Several months have passed since the day I took the picture below. It was my first day at Laboratoria as well as the first day someone from Colombia’s team would work in this country. When I took this picture I was feeling quite excited.
Our first workspace in Bogotá, Colombia (October 2019)
A lot has happened since that moment. Everything that comes with opening a new office, creating a new team, adapting in the middle of a pandemic, and a lot of other things that were definitely not a part of our plans the day I took the picture.
What indeed was part of our plan, was the moment in which the Bootcamp would begin. It would happen in May 2020; this date was the goal that we had set as a team. And after a few months, in the context of a pandemic and a lot of adapting, it finally became a reality. On May 27th, Laboratoria’s first bootcamp in Colombia began.
First group of students in Bogotá (May 2020)
In these paragraphs I would like to share some of what I have learned throughout this process, especially what the bootcamp students have taught me, with whom I’ve spent most of my day-to-day over the last few months.
1. Diversity in the learning space
According to DANE, only 17% of jobs in technology are performed by women, and there is an estimated talent gap of 80,000 jobs in the tech sector. Because of this, we have decided to contribute to a more diverse and inclusive sector by encouraging women’s learning and their employability as web designers.
And if there is something I have learned during these past months, it’s that in addition to our gender identity, the diversity in the bootcamp is also built by the different ways every student learns and develops her potential.
Here, classes, teachers or grades are non-existent. All of these things in an educational environment standardize the support given to a group that is actually diverse. Instead, we have projects, learning goals, coaches, room for feedback and a lot of self-evaluation. It is like a real workplace where you learn by doing and from the outcome of your work with others. As innovative as it sounds, it is also a truly challenging process.
It is challenging for the students who face something hugely different, owning their learning experience, relying on others, making decisions about which path they should take, at which point they should ask for help, etc. It is also challenging for the team because each student’s process is unique: what motivates them, ways of learning, the pace at which they learn, their technical and soft skills, previous experiences, etc.
As expected, the results are also different from the more traditional concepts. There are no such things as good or bad students, rankings, grades, nor are there people who are knowledgeable and others that come here to be taught. Here what we have are women developing their potential in diverse ways, at different paces and with diverse outcomes.
I’d love to be able to adequately put into words how the outcome of every project completed is so unique. The results come from their creativity, learning capacity and their ability to turn ideas into real products. And I have seen how they have changed the way they learn, becoming owners of the process, and further developing the ability we have to make new connections and learn something new every day.
2. Talent that makes a difference learns differently
I’ve heard people talk about the skills required to work in this digital era, about the types of teams that will make the organizations change in the midst of the current context, and I’ve also learned in the bootcamp that this game-changing talent learns in different kinds of spaces.
“At Laboratoria, you don’t just learn how to program”. This is one of the most common phrases heard from the students and graduates in testimonies they share. And it’s very important because working in the digital era is no longer about following instructions, reading manuals, applying processes, etc. It is about our ability to adapt to new environments full of uncertainties, to learn how to learn in an industry which is always being renewed, and to work on diverse and agile teams.
Every time students start a new project in the bootcamp, they are taking on the challenge of doing something completely new for them, without instructions, classes, without specific steps or obvious answers. Because when they take over future projects on their professional careers, it will always be without any of these things.
According to DANE, women’s unemployment rate in Colombia is 15.3%, which is 6.2% more than men’s unemployment rate. This figure is very worrying if we understand the importance of a job in building autonomy and our development in a space that allows our skills and potential to flourish.
I continue to be amazed by how brave each one of our students is for constantly challenging these statistics, by betting on their future as web developers, by their ability to adapt and create together a space full of collaboration, sorority, laughs and closeness in an remote work environment, and lastly, by the diversity of their stories and previous experiences.
I have high expectations for what is to come in the months that are left for the first Laboratoria cohort in Bogota, for the future graduates as they begin their new jobs and for the future Laboratorians who are on their way.
As a closing note, I would like to share one last picture. It’s the most recent picture I took.
Just three months after the bootcamp started, 15 of Bogota’s students took part in “Hackeando la Desigualdad”(Hacking Inequality), an event in which more than 100 Laboratoria students and graduates participated. With a lot of excitement, we witnessed how 8 women made it to the final round and how 4 of them won second place.
This was a very thrilling moment for the competitors and for us, who cheered them on via Zoom. These last three months have brought lots of learning. I think that day our team was finally able to see all of this and envision what awaits our bootcamp and for the future professionals that will come from it.
“Aleratto” Squad - Hackeando la Desigualdad
“Ámigas del Código” Squad - Hackeando la Desigualdad
*Translated by: Macarena Jorquera