Reskilling with the Adobe Digital Academy

Why we’re open sourcing the process behind our program and encouraging other companies to join in.

By the time Archy Posada was a senior in high school, he had seen dozens of friends die from gang violence and had found himself homeless. He wasn’t considering his five-year plan, much less a career path. Eventually, Archy found music—something he considers his saving grace—and became a classically trained opera singer. But during a trip home to Los Angeles to visit his family for the holidays, Archy was shot and was once again on the brink of homelessness without a plan for the future. Today, Archy is a product manager on Adobe’s research & innovation team.

It’s quite an unusual journey compared to most people in the high-tech industry, but there are more stories like Archy’s that have been uncovered through the Adobe Digital Academy—a modern apprenticeship program that provides an alternate and accelerated pathway into tech for career-switcher candidates from nontraditional backgrounds. Allie Shaw attended an alternative high school and served in the U.S. Marines. Amy Scoville started a family shortly after graduating college and became a stay-at-home mom for eight years. Victorin Ontchya areno immigrated to the U.S. from Gabon and was working as a sales associate in a department store. Today, they all work full time at Adobe.

These stories speak to important trends in the tech industry—the need for reskilling opportunities and the role diversity plays in organizations. Digital transformation is rapidly changing our workforce, creating demand for new skills and roles. Studies from WEF, McKinsey, and Gartner have shown that by 2022, no less than 54% of all employees will require significant re- and upskilling and that anywhere from 75 million to 375 million workers may need to switch occupational categories and learn new skills. Eighty percent of employees already feel they lack the skills needed for both their current roles and future careers.

There’s a tremendous need for reskilling programs that can not only help companies fill the demand for technical roles, but also attract diverse candidates who bring a variety of experiences and perspectives to the table. In early 2016, we developed the Adobe Digital Academy to address the skills gap with a social impact solution that met our diversity and inclusion needs. We started with five scholarship students in the San Francisco Bay Area and have now grown the Adobe Digital Academy by 20x, offering nearly 100 scholarships. Of those scholars, 86% have been placed into full-time roles, with many hired at Adobe.

Today, we’re proud to announce that we’re open sourcing the process behind our program by releasing the Adobe Digital Academy Playbook. In addition, we’re committing to place 99% of Adobe Digital Academy graduates into full-time positions, whether at Adobe or another company by:

“Adobe Digital Academy graduates are bringing innovation, creativity and an impressive work ethic to their new teams,” said Katie Juran, Sr. Director, Diversity & Inclusion, Adobe. “By sharing our playbook, we hope to help other companies develop similar apprenticeship programs. And we’re excited to build a network of partner companies working together to reskill and diversify hiring across the industry.”

“At Okta, we’re on a mission to strengthen the connections between people, technology and community. To do that, we are committed to creating balanced teams where diverse skills and backgrounds are valued and appreciated for the unique perspectives they bring to our organization,” said Madhavi Bhasin, Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging, Okta. “We have a number of partnerships with diverse sourcing avenues that provide opportunities for people from nontraditional backgrounds to get into tech, such as Year Up, and are always looking to do more. The Adobe Digital Academy provides a fantastic opportunity for those looking to get into tech from nontraditional backgrounds and will be a great playbook for other companies interested in taking a similar approach to creating a more diverse future.”

How the Adobe Digital Academy works

Through the Adobe Digital Academy, Adobe sponsors scholarships for career switchers from nontraditional backgrounds to attend a three-month web development, data science or UX bootcamp with General Assembly. We partner with nonprofit organizations like Digital NEST, Hack the Hood, Upwardly Global and more to source talented candidates who are looking to make the switch into the tech industry. After completing the bootcamp, qualified candidates have the opportunity to interview for an apprenticeship at Adobe, and after the apprenticeship, many go on to full-time, entry-level positions.

The goal is to give candidates the education, experience, tools and opportunity they need to launch successful technical careers and succeed long-term, whether at Adobe or another company. During the program, candidates are supported by a system of mentors, ongoing feedback, and a close community of fellow participants. The Adobe Digital Academy is currently hosted at our sites in the San Francisco Bay Area, Lehi, UT, and Austin, TX. We’re excited to announce we’ll also be expanding to New York City in 2020.

The Adobe Digital Academy Playbook breaks down our five-step process, from determining your organization’s talent needs, to hiring trained candidates into full-time roles. Throughout the steps, we cover things like how to establish partnerships with nonprofits and education partners, how to foster growth mindset in both candidates and hiring managers, and how to evolve your hiring process to make it more inclusive.

Creating change together

With the average annual pay increase ranging from $30K to $100K for Adobe Digital Academy graduates, a 96% retention rate for Adobe’s full-time hires, and 50% of hires being promoted within their first year, the program is making a difference in the lives of candidates.

Reflecting on his life before the Adobe Digital Academy, Archy Posada said, “Planning for the future to me meant securing a place to sleep for the night. I was trying to survive—I didn’t have the luxury of thinking about my future. I remember the nights I spent sleeping in parks and not being able to afford a meal. I remember wrapping old pillowcases I found in a donation bin around my feet to try keep my toes warm at night. It feels like a dream when I stop to look at where I am now.”

“The team at General Assembly is continually inspired by the caliber of talent coming through the Digital Academy, and we are proud of our collaboration with Adobe to create pathways into tech careers for these students,” said Jake Schwartz, Co-Founder & CEO, General Assembly. “At GA, we’re big believers that talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not, and our hope is that other companies follow Adobe’s lead by making meaningful investments to create access to careers in tech, data, and design for high-potential talent from undeserved and overlooked communities.”

Get involved

We encourage any company interested in starting an apprenticeship program to download the Adobe Digital Academy Playbook. If you’re interested in hiring an Adobe Digital Academy graduate, please reach out to us at If you or someone you know is interested in joining the Adobe Digital Academy, 2020 applications are open now through November 18. Check out our website for more information.