We founded OfferZen because talent is universally distributed, but opportunity is not. There’s an incredible amount of human potential that is not fully realised, because talented people don’t always have access to great jobs or learning opportunities. At OfferZen, our mission is to close this gap by helping people unlock their potential. But, in order to do this, we realised that we need to better understand why the gap between talent and opportunity exists.
When my co-founder, Philip, and I were deciding how to approach this mission, we eventually chose the software space because we see it as fundamentally democratic. It’s cheap, meritocratic and has the power to be the primary economic driver for a long time to come. And because software is levelling the playing field, we believe that helping people unlock their potential through better tech jobs, upskillment opportunities and community engagement has the potential to reset inequalities. But that’s in an ideal world.
In reality, while helping thousands of software makers get access to jobs and learning opportunities, we’ve seen how many people just don’t get a fair shot at these same opportunities, even if they have the right software skills. This means that a lot of human potential remains untapped, which ultimately stops us from achieving our core mission at OfferZen.
When it comes to unlocking potential, we’ve realised that it’s a lot easier to do this in a diverse space where you feel included, respected and able to set yourself up for a thriving, fairly paid career.
At the same time, as a company that employs developers, we’ve realised that we don’t know a lot about diversity and inclusion ourselves.
We know that there’s a lot more we can do for inclusion and diversity in our own team, and we need to become better at it in our own capacity. Right now, we don’t have good answers, or perhaps even the right questions. So, as a starting point, we’ve taken steps to put together this report. You could say that it’s our attempt at learning about the right questions.
We took a while to get here, because inclusion and diversity in the tech space is a complex challenge. It’s easy to think that you understand it, when you actually don’t at all. As an example, we initially thought that it was underpinned by a shortage of developer skills that could be addressed with more training opportunities. So, we reinvested the bulk of our revenue back into the tech community to fund meetups and workshops, sponsor swag for speakers, and help developers share their learning with the community.
But, when looking at our data and speaking to members of the community, we realised that training in tech skills is not the only, and perhaps not even the primary challenge. Over the past three years, we’ve seen how good developers, who know their stuff, enter the job market and still face several unfair barriers while preparing for work or moving through the hiring process. This reality means that we don’t fully understand the problem and need to change our approach to give even more respect to its importance and difficulty.
Now that OfferZen is in its third year, we’ve also started to get a better understanding of the complexities involved in achieving our mission and we’ve realised that we can’t tackle it alone. We need support and guidance from the community, which we want to kick-start by asking community members to help us understand the challenges in the inclusion and diversity space. It would be awesome if OfferZen Foundation acts as the rally point for everyone who cares about this challenge. So far, this report has already helped us grow our network and learn a lot as a team.
But, we are by no means finished with the work in this space. The ultimate mission of OfferZen Foundation is to solve the tech inclusion problem, which would mean that people who want to thrive in the South African tech industry, are actually thriving. By joining forces with other companies and community members, we hope that we can work together towards achieving this mission. Starting with this report.