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Building for Better: Gender Inclusion at Betterment
Betterment sits at the intersection of two industries with large, historical gender gaps. ...Building for Better: Gender Inclusion at Betterment Betterment sits at the intersection of two industries with large, historical gender gaps. We’re working to change that—for ourselves and our industries. Since our founding, we’ve maintained a commitment to consistently build a better company and product for our customers and our customers-to-be. Part of that commitment includes reflecting the diversity of those customers. Betterment sits at the intersection of finance and technology—two industries with large, historical diversity gaps, including women and underrepresented populations. We’re far from perfect, but this is what we’re doing to embrace the International Women’s Day charge and work toward better gender balance at Betterment and in our world. Building Diversity And Inclusion At Betterment Change starts at the heart of the matter. For Betterment, this means working to build a company of passionate individuals who reflect our customers and bring new and different perspectives to our work. Our internal Diversity and Inclusion Committee holds regular meetings to discuss current events and topics, highlights recognition months (like Black History and Women’s History Months), and celebrates the many backgrounds and experiences of our employees. We’ve also developed a partnership with Peoplism. According to Caitlin Tudor-Savin, HR Business Partner, “This is more than a check-the-box activity, more than a one-off meeting with an attendance sheet. By partnering with Peoplism and building a long-term, action-oriented plan, we’re working to create real change in a sustainable fashion.” One next step we’re excited about is an examination of our mentorship program to make sure that everyone at Betterment has access to mentors. The big idea: By building empathy and connection among ourselves, we can create an inclusive environment that cultivates innovative ideas and a better product for our customers. Engaging The Tech Community At Large At Betterment, we’re working to creating change in the tech industry and bringing women into our space. By hosting meetups for Women Who Code, a non-profit organization that empowers women through technology, we’re working to engage this community directly. Rather than getting together to hear presentations, meetups are designed to have a group-led dynamic. Members break out and solve problems together, sharing and honing skills, while building community and support. This also fosters conversation, natural networking, and the chance for women to get their foot in the door. Jesse Harrelson, a Betterment Software Engineer, not only leads our hosting events, they found a path to Betterment through Women Who Code. “Consistency is key,” said Jesse. “Our Women Who Code meetups become a way to track your progression. It’s exciting to see how I’ve developed since I first started attending meetups, and how some of our long-time attendees have grown as engineers and as professionals.” Building A Community Of Our Own In 2018, our Women of Betterment group had an idea. They’d attended a number of networking and connection events, and the events never felt quite right. Too often, the events involved forced networking and stodgy PowerPoint presentations, with takeaways amounting to little more than a free glass of wine. Enter the SHARE (Support, Hire, Aspire, Relate, Empower) Series. Co-founder Emily Knutsen wanted “to build a network of diverse individuals and foster deeper connections among women in our community.” Through the SHARE Series, we hope to empower future leaders in our industry to reach their goals and develop important professional connections. While the series focuses on programming for women and those who identify as women, it is inclusive to everyone in our community who wish to be allies and support our mission. We developed the SHARE Series to create an authentic and conversational environment, one where attendees help guide the conversations and future event themes. Meetings thus far have included a panel discussion on breaking into tech from the corporate world and a small-group financial discussion led by financial experts from Betterment and beyond. “We’re excited that organizations are already reaching out to collaborate,” Emily said. “We’ve gotten such an enthusiastic response about designing future events around issues that women (and everyone!) face, such as salary negotiations.” Getting Involved Want to join us as we work to build a more inclusive and dynamic community? Our next SHARE Series event features CBS News Business Analyst and CFP® professional Jill Schlesinger, as we celebrate her new book, The Dumb Things Smart People Do with Their Money: Thirteen Ways to Right Your Financial Wrongs. You can also register to attend our Women Who Code meetups, and join engineers from all over New York as we grow, solve, and connect with one another.
Reflecting on Our Engineering Apprenticeship Program
Betterment piloted an Apprentice Program to add junior talent to our engineering ...Reflecting on Our Engineering Apprenticeship Program Betterment piloted an Apprentice Program to add junior talent to our engineering organization in 2017, and it couldn’t have been more successful or rewarding for all of us. One year later, we’ve asked them to reflect on their experiences. In Spring of 2017, Betterment’s Diversity & Inclusion Steering Committee partnered with our Engineering Team to bring on two developers with non-traditional backgrounds. We hired Jesse Harrelson (Betterment for Advisors Team) and Fidel Severino (Retail Team) for a 90 day Apprentice Program. Following their apprenticeship, they joined us as full-time Junior Engineers. I’m Jesse, a recruiter here at Betterment, and I had the immense pleasure of working closely with these two. It’s been an incredible journey, so I sat down with them to hear first hand about their experiences. Tell us a bit about your life before Betterment. Jesse Harrelson: I was born and raised in Wyoming and spent a lot of time exploring the outdoors. I moved to Nashville to study songwriting and music business, and started a small label through which I released my band’s album. I moved to New York after getting an opportunity at Sony and worked for a year producing video content. Fidel Severino: I’m originally from the Dominican Republic and moved to the United States at age 15. After graduation from Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics High School, I completed a semester at Lehman College before unfortunate family circumstances required me to go back to the Dominican Republic. When I returned to the United States, I worked in the retail sector for a few years. While working, I would take any available time for courses on websites like Codecademy and Team Treehouse. Can we talk about why you decided to become an Engineer? Jesse Harrelson: Coding became a hobby for me when I would make websites for my bands in Nashville, but after meeting up with more and more people in tech in the city, I knew it was something I wanted to do as a career. I found coding super similar from a composition and structure perspective, which allowed me to tap into the creative side of coding. I started applying to every bootcamp scholarship I could find and received a full scholarship to Flatiron School. I made the jump to start becoming an engineer. Fidel Severino: While working, I would take any available time for courses on websites like Codecademy and Team Treehouse. I have always been interested in technology. I was one of those kids who “broke” their toys in order to find out how they worked. I’ve always had a curious mind. My interactions with technology prior to learning about programming had always been as a consumer. I cherished the opportunity and the challenge that comes with building with code. The feeling of solving a bug you’ve been stuck on for a while is satisfaction at its best. Those bootcamps changed all of our lives! You learned how to be talented, dynamic engineers and we reap the benefit. Let’s talk about why you chose Betterment. Jesse Harrelson: I first heard of Betterment by attending the Women Who Code — Algorithms meetup hosted at HQ. Paddy, who hosts the meetups, let us know that Betterment was launching an apprenticeship program and after the meetup I asked how I could get involved and applied for the program. I was also applying for another different apprenticeship program but throughout the transparent, straightforward interview process, the Betterment apprenticeship quickly became my first choice. Fidel Severino: The opportunity to join Betterment’s Apprenticeship program came via the Flatiron School. One of the main reasons I was ecstatic to join Betterment was how I felt throughout the recruiting process. At no point did I feel the pressure that’s normally associated with landing a job. Keep in mind, this was an opportunity unlike any other I had up to this point in my life, but once I got to talking with the interviewers, the conversation just flowed. The way the final interview was setup made me rave about it to pretty much everyone I knew. Here was a company that wasn’t solely focused on the traditional Computer Science education when hiring an apprentice/junior engineer. The interview was centered around how well you communicate,work with others, and problem solve. I had a blast pair programming with 3 engineers, which I’m glad to say are now my co-workers! We are so lucky to have you! What would you say has been the most rewarding part of your experience so far? Jesse Harrelson: The direct mentorship during my apprenticeship and exposure to a large production codebase. Prior to Betterment, I only had experience with super small codebases that I built myself or with friends. Working with Betterment’s applications gave me a hands-on understanding of concepts that are hard to reproduce on a smaller, personal application level. Being surrounded by a bunch of smart, helpful people has also been super amazing and helped me grow as an engineer. Fidel Severino: Oh man! There’s so many things I would love to list here. However, you asked for the most rewarding, and I would have to say without a doubt — the mentorship. As someone with only self-taught and Bootcamp experience, I didn’t know how much I didn’t know. I had two exceptional mentors who went above and beyond and removed any blocks preventing me from accomplishing tasks. On a related note, the entire company has a collaborative culture that is contagious. You want to help others whenever you can; and it has been the case that I’ve received plenty of help from others who aren’t even directly on my team. What’s kept you here? Fidel Severino: The people. The collaborative environment. The culture of learning. The unlimited supply of iced coffee. Great office dogs. All of the above! Jesse Harrelson: Seriously though, it was the combination of all that plus so many other things. Getting to work with talented, smart people who want to make a difference. This article is part of Engineering at Betterment.