How Might We Build Inclusive UI/UX Pathways for Oakland’s diverse tech talent?

IDEO CoLab and TechHire Oakland team up to design a solution.

by Kirsten Lundgren, Lead, TechHire Oakland

In design thinking, a “mash-up” emphasizes bringing together unexpected things to spark fresh ideas. IDEO CoLab and TechHire Oakland at the Kapor Center Innovation Lab have joined forces to experiment with a unique mash-up of our own.

As part of our mission to catalyze the training and placement of 1,000 residents from underrepresented, non-traditional backgrounds into tech careers by end of 2020, TechHire Oakland is facilitating advancement pathways in software engineering, IT/devops, UI/UX/new media, and tech sales.

As with all of our work, our UI/UX pathway aims to keep our community’s most underrepresented talent on the forefront of emerging tech.

The IDEO-Oakland TechHire Inclusion MashUp

Our UI/UX pathway partner, IDEO CoLab, is the R&D arm of the world-class innovation & design consulting firm, IDEO. With thousands of award-winning inventions, including the first computer mouse for Apple, IDEO is considered one of the most influential design companies in the world. Its CoLab focuses on how emerging technologies (blockchain, AI, internet of things, AR/VR) will impact key human systems ranging from money to food to energy.

IDEO has pioneered design thinking, an approach that has exploded across a growing list of industries, and insists on unlocking creativity via empathy with users and rapid experimentation. The model also relies on a diverse culture in which cross-disciplinary teams from different sectors and backgrounds build upon one another’s ideas.

But does this definition of diversity include people from underrepresented racial and socio-economic backgrounds? They reside in abundance in Oakland, home to the diverse tech talent pools of the future, but are often excluded from opportunities in emerging tech. Our work with IDEO offers fresh thinking on how to include them.

Modeling Inclusive Design Thinking

Twice a year, the CoLab opens up applications to its fellowship/apprenticeship program. Fellows are selected based not on pedigree and specific degrees, but rather, concrete skills demonstrated (something we think more companies should be doing) during a day-long makeathon.

This year, for the first time, the makeathon included talented students and professionals of color and their instructors from five TechHire Oakland/Kapor Center partners: the David E Glover Center (VR and gaming), Gameheads (devops), the Hidden Genius Project (app builders), Oakland Digital (visual designers), and Kapor Center I-Lab Residents (entrepreneurs). They represent the literal future of design and emerging tech.

IDEO CoLab staff led our participants through a series of exercises and prompts to build creative solutions to specific emerging tech briefs, such as “How might we design experiences for teens who receive their first cryptocurency wallet instead of their first credit card.” Within minutes, students were moving about the room drawing, building, collaborating, learning about block chain, all while using their own experience as a use-case.

The day wrapped up with a tour of the IDEO office demonstrating the tangible products resulting from design thinking, and science fair-style presentations of prototypes built by student and fellow-candidates.

Baking Design Thinking into Local Community and Inclusion into Companies

“It is essential we educate our local community more and encourage them to design pathways out of challenging circumstances into labor markets hungry for their fresh, new ideas .” — Participating Instructor, the David E Glover Center

TechHire Oakland will be aggressively working to further build out this UI/UX mashup with IDEO CoLab and other innovative partners.

Our hope is that by training local students in addition to training trainers via unique mashups of this kind, design thinking can be sustainably baked into classrooms, offices, and the daily lives of our local community members, particularly those seeking creative careers in tech.

We are starting by incorporating more inclusion into company makeathons and design sprints (early in the pipeline). Opportunities further downstream, such as internships and apprenticeships (as an entry point to jobs), are up next.

To find out more about TechHire Oakland’s training and employment pathways, visit: www.techhireoakland.org.