Editor’s note: February is Black History Month—a time for us to come together to celebrate the diverse identities and perspectives that make up the Black experience. Over the next few weeks, we will highlight Black-led startups and how they use Google Cloud to grow their businesses. This feature highlights Co-founder and CEO Lateesha Thomas, and CTO Jean-Pierre Barthelemy of Onramp, a workforce development platform helping companies build and scale apprenticeships to create alternative pathways into tech careers for candidates.
Having worked at large employers like Google and Amazon, we witnessed first-hand the struggle companies have trying to hire great talent with the precise set of skills needed for today’s jobs. And that problem gets even harder to solve when you want to have a diverse workforce. Whether you’re a fortune 500 company or a growing start-up, it’s a problem every industry is facing as jobs increasingly become more technical and data driven.
The problem is really two fold. First, most companies typically rely on limited hiring channels: trying to attract candidates from other companies or hiring graduates fresh out of university. Second, most companies don’t invest enough in job training for new employees that could reduce hiring risk by helping them succeed and be more effective once they start.
A little over 4 years ago, the Onramp team set out to solve these problems for companies. From our experience working in the bootcamp industry, we knew there were tons of skilled candidates, many from diverse backgrounds, being overlooked by hiring companies. And, we also knew there was a better way to provide last-mile customized training to transform a candidate that has a general skill set into an employee with the exact skills needed to perform well in their new job.
Helping to grow diversity in tech
We set out to build bridges between the tech sector and more diverse candidates by encouraging businesses to invest in workforce development and candidate upskilling. We know that many organizations are risk averse when it comes to hiring so we do a lot of the heavy lifting up front, screening candidates and offering customized apprenticeships. We also help expand candidate opportunities by providing role-specific training, interview coaching, mentoring and resume reviews.
The results speak for themselves. Some 50,000 people have already used Onramp to apply for jobs at companies such as Twitch, Google, and other leaders. Successful candidates can see their salaries increase by 350 percent on average, and 90 percent are promoted in their first year. These are potentially life-changing statistics for individual candidates and their families—not to mention the value they bring to their new workplaces.
We’re also helping to promote diversity in tech. About 65 percent of our hires identify as a woman, non-binary, or other gender. In addition, 44 percent identify as Black, Latinx or Native American, and 12 percent are LGBTQIA. That’s a big improvement on the overall U.S. tech industry where 62% of jobs are held by white Americans and just 26.7% are held by women.
Working in the tech sector means that we are well-equipped to choose the platforms and tools best suited to matching candidates with clients. For us, Google Cloud stood out for several reasons. Firstly, it’s very developer-friendly which is critical when you only have a few engineers and you need to get up and running fast. The machine learning (ML) tools are also topnotch. Google Cloud tools are really built to benefit from ML. It doesn’t feel like it’s an afterthought like in other solutions.
Another big benefit is that Google understands the way we work. We have a small core team and a much larger distributed network of people that support the business. Google Workspace is ideal for groups working in multiple locations and we’re big fans of Gmail, Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides for collaborating on projects.
BigQuery is also at the heart of our infrastructure. It’s unique in the data warehouse space. In addition, It opens the door directly to AutoML which we’re starting to use to identify patterns in our customer base. The fact that AutoML can be managed by our current tech team is another bonus. We’ve been impressed with Dialogflow for conversational AI, as well, and plan to use it to build a chatbot to manage job application flows. We even got feedback from Google AI Director, Peter Norvig, on the best approach for our platform.
We’ve benefited from Google Cloud’s extensive partner network. We worked with the team at Cloudwerx who understood what we needed in terms of a platform and applications. We wanted Onramp to be as simple and intuitive to use as possible and they came up with the perfect solution. It wasn’t over-engineered, we always got a quick response, and we didn’t encounter issues during development. They were fantastic to work with.
Empathy as well as engineering
Technology is only one part of the story. From our earliest conversations with Google Cloud, they demonstrated a real empathy not just for the business challenges facing us, but also the cultural obstacles that still exist for Black founders in tech.
It’s why we were excited by the opportunity to participate in the Google for Startups Accelerator: Black Founders. While it gave us firsthand experience of Google Cloud’s people and technology, we also appreciated the chance to extend our network with dozens of entrepreneurs from similar backgrounds.
Being part of a community of people who are at a similar stage and experiencing similar roadblocks isn’t just a ‘nice to have’—it’s essential when you’re starting and growing your business.
We were grateful for the assistance and guidance that Google Cloud provided when setting goals and creating objectives and key results (OKRs). They have provided invaluable assistance in helping us hone our pitch for future funding rounds, and that demo day gave us exposure to new investors that we’re currently in conversation with. Working with Google Cloud reminded us that it’s important for entrepreneurs to understand that there is more than one path to starting a business or entering the tech industry.
Many people believe they lack the experience to pursue a career in tech. That’s not the case. What they need is a support network and a career pathway that matches their life experiences. This is what we aim to help candidates at Onramp understand. With Google Cloud’s support we are enabling thousands of talented people from diverse backgrounds to find the roles and rewards that they deserve.
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