprofit confirmed to GeekWire Wednesday.

In a letter posted to its website Wednesday, Ada cited the ongoing contraction in the tech industry and a lack of internships for its students due to decreased demand for software development talent. The coding school plans to reduce student count over the next two years.

The cuts will impact about 34 employees at Ada, which employed 76 people previously. In an email to GeekWire, Ada CEO Lauren Sato called the cuts “an incredibly difficult time at Ada,” whose mission is to diversify the tech industry.

Ada Developers Academy CEO Lauren Sato. (Ada Photo)

“This is a very real setback in our work to ensure women, gender-expansive people, and people of color have access to a voice in an industry that has such a profound impact on our everyday lives,” the nonprofit said in the letter. “But we are no strangers to being knocked down or kept out of the industry.”

Ada announced in November that it was reducing the number of open student seats for 2023 and downsizing its team. It did not specify how many employees were impacted then, but said it would pause its Accelerate program for 2023 and slow its expansion to new cities. Ada also blamed the economic slowdown in the tech industry at the time.

In July 2021, Ada landed $10 million through the “Equality Can’t Wait” challenge, launched by Pivotal Ventures, the investment and incubation company of Melinda French Gates. The aim of the challenge was to “accelerate the pace of progress for women.” MacKenzie Scott and Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies were also part of the effort.

Ada planned to use the funds to expand to five major U.S. markets by 2025. It now operates a digital campus and a Seattle location, and a new campus just opened in Atlanta in March. A Washington, D.C., campus is also planned.

Ada currently has 126 students across the digital, Seattle and Atlanta campuses.

Layoffs across the tech industry have hit diversity and inclusion efforts hard, according to a January report from Bloomberg, which said company pledges to boost underrepresented groups in their ranks and leadership are being impacted.

The report cited data from Seattle-based Textio, which said listings for DEI roles were down 19% last year. Textio CEO Kieran Snyder told Bloomberg that she feared more DEI professionals will be spread thin as they take on additional job functions.

Founded in 2013 by Scott Case and Elise Worthy, Ada provides six months of classroom training followed by a five-month internship at one of its corporate partners, such as Amazon, Zillow, Redfin, Expedia and others. Ada has graduated 800 students in 10 years.

Originally a project of the Technology Alliance, Ada became a project of fiscal sponsor TSNE Mission Works of Boston in 2015.

In November 2020, Ada announced that it was spinning out from its parent organization and going independent. The nonprofit said at the time that it was growing at a scale where it could serve more students, expand its impact and implement new support for programs.

Sato became CEO in December 2019. She was previously vice president of revenue at The Riveter, a female-focused co-working space, and was in leadership at the cosmetic-treatment review site RealSelf. Sato was also the Seattle director of operations and strategy at Year Up, a national organization that provides similar software development training to low-income men and women.

“We’re on the precipice of some pretty significant change and I’m excited to be a proof point now and to help people see that,” Sato told GeekWire in a January 2020 Q&A about Ada’s impact on tech diversity.

In Wednesday’s letter, the nonprofit said, “At this moment, our goal is to persist so that we can continue to have the impact we all came here for to change the face of tech.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect current Ada headcount and cohort numbers.

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