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Seattle IT, meet Ada Developers Academy. A perfect match.

Since February of this year, Seattle IT has had the privilege of working with its first group of interns from Ada Developers Academy.

For those who don’t know, Ada Developers Academy is a Seattle-based program for women and nonbinary individuals who want to pursue a career as software developers, but do not have a traditional background in computer science.  The highly competitive year-long program provides students the skills, experience, and community support to become professional software developers.  Students spend half the year in class and half in a carefully matched internship.

Ada’s mission is to change the face of the technology industry one software developer at a time.

Seattle IT’s Ada interns have varied and distinctly untechnical pre-Seattle IT lives.  In her former life, Karin Kubischta was a product manager at Amazon.  After 10 years there, she needed a change and realized she would much rather “make” things than “plan” them.  “I feel like a magician now,” she said.   “It’s a really good feeling of accomplishment.”  Karin is working with the Open Data team building a one-stop shop for all the open data sets.  She is using an ASP.NET MVC web application that replaces the ODSF (Open Data Submission Form) and Dataset Inventory Spreadsheet for the Open Data Team’s intake process. It uses an MSSQL database to store information about open datasets that each department has identified and is planning on publishing, allowing for better tracking of datasets throughout the publishing process. Her project is in QA right now, and will be rolled out to department data champions during the first few weeks of June. Her supervisor is David Doyle and she’s mentored by Gwen Goetz.

Maddie Johnson, a math major who turned into a grant writer for a Boston non-profit, is now working with the Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) team creating an application to make the process of permitting a house a more interactive experience.  Maddie works under Dani Priest and is mentored by Julie Gephart.  Her project is to create an interactive and visual way for people to learn about the permits they need for their house construction and renovations. The goal is to have a diagram of a house and users can click on the different sections and icons. SDCI received feedback that users would prefer a more visual site, so this aligns with that request. Maddie is building it using C# to build a .Net API with data being stored in a SQL Server Database and an AngularJS front end.  Fun fact: Before her Ada Developers Academy experience, Maddie feared computers!

This brings us to Allison Hoke.  Allison has a MS in counseling and was working as a mental health counselor in Ohio before attending Ada.  While she was always drawn to logical and analytical problem solving, her career path, like many women, went the caregiving route.  “I was guiding people on their journey to an authentic life when I realized I was ignoring my own.  I was missing intellectual stimulation, which I found in droves when I switched career paths.”  Allison is working with the SDOT GIS team — Suzi Brunzell is supervising and Paul Youm, Michael Wypyszinski, and Brandon Ha are mentoring — creating a Web API that will route pedestrians and bicyclists throughout the city. The API considers a user’s unique barriers to travel and provides a route that best suits their needs and preferences. For example, a bicyclist may want to avoid streets with a steep slope. She hopes to have the project as close to complete as possible at the end of the internship – at which point another developer will be able to create a user-facing application that will deliver the results from the API in a user-friendly way.

Ada prepares its graduates for a work environment in which there are very few female developers and the terrain can be hostile.  Especially in private companies where sexism and ageism can run rampant.  However, this couldn’t have been farther from the experience had by Seattle IT’s interns who felt completely welcomed by all.  “It was a special thing to have our first experience as software developers in a place where women are lifted up,” said Maddie.  “We could be vulnerable in a completely safe place.”

The gratitude is clearly mutual with supervisors and mentors saying they learned as much from their Ada interns as they imparted to them.  David Doyle, Open Data Manager, summed it up: “It’s been a lot of fun having Karin on our team, we’ve all learned a lot from her and wherever her next move takes her she’ll be a huge asset to that team, as well as an advocate for the work we’re doing re: open data.  I would highly encourage other managers here at the City with software development needs to avail of interns from the Ada Developers Academy in the future, it’s a really wonderful program.”