The Ascend Project is Underway

Ascend participants unbox their laptops

Ascend participants un-boxing their laptops on day one.

In June, Lukas Blakk came to me and asked if I would be interested in participating in a new project she had been working on for the past year.

A lot of companies talk about diversity or getting more women and marginalized people ‘into the pipeline,’ but rarely do they actually show interest in doing the work to remove the barriers that many marginalized people face when trying to enter the tech industry.

The Ascend Project is a program that tries to address some of these barriers head on:

The Ascend Project is a 6 week, full time training program that provides financial support, equipment, meals, transit, and childcare reimbursement in order to remove many of the barriers to immersive learning in Open Source technology. The goal is to allows participants time and support as they focus on learning common open source practices: IRC, bug trackers, code review, version control, creating & committing patches, as well as the larger opportunities available to those who can leverage the tools and be developers of the open web.

This year has been one of trying to manage stressful life transitions[1] and a bunch of travel while also building my business. I was nervous about putting my business on hold again, and for six whole weeks.

But in the end, it was a no-brainer. This program completely aligns with my values and presented a great opportunity to pay forward some of the awesome mentoring I enjoyed on my way into the tech industry.

The support offered by the program includes a computer (11″ Macbook Air) which participants will keep upon successful completion of the program; breakfast and lunch provided each day, childcare, and transit passes.

Dino Anderson is in charge of logistics for the project and has gone out of his way to make himself and Mozilla's resources available to the participants. In addition to all the other support mentioned above, he also took initiative to secure access to:

  • Safari Books
  • Rosetta Stone
  • Mozilla's Employee Assistance Program
  • Personal coaching from Mozilla employees

By the the time the first hour of the first day was over, I knew I had made the right choice. It was clear that so much thoughtfulness and planning went into the making of this program, and that the support system in place for both the participants and the organizers was unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a large corporation.

My first clue that things were going to be different, was that we spent the first day building alliances and making agreements as a group about how we were going to communicate and treat each other.

We spent the afternoon doing Strengths Finder exercises lead by Debbie Cohen and learning about each other.

One of the delights of the first few days was getting a chance to meet Debbie. She was Chief of People at Mozilla until just recently and has been a champion of Ascend since it was just an idea. I could tell immediately that she is someone who lifts up everyone around her and she did so with our new students as well.

At the end of the exercises, everyone got to step across a literal and figurative line and claim one of their strengths to the group. The intention is that once we claimed our strength, we would move forward and carry it with us through the six week program (and beyond).

With the ‘woo woo’ portion of the curriculum out of the way, on day three we dove into setting up the accounts everyone would need to become contributors, like Mozillians, Bugzilla, Persona, Github etc.

As someone coming from outside of Mozilla, a lot of of the platforms were new to me so I was learning along with the students.

The range of experience was pretty broad. Participants complete the javascript course at Code Academy as part of the application and for some that was their first foray into programming. There were some people who had never used Macs before, never worked on the command line and had little or no experience with version control.

Slide on learning about Git version control

Slide from one of the first student presentations

Regardless of where they started, by the end of the first week, everyone was navigating their computers via the terminal, using version control and making pull requests through Github to add their posts to the Ascend Blog. Everyone also presented to the group about something they learned during the week.

Not bad for the first week. I’m excited to see how these learners change and grow over the course of six weeks.

  1. Selling & buying a house, moving, losing a cat, almost losing a cat, attending / speaking at five conferences in three weeks.  ↩

Kronda Adair

Kronda is the CEO of Karvel Digital, a digital marketing agency that helps established businesses double their revenue in 12 months using online marketing. She loves empowering small business owners to not be intimidated by all this tech stuff. She's often covered in cats.
  • Zoe Rooney says:

    Kronda, this program sounds amazing! Hoping to read more about how it goes as you can find time.

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