By the team at Salsify.

“I definitely see technology in my future.” Enthusiastic 6th grader, Mario Umana Academy, Boston

As with most of the best ideas, it started with a bunch of smart women in a room. Some of the women at Salsify get together occasionally to share experiences, strategize about thorny problems, and perhaps enjoy an adult beverage. Over dinner a couple of years ago, they were focused on a familiar and distressing theme – the lack of diversity in tech. With all the discussions, diversity committees, and tech pub op-eds, we’re still in an industry where women are on track to fill only 3 percent of the projected 1.4 million jobs opening in computer science by 2020. Currently, Black and Latinx workers make up just 5% of the workforce, according to a recent study by Atlassian.  

The coworkers/dinner companions decided that it wasn’t enough to be talk about the problem – they resolved to do something about it. They reasoned that to really bend the curve towards long-term diversity, the enthusiasm for STEM careers needs to start early. In middle school, where a sense of the possible can take root.

And thus, Guppy Tank was born.

 

If the lawyers ask, the name has nothing to do with Shark Tank, the television competition series where entrepreneurs pitch their tech ideas to crabby investors. However, the women at Salsify did come up with the inspiration to bring middle school kids into Salsify, armed with their own ideas for apps that could help their peers. Split into groups, they huddled with teams of Salsify employees from engineering, sales and marketing that guided the students to design, build and pitch initial prototypes of their own problem-solving software to a panel of judges.

It’s magic. But don’t take my word for it – watch the video of our latest iteration. You’ll see the joy, the savviness, the perception, and enthusiasm of these kids from local Boston schools. Throughout the morning, they were exposed to all the major steps that it takes to bring a tech idea to life. How will it change someone’s day? Who’s the customer? What should the experience be like? How you do bring it to market? How do you make money?

In fact, Guppy Tank worked so well that this fall the Boston Foundation teamed with TUGG (Technology Underwriting Greater Good) and the Boston Public Schools to develop a formalized curriculum and scale it to 10 other companies and 250 students for this past October’s Tech Gives Back day. In addition, school systems from Los Angeles to Chicago have expressed interest in introducing the model into their schools.

Salsify’s employees are always the engine of our philanthropic efforts. The passion of a few inspires action by the many. That is why we are so proud to be a Pledge 1% Gives company through the commitment of one our co-founders, Jeremy Redburn. It reinforces our philosophy that seemingly small efforts can reap tremendous impact over time. If your company is interested in sparking a Guppy Tank crusade in your community schools, please reach out to me on LinkedIn. #givingtuesday is a perfect day to start a STEM revolution in your community.