The future of the tech sector

In spite of the strides women and minorities have made in the workforce in recent decades, both groups are still grossly underrepresented in technology careers.

Locally, the YWeb Career Academy, a partnership between the YWCA Madison and Adorable IO, is working to close the gap.

YWebCA is a training program that targets women and people of color who are underrepresented in technology careers. The goal of YWebCA is to prepare students for family-sustaining jobs while meeting a gap in the labor market for these positions. YWebCA provides instruction in front end web development skills including HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Git, UX design, and project management. In addition, the class covers job readiness, team building, and hands‐on learning in computer programming.

According to Jim Remsik, founder of Adorable IO, the program mirrors other efforts like DevBootcamp and Starter League, both outside of Madison, except those programs are targeted at students who can take on a boatload of debt. Remsik participated in a printing apprenticeship program in 1994–95 while at Madison La Follette High School, which provided him with a career path. “We sought to pay that opportunity forward,” he says.

Students who are accepted into YWeb are provided a computer and 400-plus hours of intensive in-class instruction. During that time they learn the building blocks of website development — HTML/CSS/JavaScript — as well as visit local companies doing this work. “Students are also provided with a number of soft skills training by YWCA Madison in areas such as resume writing, dressing for success, overall work expectations, and stress management,” notes Remsik.

Practical experience

YWebCA has already completed three cohort sessions and is currently recruiting students for its fourth.

Each cohort is composed of 20 to 25 students. According to YWebCA’s website, students are expected to complete job-related projects, work outside of class time, and be actively engaged in the learning process.

Students also receive soft skills training, including situational workplace judgment, active listening, communication skills, and problem solving.

YWebCA provides an immersive, Agile-like work environment with opportunities for students to develop their leadership skills while learning web development skills. The instructional portion of sessions includes lectures from course instructors, guest speakers who share their experience in the industry, and time for students to workshop specific skills and complete projects.

Course material is online so students can learn at their own pace. Additional time is provided for students to engage with instructors, industry volunteers, and each other in a peer partnership learning model. Students are partnered with mentors already working in the tech industry, a cornerstone of the Agile development philosophy because it helps quickly and comprehensively train developers.

Vannessa Rodello, who provides industry outreach for Adorable IO, says YWebCA currently has nearly 20 “committed partners” with which the program has placed interns. A number of them like Flexion, UW Health, and Ten Forward Consulting have even taken interns from two of the three cohorts.

“We expect companies to provide extended learning and strong mentorship,” says Rodello. “Many of the graduates have never worked in this type of field and they need explicit guidance in day-to-day work expectations. When a person completes their internship, we expect that they would be able to go out into the field and get an entry-level position.”

Rodello notes gaining that entry-level position is harder than people might think.

“I am currently sitting on the Madison Metropolitan School District Tech Advisory Committee and have been getting an inside look at what is going on with schools here in Madison,” Rodello explains. “They do have a plan to get a computer in the hands of every child in the district within the next 10 years; however, just because they have the technology doesn’t mean the curriculum needed has been developed. Technology [also] moves so fast that by the time you get one thing implemented the demands of the workforce have already changed and so must the curriculum.

“MATC also offers a number of courses in website design and development; we’ve even had a number of YWeb participants go through these courses previous to entering our program,” says Rodello, “but even once they’ve completed all the MATC courses they still aren’t considered entry level. Therein lies the catch — to get experience you need to have experience. Our program helps bridge a big gap for those people and helps put them in a paying job that provides ample work experience.”



Filling a local need

Rodello acknowledges there’s a big need for more representation of women and minorities in the tech fields. “In order to better serve people we need a diverse group of talented people like us on the other side creating the types of software we use. It allows for greater insight and understanding. UW Women in Tech recently screened CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap in which they gave a great example about airbags. When they were first designed they were made for the average man; in the first year of implementation they killed many women and children. Had a woman been on the team maybe she would have been the voice for half of Americans and all those deaths could have been avoided.”

According to Rodello, as long as the YWebCA participants apply themselves and continue to work and build their skills, the opportunities available to them are endless. “We all know that technology is leading this country and there will only need to be more people behind the scenes fueling it and creating the innovations we desire.

“Here in Madison we have a growing population of young entrepreneurs trying their hand in the tech sector,” Rodello notes. “After speaking with some of them, it holds true that finding good qualified candidates in the area is difficult and companies like Redox have recruited mostly remote workers.”

Companies that would like to get involved in training the developers of the future can provide tutors, invite the YWeb class for on-site visits, or accept interns. Those interested can submit information via

The next YWeb cohort will begins August 29 and runs through December 9. Students interested in joining can start the process by going to and someone from YWCA Madison will then reach out. Applicants must go through orientation and some testing to help determine whether they will be successful in the program.

“Ideally we’d like to have the participants selected by August 1,” says Rodello. “We have already had a number of people contact us, but we will continue accepting applications until all 25 spots are filled with qualified candidates.”

What students need to know

  • The curriculum for the class is publicly available in at The YWeb course uses the book Eloquent JavaScript to guide the portions of the class that focus on JavaScript and use its own exercises to go along with it.
  • 100% class attendance is required. All missed hours must be made up.
  • After completing the program, each participant receives a MacBook Air.
  • After completing the program, each participant will be placed in a paid internship.
  • Class instruction is a combination of lecture, lab, discussions, and on-site visits.
  • Participants must complete a portfolio before the end of the program.

What makes a good YWebCA candidate?

  • Curiosity — Do you enjoy learning for its own sake? Do unknowns drive you to dig deeper?
  • Accountability — Can you be present, responsible, proactive, and respectful of deadlines?
  • Grit — Are you persistent in the face of challenge and positive in the face of setbacks? Do you see failure as a learning opportunity and challenges as growth opportunities?
  • Typing skill — Can you type an average speed of 30 words-per-minute? This skill is recommended, but not required.
  • Elementary algebra — Do you have a basic understanding of variables, order of operations, substitution, distribution, etc.?

Classes are held at the YWCA Empowerment Center at 3101 Latham Drive in Madison.

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