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  • diversity and inclusion
  • bootcamps
  • representation in tech
  • interviewing

61. The Difference Engine

Hosted by Charlie Gleason, with guests Kimberly Lowe-Williams and Rachel Marro.

Every year, thousands of adults hopeful for a career change dedicate themselves to joining coding bootcamps, in the hopes of gaining a job in tech. But knowing how to program is only part of the equation. All too often, individuals from underrepresented backgrounds don't get the same opportunities as their peers. The Difference Engine wants to change that. Kimberly Lowe-Williams, its founder and Executive Director, is joined with Rachel Marro, one of The Difference Engine's recent graduates, to talk about how the non-profit prepares people for interviews and launch their careers in tech.

Show notes

Join Charlie Gleason, a designer and developer at Heroku, as he interviews two people representing The Difference Engine: Kimberly Lowe-Williams, its founder and Executive Director, and Rachel Marro, a recent graduate. The Difference Engine is a Chicago-based nonprofit with the goal of empowering professionals from nontraditional backgrounds to launch their careers in tech. They do this through an apprenticeship web development program, mock technical interviews, and ways to highlight their relevant experience.

Kimberley stresses that The Difference Engine expects applicants to have some familiarity with coding. The programs are designed to help adults with prior work experience navigate the often insular and nepotistic tech industry. One of her biggest tips is to encourage individuals to attend meet-ups, conferences, and other information sessions, to connect with others from similar backgrounds. Rachel concurs; it wasn't until she joined a few Slack groups that she realized her predicament was not unique, and it gave her more confidence in pursuing her career change into tech.

Although just over three years old, The Difference Engine has already placed several apprentices into tech careers. One of Kimberley's goals for 2020 is to involve more corporate sponsorship, in two forms. First, The Difference Engine can guide tech companies in reevaluating their interview practices to eliminate unconscious biases. Second, employees at companies can volunteer their time to serve as mentors for apprentices.


Charlie: Hello, welcome to Code[ish]. My name is Charlie Gleason. I'm a Designer and Developer at Heroku and I am joined today by two incredible people. I'm really excited to talk with Kimberly Lowe-Williams and Rachel Morrow and we're going to be talking about their background and experiences with The Difference Engine, which is a Web Development Apprenticeship that Rachel was a part of and a little bit about their experiences in the tech industry and that background and it's going to be great. Kimberly, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Kimberly: So as you said, my name is Kimberly Lowe-Williams. I am the founder and Executive Director of The Difference Engine, which is a Chicago-based nonprofit. Our mission is to empower technology professionals from nontraditional backgrounds to launch their careers in tech. We do this through our apprenticeship web development program where we build pro bono for no to low revenue nonprofits, websites and web applications that help them to move their business forward. That's who I am. I am also a Senior Engineering Manager here at Salesforce/Heroku.

Charlie: Rachel, you came through the Different Engine. It'd be great to hear a little bit about your background as well.

Rachel: Yes, for sure. As of about six months ago now, I am a junior Software Engineer with a company called BenchPrep, which is an EdTech company based in Chicago, but my background is not at all in software engineering. I actually worked for a while in health education and research, LGBTQ inclusion, violence prevention, a lot of mission-based and nonprofit work, so I was really fortunate to find The Difference Engine, which is an organization that helped me make that jump into software engineering.

Charlie: Kimberly, you talked a little bit about the apprenticeship program, so what was the inspiration for you to start this initially or to get involved in this initially?

Kimberly: The consolidated version of my founder's story is basically that I found myself at a point professionally where trying to move into a more technical career within the technology industry was super difficult. Just to give you a little bit about my background, I am, I don't know if you can tell maybe from the podcast voice, but I am a female. I am African-American and that is definitely outside of the regular, the normal traditional representation within tech. So when I first started my slow crawl into this profession, I was literally a little girl coming out of Gary, Indiana. I knew no other developers, which at that time they were called programmers, but I was determined to become a programmer or some type of way. So I worked really hard to try to find out more information about it. Made the leap after high school into college into a computer science degree, completely got intimidated and quickly like just started backpedaling out of that profession.

Kimberly: I was just like, “No, not computer science.” I have to find another way. This is too scary. I was the only female. I was the only person of color. The work in and of itself was difficult. It was rewarding, but the intimidation factor just going into the industry was just too large of a hill for me to climb at that point in time for myself as a 17-18 year old adult as I thought I was. So I refocused, had a family, did the whole adult thing. I graduated with a degree in Computer Information Systems, tried again to enter the technology industry, started on a Support Desk and literally within four years became a DevOps Engineer after completing a bootcamp and putting in over 175 job applications with one interview. So just going through that challenge myself really made me look at what was going on within the tech industry and I was raised to believe that, if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.

Kimberly: So I want it to be part of the solution and I also wanted to help other people to transition their lives by joining this completely open field of technology where there's nothing but opportunity for people who have the aptitude and the interest. Like they can change their lives, they can change the world using technology. And so I wanted to do whatever I could to help facilitate that transition into this industry as well as selfishly look around and not be the only one in the room. So I did have that motivation as well. And so that honestly is how I came up with The Difference Engine. After working with the CEO of the bootcamp that I went to and seeing that it wasn't just me that was having a hard time because my resume did not read that of a traditional web developer. I was having a hard time getting, taken seriously in this industry and really proving that I had the aptitude or the potential that people most often see in, Computer Science, career graduates and they give the opportunities to, because they see the potential there.

Kimberly: But when they actually, when I realized I wasn't the only one, then I created Difference Engine to serve as a stop gap between people who have invested financially, emotionally sacrificed so much to transition into this career just to be able to land their first entry level, just a junior dev job.

Charlie: That's such an important point on, on like looking around a room and seeing people that look like you in computer science as a fellow computer science. Well I dropped out, but I remember I was in a Database 101 class and the lecturer was using an example of like relations within a database that were wrong and use the example of like two men being married as something that couldn't or shouldn't be allowed and everyone laughed. I remember thinking, “Oh my gosh, they're talking about me.” That's so funny. I'm engaged to a man, now I'm married. But I mean at the time it really threw me and it made me realize that, “Wow, like I am the other here.” I think that that's why I think the work that, that The Difference Engine doing is so important because I'm sure that not everyone in that room meant to single a person out and make them feel isolated. But if you don't have exposure to people of other walks of life, you don't even know the inherit internal prejudices you might have. I think it's so important. I think it's, it's amazing. And then Rachel you mentioned that you came from a different background. How did you find The Difference Engine and what drew you into it all or interested in work?

Rachel: I was actually trying to remember exactly how I found it. I think it may have been posted in a Slack group that I was in. I think maybe related to diversity in tech in Chicago or something like that. I remember just how excited I was to have found it because I had imagined or was dreaming, like I wished there was some type of organization for people like me, in terms of people who come from underrepresented groups, don't have a traditional background in tech, and are just like looking for a way to basically combine mission-based work as well as their love for coding and for programming. I was like, “If only it had existed.” Then, and then I, I was reading into The Difference Engine and I was like, “Oh my gosh, Kim has thought of this, has brought it into reality and here it is.”

Rachel: The application is open. That was a really exciting moment. The thing that also really excited me about it was that it helped me re-imagine my role in the tech industry in terms of actually imagining it as a possibility because all of the things that you both have talked about so far, which is like not seeing yourself and people around you or the worry that entering into the industry might expose you to yeah, active biases, to discrimination to all sorts of things. That really is what made me hesitant even apply to jobs. I took the bootcamp for fun essentially and I was like, I am doing this for fun but this is not a career for me because I couldn't see myself in it. The Difference Engine is really the turning point for me. Something that helped me imagine myself doing this full time and doing it in a way that felt safe and fulfilling and where I could show up as my full self and not have to hide things in order to do this as a career.

Kimberly: Rachel came into the Different Engine and she kicked butt. So the like she really is a strong developer and she's just a really good person to work with. I think that the value behind both of those and knowing the fact that she almost didn't enter it because of that, like that is exactly why we exist. Because she has proven that when you don't make an industry appealing to people from diverse backgrounds with different perspectives, you're missing on talent like that would have been ashamed. So I'm very happy that she overcame that perspective and that challenge.

Charlie: Absolutely. That's awesome. And I think, yeah, that's such a good way of putting it. We don't even know the talent that we're missing out on as an industry and as individual communities as well when we don't allow people a seat at the table or don't encourage people to be a part of it. So you talked a little bit about that you work in a nonprofit. How does that work, the actual Different Engine kind of process of finding organizations and working with them and pairing people up.

Kimberly: Charlie, it has been magic. I would like to sit here and say that we have a very strategic and organized way in which we have campaigns that we facilitate the organization of how this thing happens. But the fact that The Difference Engine exists, it exists because of the kindness and the overall giving of people within technology. I'm willing to volunteer their time and lead the programs. So number one, the biggest thing is that we don't teach people to code. People come to us already knowing how to code--different skill levels, right? And what we do is we put them together on engineering teams, which is how software is developed. That's the big secret to software development. Just so everyone knows. It's not some secret engineer in his garage coding and building up the thing. We fit them into software, a very diverse, I might say software development teams and they learn to build these applications together and instead of teaching them, we just mentor and guide them as best as we can.

Kimberly: The Difference Engine is able to get apprentices and get the word out and run. It's a completely 100% volunteer run organization. So it's through the efforts of mid to senior level web developers who come as tech leads into our organization to lead the technical requirements, building and coding and pairing with the apprentices as well as product managers, project managers that come in and facilitate the client communication and making sure we're actually building with our nonprofit clients and some of them are social enterprises that are heavily mission-based--what they really need. So it's literally just through the efforts of these volunteers that we're able to even keep going.

Charlie: Yeah, that's super interesting. The idea of mentorship over like rather than introducing to the tech, this idea that people, especially in this industry, it's a lot of resources to be self-taught, but there isn't as many resources to get mentoring or get support, especially if you come up against tricky problems both in terms of working within a team all the way through to the actual tech side of things. So I think that that idea of like mentorship first definitely makes sense.

Kimberly: Yeah, and getting work experience because we found that a lot of people coming from different careers aren't as familiar with the informal professional business behavior that we use in tech in order to actually get things done. So learning to just work as a developer can be a whole learning experience in and of itself.

Charlie: Yeah, I'd love to hear about potentially success stories or experiences that people have had through the program or even maybe examples of types of the program hasn't necessarily been right to people.

Kimberly: Yeah. So since we have Rachel and she can talk more about her story of her success, I will talk about like who the program has not been able to help. I mentioned earlier that we don't teach people to code. People have to come into the program already knowing, how to basically create a CRUD app. They need to be able to have the minimum entry level web development skills comfortable and at least one programming language when they come into the program. Again, we are a very small group. We do our best to lead and mentor and make sure that they're building and coding to professional standards and give them the real life work experience. But we do require that they have at least the basic web development skills when they come in.

Charlie: And Rachel, so you mentioned that you're a junior software engineer at BenchPrep. I'd love to hear about how the journey you went on from that original Slack message that you saw through to joining that organization and how that experience has been.

Rachel: Sure. There are a couple pieces I guess to highlight that were particularly helpful about working with The Difference Engine. Honestly, thinking about it just the very first is having to go through a well-defined generally as like a technical interview process. Definitely not that intense of a technical interview process, but there were pieces of applying to work at The Difference Engine that had me explain code that I was proud of and that I had worked on and to talk about how I might improve it. It almost felt like an initial practice round of some of those technical interview skills that to be quite honest, when I was in my bootcamp, those practice things were offered. But at that time I had the mentality that, “Oh, that world isn't meant for me.” And so I was not taking advantage of those resources when they were provided during the bootcamp.

Rachel: And so it was really just getting back into the mentality of, “Oh I can do this, I can code, I have written code.” And so just going through that initial process of getting accepted into The Difference Engine was a confidence boost that I'm not starting from zero. I do have skills that are valuable and that I can contribute to this organization. So that just initial application part was pretty helpful. And then once I was an apprentice, one thing that was really helpful was that working, like Kim said, not as a student, not as a coding student, but as an apprentice, as a volunteer, actually building a website for a nonprofit. It really helped expose me to like real world coding versus bootcamp coding. And so there were just a lot of things that I was able to learn from when it was just real world application of those skills.

Rachel: Like for example, when I was in the bootcamp GitHub was where I saved my code. Like that was it. It was where I individually saved my code. It wasn't how I collaborated with others. I didn't understand feature branches and merge conflicts. Those things like sent me into a panic. And so having to actually use collaboration tools and work on a team to develop projects that was just a huge, huge help because obviously as you've talked about, that's how you build applications. That's what happens in the real world. And so that was really, really helpful. It was also great to just be exposed to all the different roles and different people that exist on a team that's working on technology projects. So it's not just people writing code, it's also designers and project managers and tech leads. It was also really cool to just think about the different roles that are involved and how to keep all of those different players in mind. We also had the chance to do like demos for the person that we were building the website for and so it was again just exposure to how things actually happen and day to day work.

Charlie: Yeah, that's a really good way of putting it as well. I think one of the things that for me personally, when I went into the workforce I originally studied design and then I did an internship for a year and I realized that it just never really prepared me for those I don't think soft skills is the right word for it, but, the idea of how you collaborate with people, how you communicate, how many moving parts there are in tech have much to do with code and I think also there are opportunities, if you're a person who's thinking about getting into the tech industry, if code isn't something that necessarily appeals to you, there are so many roles that are available that still can scratch that itch of, of solving a problem or working as a team to solve a complicated problem that doesn't necessarily need a text editor. Yeah. It's super interesting to hear it from that angle.

Kimberly: When you said that, that triggered something for me. When I first created The Difference Engine my intention was to provide opportunities for web developers who come from nontraditional backgrounds. It used to be like our mission. That used to be the statement about a year after we're doing the program, we realized by having opportunities for mid to senior level engineers to lead and for people to make the switch into just a typical non technical project manager into a technical project or product owner type role. We were creating opportunities for people outside of just developers. So like I said at the, at the start of the show was that our mission is to empower technology professionals to launch their careers. It's just because of exactly that. There are so many different roles within tech, so many opportunities even outside of development that we accidentally are giving them work experience as well. We've worked with, like Rachel said, designers and UX/UI people to as our projects have matured in half progress organizationally to make a product that we deliver at the end, a higher quality. We've had to engage more and more technology professionals and there're different aspects in different parts in their careers and by volunteering in this way, they've been able to add extra bullets to their resumes as well. That was an unexpected benefit.

Charlie: That's a good point as well. I think one of the things that you said that really struck me Rachel was that there were things that in the coding bootcamp that you didn't take advantage of because you didn't feel like there was a place for you there. Is there any advice you wanted to expand on there for someone who might be listening who's in a similar boat who feels like they don't necessarily know how to get a foot in the door or how to approach something like a coding bootcamp or being more involved in tech?

Rachel: I frankly, I don't know how common my situation is because I know generally speaking, people make the investment in a bootcamp once they are pretty solidly sure that they want to do that as a career. I was fortunate to have a really generous tuition benefit that helped me cover the majority of the bootcamp that I took at Northwestern because now I was an employee there. So that was part of what allowed me the privilege of doing something more for fun and not fully taking advantage of those career-based preparations. But I guess there might be still some things that can be helpful for people who maybe have doubts about their place in the world of tech, even if they know that they want to do that. I think it's just really like early on connecting with those groups and those resources that you do feel a sense of belonging in.

Rachel: I mean, again for me Slack was huge. Like I just found a number of Slack groups I think was like Women in Tech and a Chicago Diversity and Tech Initiatives and something like that. But those Slack channels were full of like hundreds of people. I realized, “Oh my gosh, like are there are absolutely other people in other organizations that have the same mentality that I do.” And so I do wish I had connected to those communities a bit earlier. I think it would have allowed me to see myself in a tech career a lot earlier than I did, but again, I was lucky, to eventually connect with The Difference Engine and to find those places that I felt good in.

Charlie: That's awesome. I think I'll make sure that I put things to those groups in the show notes if anyone wants to…

Rachel: Yes. And I will try to find you the correct name, instead of such names. Sorry about that.

Charlie: No, don't stress. That's the joy of the show notes. Kimberly, do you have any advice for people on how they might get involved or how they can make a difference, be it if they're at the start of their journey in tech or maybe if they're more established.

Kimberly: So one of my biggest tips is to be in an area where you can attend meet-ups, go to a lot of info sessions and general call outs. Like if you just go to like just meet-ups and you put in your area and you put in what you're interested in, don't be shy. Like you can be shy when you get there, but go anyway. Networking, going to those things, hearing other people's stories, listening and being present like that makes a big difference. So there's a bunch of different groups and there's a lot of ways to get involved if you just want to, if you're open and able to network. Like that's the biggest thing just to get started. You don't have to know a line of code. They have a lot of informal coffee chats and meet-ups and just social networking, just becoming part of the community and getting to know people and see that, regardless of what a developer may look like or the perspective that they have, they're just humans. And what I have found is that there are some really good and generous people within the tech industry. So just becoming familiar and comfortable makes--it provides a support system that you otherwise would not have had.

Charlie: And on the other side, if you're someone that's interested in getting involved with mentoring or with being more supportive, did you have any thoughts on how someone could get there.

Kimberly: Call me now.

Charlie: I'll put a link in the show notes.

Kimberly: Oh yes, yes definitely. If there are people out there that are looking to pay it forward and I think there is a large community out there looking for ways to give back because there is not one single person within development within technology that has not had someone help them. I know very early on, even when I was in an organization that I did not feel had my best interests at hand, I had a peer, a mentor developer and he actually took me under his wing and he taught me SQL, like you would not believe., I basically came out of there almost a DBA. But like during our lunch hours he would take, we would for like months during lunch he would mentor me and teach me how to do things and how to run queries, how to learn the language and things like that.

Kimberly: So there's always someone who has helped someone in this industry to get a leg up because it's not easy. Like just the technical challenge of what we do every day is not easy and it's through the help and mentorship of others. So that being said, we are always looking for technical leads, product managers, people who--even scrum masters, anyone in the field that feels like they have, they are at a professional point and they have the ability to give week over week to a group of apprentices. Then definitely go to our website and send me a note just fill out an application. We are always looking for volunteer help and we are also from an executive board level, always looking for help that way too. We have a lot of gaps to fill because there is more to running an organization that then just the technology needs.

Charlie: Then I guess the third if we think about, so we've talked about advice for people who are potentially thinking about getting involved in tech and we've talked about people who are involved in tech getting interested in or getting involved in mentoring. What should people know about bringing in candidates from a company point of view?

Kimberly: Oh, Charlie, that that's going to make me talk a lot. Okay. Number one, from a recruiting perspective, I think it's super important to be open to looking at resumes that may not read according to the requirements that you may be familiar with to fulfill entry-level to mid-level development roles, right? Be open to a nontraditional resume. Understand the importance and the value of transferable skills. For example, we had an apprentice come through our program who used to be a lawyer, believe it or not, and she was going through the corporate law track and she absolutely hit a glass ceiling and she was absolutely bored out of her mind in that field. But she's very super smart, but she had already invested a lot of time, energy and money into one career and didn't have it to be able to invest into a second career by getting a computer science degree.

Kimberly: However, she was very gifted, very smart. She had very high aptitude. But she was super quiet, a bit reserved and did not--She struggled through a lot of the behavioral interviewing skills that a lot of recruiters and hiring managers look for right away. So it took a little bit more time for her to land her first development job. But as of the date of this recording, I do believe she's a lead developer and she's doing a really good job. So yeah, be open to candidates whose resumes may not read or show as you would expect a traditional developer to read as. Another tip could also be along the lines of the transferable skills. Sometimes work experience, job experience and other avenues provide--and this is the feedback that I've gotten from companies who have hired our developers is that they didn't have to teach them to work.

Kimberly: Typically people hire junior entry-level developers and the apprentices who come through our program range in age from 18 to 55 the average is somewhere between 28 and 32 but these people get their first development job, but it's not their first job ever. So they don't have to teach them how to work. They just have to teach them, maybe get over some programming language things within their company or how their company does things, but they don't have to mentor and teach them how to work. They simply have to provide them with the technical support and the things that are teachable to perform their job. So the value of those transferable skills is quite high, so it makes interviewing for it a little bit more difficult, but you won't get that in like a hacker rate test. You won't see that in a coding challenge.

Kimberly: The other thing I would say is around the recruiting and hiring efforts is to be cognizant of, again, these people are adults, they have families, they may be transitioning from careers. Some of the coding challenges that we create to test the technical aptitude of these candidates simply stop them from applying because they don't have the time and the bandwidth to be able to put forth the 48 to 72 hours that it will take to meet this coding challenge for a very competitive role. So there is implicitly something right at the very start of some of the, the filters we use that filter out highly skilled candidates, especially from an entry level and a junior perspective, right? There's a certain level of training and guidance that we'll have to provide anyway once we hire people at that level and some of these really challenging code reviews and coding challenges simply filter out highly skilled applicants based on their ability to have discretionary free time, to meet these challenges.

Charlie: Yeah, I really could not agree more. I feel really passionately about this and I think that this idea of these really highly anxiety provoking stressful whiteboard coding challenges getting like a Fibonacci Sequence in a single line or even all the way to the other end, the expectation that you have to have a GitHub, commit streak that is 365 days long. It's not realistic. I think if you're overlooking candidates that have these, in my view, incredibly underrated softer skills around communication and around how they approach work and all of those kinds of things that you don't get from those experiences, I think you're really missing out. Hopefully tech starts to move further away from that and I think there is a groundswell of people that are saying these aren't realistic ways to test people and these aren't fair ways to test people and it creates that culture of really extreme focus on, in my opinion, the wrong, the wrong bit, the wrong part. So I, yeah, I couldn't agree more. I think it's so important and hopefully that will continue to change and those kinds of tests will continue to fall out of favor.

Rachel: Also, I think there're some things to be said too from the perspective of applicants and job seekers. One of which is, at least for me, when I was looking for organizations to apply to and going through the application and interview process, that was also part of how I decided if a company or an organization was one that I was interested in working at, right, is like what application process did they have? What types of skills did they value? That helped guide me to find a place that that did put value on the background that I had. I was a junior engineer, but I had over a decade of experience in education and teaching and violence prevention and before The Difference Engine, I saw that as something to be almost embarrassed about that I didn't have the proper background.

Rachel: But after working with The Difference Engine, I came to see that as an asset and something that I was really proud of. And so really I wanted to find an organization that could appreciate that and that also saw that as an asset and that valued what I could bring besides just my technical coding skills because they are important. Especially once you start working on teams and solving difficult and not really well defined problems like your coding skills come at the end of things. Once you've done all this initial work of collaborating and brainstorming and communicating with all different kinds of stakeholders, teaching and explaining to others what you've tried or what you're thinking about trying, like there's just so, so much that goes into a software engineering job besides just hands on the keyboard coding. So yeah, really working with The Difference Engine helped me recognize the skill sets that I had that were really marketable and to start talking them up a lot in my applications and my interviews.

Charlie: That's so great. I think that's a really great point as well. You touched on that a job interview is two ways. I didn't realize this until I was way, way older...

Kimberly: Oh we teach that right away.

Charlie: Where were you? I just never realized that and I've definitely worked in roles that I look back on that weren't great for my growth and for my development because of that. Because the, I just didn't see the red flags or I didn't value the skills that you're talking about. So I think that's a huge takeaway that I think is so important.

Kimberly: Yeah. And it speaks to that pipeline problem people are always talking about, right? When recruiting and hiring, they always say that there is a pipeline problem where we just don't have the people in the pipeline. Right? And it's like, well, have you ever considered what is stopping them from applying to work with your company? Have you looked at your website? Have you really looked at your recruiting standards and how your job posts and what it's like to try to work there because yeah, that's definitely one thing that we talk about a lot at The Difference Engine because we do have a lot of people from--and I would like to state that yes, we have white males in our program. Some people have asked me that--it's a diverse, truly diverse group of people. One of the things is if you really value the work that you have done within this group, try to keep it going.

Kimberly: Look for a job that will help you to continue to grow and develop in that way and that values and perspectives of the many as opposed to the few. That's one of the things that we look at when we talk to them about where to apply and why to apply. When I do my, executive outreach to companies that might be a good partner for The Difference Engine for hiring. One of the first things I look at is to see how supportive are you of people who come from nontraditional backgrounds because we don't want them to work here and it to be a terrible experience.

Charlie: And so if you were working for an organization and you wanted them to be involved, is there a way that you could do that?

Kimberly: Yes. One of, one of my big things for 2020, I have handed over all of the program leadership responsibilities to my amazing group of leaders within The Difference Engine so that I can focus on helping us to build more corporate sponsorships and like look for grants and opportunities to help the organization grow. We started almost three years ago now, so we're still a pretty small, scrappy organization. However, we have a queue, a backlog of apprentice applications and apprentices that we wish to further support in their growth and transition into technology. Some of these apprentices aren't always ready to just go out and get a job as fast as Rachel did, which I'm sure Rachel is probably thinking fast, that took too long.

Kimberly: But the truth is like we can only support them for up to 17 weeks. And oftentimes we see a lot of people, especially people from, who aren't necessarily career transitioning but career starting because they had a different start in life, but they are adults, they have families and they're looking to make a life change. We're looking to try to support them through that transition by providing them with stipends for the work that they are doing and things like that. The only way that we're able to do that is by partnering and aligning with corporations that are willing to invest in the potential of people before they even hire them. Some companies have come to me and they just simply are like, “We're not able to hire yet. How else can we get involved?” Well, we have corporate sponsorship opportunities, so we have different sponsorship levels starting at 2,000 going up to 50,000 or more that a corporation can donate annually to help the organization grow and to be able to facilitate and mentor these people through this different phase and as are getting them ready to enter the job force.

Charlie: Yeah, and if people wanted to discuss that to get in touch, I will make sure that I put your contact details in …

Kimberly: Yeah, and its It's .io, we're not a .com so it confuses people, but it's, which is really fun to type, but I'm sorry. That's all right.

Charlie: Well, it has been a genuine pleasure. I'm such a huge fan. I know you personally, Kimberly. So now I'm just yelling it to the rest of the world. But I love what you're doing with The Difference Engine. I think it's fantastic. Rachel, I really appreciate you taking the time to come on to talk about your experiences and your background because I think it's really important to have both of your voices, amplified and talking about these opportunities and, and what you, how you got into the industry. And like I said, I'm going to have a bunch of stuff in the show notes about the things that we've talked about and please #engineerdifference, check out The Difference Engine. Thank you both.

Kimberly: Thank you.

Rachel: Thank you so much.

About code[ish]

A podcast brought to you by the developer advocate team at Heroku, exploring code, technology, tools, tips, and the life of the developer.

Hosted by


Charlie Gleason

User Interface / User Experience Lead, Heroku

Charlie is a designer, developer, musician, and creative coding enthusiast. He can usually be found somewhere in London, probably on a bike.

With guests


Kimberly Lowe-Williams

Senior Manager, Production Engineering Governance, Heroku

Kimberly is a technologist and founder of The Difference Engine, an apprenticeship program helping to bring underrepresented populations into tech.


Rachel Marro

Jr Software Engineer, BenchPrep

Rachel is a Jr Software Engineer at BenchPrep, and has over a decade of experience in youth health education, violence prevention, & LGBTQ inclusion.

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