We’re running Optimizely’s Hack Reactor Scholarship and Internship program again this year. Here’s why.

I’m happy to announce that Optimizely is launching, for the third time, I/Own It — a boot camp scholarship and internship program that provides a path for individuals who are underrepresented in tech, and who have no professional technical experience, to begin a career in software engineering. I/Own It provides three full scholarships to Hack Reactor’s Software Engineering Immersive followed by paid three-month internships at Optimizely in San Francisco. Together, these run six months, starting with the Hack Reactor immersive on January 2nd, 2019. The deadline for application (which you can find here) is October 26th, 2018 and it is open to anyone who is underrepresented in the tech community.

The I/Own It program was established in 2015 by Jenny Lin, one of our engineering managers at the time. The purpose was to cultivate and support the participation of women in engineering at Optimizely and in our industry. When we ran it again in 2017, we decided to open it up to people from other underrepresented groups. Both of these programs have had significant impact. Two alums have gone on to create their own startups, and two are now successful Optimizely engineers (one of whom, Jess Chong — now a Senior Software Engineer — is helping to run the program this year).

I/Own It is different from other coding boot camp scholarships. Typically, boot camp participants quit their job, spend a quarter in an intensive boot camp, and enter a job market with no professional experience. I/Own It, though, doesn’t just provide simple scholarships; I/Own It provides internships, too. These give hands-on industry experience right out of the gate. Also, I/Own It provides mentors to the winners, so each has an experienced, professional engineer that has their back. I can’t overstate how important and helpful these are, especially when finding that first full-time job.

There’s a reason comprehensive boot camp scholarship programs like this are rare, especially at companies our size. It’s expensive and takes a lot of energy to make happen. So why do we do it? Because we think it’s that important. We are deeply committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, not just at Optimizely but for the world at large. We believe our industry will have the most positive and powerful impact if it includes the broadest diversity of background, experience, and thought.

Of course, it must be said that I/Own It benefits Optimizely with this increase in diversity of background, experience, and thought. Every intern leaves their mark on our organization and, happily for us, a number of them transitioned from internship to full-time Optinauts. Each and every one has brought talent and perspective to the organization, and each one has made both our software and our culture better and richer for it.

Finally, and most significantly, I/Own It has had a transformative effect for the individuals who have gone through it. I encourage you to read their stories on the Optimizely Engineering blog: here’s Jess’ Q&A, and here’s Brie’s post about I/Own It.

So what’s next for I/Own It? For one, we hope to continue to provide this program every year going forward. It’s proven to be a powerful and effective way to increase the diversity of talent and experience both in our company and in our industry. Second, if you are a fellow company interested in running your own sponsorship program, we want to help you. We will be following up with a blog post about how to start your own. Stay tuned.