Diversity, equity and inclusion have always been central to Thoughtworks culture. Internally, we strive to foster a vibrant community of diverse and passionate technologists, where all feel valued, have a sense of belonging and are able to thrive. Externally, we aim to support, enable and empower others, whether that be our clients or the communities we serve. Across the board, we’re committed to learning, sharing our experiences and solidarity over charity.
This is why, when we started partnering with Coding Black Females last year, we wanted to understand how we could deliver the most value to their members. We understood that there was an appetite and desire to do more to support black women on their leadership journeys and, given our experience of providing leadership development programmes internally at Thoughtworks, we were excited to pilot a brand new programme, aimed at accelerating the journeys of black women who are current or aspiring tech leaders.
Here are some key steps, learnings and takeaways from the pilot of our 13-week Leadership Accelerate Programme.
Working collaboratively with Coding Black Females and drawing on our well-established internal leadership development programmes, we pulled together a list of topics that we felt would have the most impact and add value for folks already operating at (or on the path to) leadership level. These topics ranged from managing conflict to influencing & persuading, cross functional requirements to autonomy & empowerment in leadership.
With guidance from Coding Black Females who run a whole range of programmes for their members, we agreed to have weekly sessions at the same time each Thursday evening to enable the cohort to best balance this alongside their careers, family and other commitments. The entire programme was delivered over Zoom in order to maximize participation and access.
A team of 12 leaders from across Thoughtworks created content and shaped workshops based on their own experiences, learnings and knowledge. As the programme was designed to deliver a combination of theoretical understanding with practical tips and takeaways, our consultants were well placed to offer broad insights from different roles, teams and sectors.
Coding Black Females advertised the programme and handled the entire application process from shortlisting to selection, resulting in a 20 person cohort for the first programme.
Keep it engaging - icebreakers, collaborative formats and breakout rooms all helped to enrich the learning experience, providing space and opportunity to interact, engage, share as a peer group and learn from each other.
Keep it varied - having a broad range of knowledgeable and passionate facilitators with real life experiences enabled the cohort to learn from a variety of different perspectives and expertise.
Keep it accessible - the relevance of topics differed depending on where participants were in their leadership journeys. Some had recently started new roles, just been promoted or were dealing with challenging situations and therefore, certain topics were more timely than others. However, all participants valued the breadth of topics and the recordings so that they could revisit the material as and when needed.
Focus on practical tips - the majority of participants spoke of how they’d already started applying actionable takeaways in their teams and organizations or by passing on their learnings to their networks.
Exploring experiences of black women in leadership - in addition to the pilot which provided insight and knowledge around transferable leadership skills, we are excited to be working with Coding Black Females to create more content specific to black women navigating their leadership journeys.
The importance of community - creating safe spaces for learning with other members of your community can be tremendously impactful in growing, connecting, building your networks and being inspired by others.
“Being able to meet and be on this learning journey with other black women was amazing - I feel like I’ve always been an only child and now I have lots of sisters” - 2021 participant
I feel proud to have been involved in this pilot and and even more so to hear about the positive impact it had on attendees. In our end of program retrospective, we gathered feedback on what worked well, what could be improved and things we could do differently next time and we are excited to continue partnering with Coding Black Females, iterating based on feedback and driving real impact and value to their community.
Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.