Adobe’s Digital Academy Supports High-Potential Tech Talent

Adobe Digital Academy cohort (Archy Posada on bottom right).

It’s widely known that diversity in the tech industry is an ongoing challenge. Even as companies try to address it, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reports that women still make up just 24 percent of the tech workforce, and minorities account for less than a third of it.

To eventually achieve parity, companies need to be more innovative and thoughtful in their approach. More than just talking about change, leaders need to step up and make concrete efforts. Adobe Digital Academy is just one example of how tech companies can build a diverse workforce, while cultivating and nurturing relationships with top talent and teaching them marketable skills.

Building a talented, diverse workforce

We’re focused on recruiting the best talent from diverse backgrounds and we’ve created a unique program — Adobe Digital Academy — and partnerships to build its pipeline and help future workers succeed. Michelle Crozier, director of Sustainability and Social Impact, designed the program a year and a half ago, and her team partnered closely with the Adobe talent team to build the program. She says, “I’ve seen and organized similar programs in the past, but what makes the Adobe Digital Academy unique is that it’s not for university hires, but for candidates with some work experience. We provide scholarships to individuals who intend to transition into a tech career, versus those currently in technical roles or with technical degrees. We then offer technical internships at Adobe, so that they gain experience — a real development role, prior to seeking a regular full-time role, which is very challenging without any relevant work experience.”

Adobe Digital Academy partners with three organizations — General Assembly and Galvanize in the San Francisco Bay area, and V School in Utah — and targets non-traditional candidates, including those from diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, and professionals who are switching careers. The program then provides scholarships and stipends to students to support them while they take immersive web development courses. Learn more about the program here.

Adobe Digital Academy is designed to provide more opportunities to underrepresented groups, and has produced considerable success already. Over 75 percent of the students qualify for an internship, and two-thirds of them have stayed on to work for Adobe full-time at the end of the program.

Liz Lowe, Sustainability & Social Impact Innovation lead, manages the Digital Academy. “Throughout the program we work closely with candidates, mentors, and hiring managers to emphasize a growth mindset and an individual’s potential to keep learning. We focus on feedback as an opportunity for continual growth.”

Rosemary Smith, senior talent partner at Adobe who works with the Digital Academy, says, “High-performing teams are diverse teams. Having people with different backgrounds, insights, and perspectives helps the team develop products differently.”

Tech outreach can make a real difference

Archy Posada, a graduate of Adobe Digital Academy who is currently an Adobe product manager, said the program changed his life. After being shot six times in Los Angeles, he left town ready to start a new life.

“At that point I made the decision to move to San Francisco,” he says. “I drove up there without a job, without even a place to stay.”

Archy Posada, Associate Product Manager, Adobe.

He spent the next several years job-hopping by day and teaching himself web development skills by night. One of the free web development tutorials he found during that time was actually part of an application requirement for Adobe Digital Academy. He finished the tutorial, and was later contacted by a General Assembly recruiter who asked him to complete the actual application.

“When I opened up the package,” Archy says, “I thought it was just a tutorial. I had no idea that it was an actual application.”

Archy completed the application, and, to his surprise, he was accepted. Adobe provided a scholarship and living stipend for Archy to enroll in a three-month course at General Assembly, which provides training for in-demand skills like web development, design, and data and analytics. After his training at General Assembly, Archy later moved on to the internship component of the program, eventually working with one of Adobe’s product teams.

Mark Nichoson, Adobe’s principal product manager for Digital Imaging and Archy’s direct manager, says Archy’s empathy is really what sets him apart.

“If you’ve talked to him, you know the guy has a lot of heart,” Mark says.

Mark adds that this is so important for Archy’s work in product development. “Most of the time, you’re looking at things from a customer perspective and trying to develop a really strong sense of empathy and understanding of our customers,” Mark says. “We have many different types of customers, and, as product managers, it’s important to be able to understand all different types of customers who are experiencing our software. On that level it’s essential to have multiple, diverse perspectives.”

During his internship at Adobe, Archy gave the work his full effort and heart. Just two months into the three-month program, his entire team was so impressed that they advocated to keep him on permanently. It worked, and Archy was offered a position to stay and keep growing with the team.

Ultimately, Archy’s work ethic earned him his full-time position, but Adobe Digital Academy planted and nurtured that seed.

“I’m working with an amazing team of people that believe in me and encourage me and empower me to develop and grow and challenge me every day,” Archy says. “This program was like an act of divine intervention for me.”

Changing lives

Adobe Digital Academy exists to recruit talent directly from diverse backgrounds, because the traditional recruiting network underserves them. That direct outreach has created a unique program and partnership to build Adobe’s talent pipeline and prepare future workers with real skills — and that’s a big win-win.

Archy points out that there are many more candidates like him who deserve the same opportunity he’s received.

“There are so many people out there that are just like me — that have just as much drive, just as much talent, if not even more. Often, they don’t know that these programs exist.”

As Archy’s experience exemplifies, building an inclusive workforce is about bringing diverse perspectives to the table, and that ultimately makes companies better.

“To really nurture the pipeline, you can’t have a narrow perspective for who can and cannot fill a certain role,” Rosemary says. “I think the industry is starting to see that you can come from non-traditional backgrounds and be successful.”

Interested in applying for the Adobe Digital Academy? Please contact any one of our education partners, General Assembly’s San Francisco Office, and V School, Utah. You can also visit our career page here.

Read more content from our Sustainability and Social Impact series here.