Three Peralta District students were accepted to a scholarship-based program that focuses on training students to become software testers. Marina Daltro (Laney College), Stefanie Mutialu (Merritt College), and Gift Olatunji (Laney College) applied for the Testlio Ignite program in July of 2021. Testlio Ignite, created by the tech company Testlio, Inc in 2020, is a social impact program for people from marginalized groups intended to initiate their career in remote software testing via a 10-week scholarship-based program.
Gift Olatunji is a Nigerian student. She migrated from Africa to the US with her family in 2018 to pursue higher education. She recently graduated from Laney College with an Associate Degree in Mathematics. After her graduation, she applied for San Jose State University, in the Fall of 2021. Gift was accepted and is now studying to become an Industrial and System Engineer.
Marina Daltro is a Brazilian student. She came to the U.S. in 2019 with a student visa. She started as an English as Second Language (ESL) student in New York. In 2020, she left the east coast and drove 9 days across the country to her new home in California. Marina applied for Peralta in the spring of 2021. She is a Marketing student at Laney College.
Stefanie Mutialu is a Mexican/Asian student who was born in Oakland and raised in San Leandro. She is a returning student and recently graduated from Merritt college with an AA in Communications. Stefanie has 15 + years of work experience in the Communications field. She applied for UC Davis in the fall of 2021 and got accepted. She is studying Communications and Psychology.
Gift, Marina, and Stefanie applied for Testlio Ignite in July. The social impact program focuses on powering Latinos, Women, BIOPOC, LQBTQA, and those who experienced challenges in life to change their careers by becoming professionals in remote software testing. The program does not require previous experience in software development and/or computer science. Testlio uses a mixed abilities approach to teach remote software testing through a 10-week scholarship-based program.
Marina, Gift, and Stefanie share that they thought the Ignite program sounded too good to be true at first. Gift and Marina have experienced the challenges of being an immigrant, and both have also experienced their personal challenges for being a Black Woman and a Latin Woman.
“I received an email from the Peralta School District on the program opening for the Testlio Ignite as well as an info session coming up. I remember thinking the email was fake because upon reading the benefits of the program, it was too good to be true! So, I did what any good student does, I ignored the email. However, I kept on remembering it all through the day and I realized I wanted to get to the root of the matter. To satisfy my growing curiosity, I did more research on Testlio. I looked at the company website and even watched the video on their platform of one of the graduating participants from last year. This got me really excited, considering the featured participant was a Nigerian like me. I was intrigued by the accessibility and opportunity this program would provide. This led me to register for the info session that was to take place”, says Gift.
Marina describes her first impression: “I was looking for internships in the summer. I applied for so many companies, I was writing cover letters after cover letters, and sending them along with my resume. I wasn’t hearing from anybody. The competition in the U.S is too high. I literally saw myself invisible. When I found out about Testlio Ignite, I almost didn’t believe that Testlio had a program designed to support minority groups. I really felt like someone was willing to give me an opportunity. Someone was seeing the struggles of many immigrants and took action to help us!”
Liza Osterdock, the coordinator of Testlio Ignite, is also an immigrant. She moved from the Dominican Republic to the United States, and she has been living in the Bay Area for 23 years. Liza learned about the Peralta Colleges through a friend of hers and was impressed with the outreach of the four colleges, a decisive factor in deciding where to announce the Testlio Ignite program.
“I was acquainted to Peralta Colleges through a friend of mine and I had an initial meeting with LaNiece (Jones, Executive Director of the Peralta Colleges Foundation) to share Testlio Ignite and she was very impressed with what we are trying to accomplish and thought it would be a great program for so many at the Peralta Colleges Foundation. I have an opportunity to serve some of our underrepresented communities in Oakland/Bay Area through my employer via Testlio Ignite, to gain the skillsets necessary to obtain a job in remote software testing. It made me feel like I wanted to make a difference and be part of a positive, powerful social impact. What a better place than a college that serves low-income students to achieve their dreams?”, shares Liza.
An analysis of economic data conducted by the McKinsey & Company found that the overall Black labor force in the U.S accounts for 20.6 million. Only 8.8% of this force is located in the West and Pacific, areas with fastest-growing cities. In the south, however, the Black labor force accounts for 60%.
“Companies in the U.S. need to have diversity in their organizations. It should not be done because they are trying to appear inclusive but to show they really care about diverse communities. If all companies continue to follow a path of inclusion, it will create an opportunity for minority groups to integrate with the community.”, says Gift.
She continues: “I think a lot of companies now realize that and that is one of the reasons we have programs like this: Testlio Ignite. A program that provided a great opportunity for me, an African woman who just migrated to the U.S. recently, to improve myself. We need to continue to push for inclusion within companies, both in minor and senior roles, for the betterment of our society. If we don't do it, then no other person will”.
When it comes to diversity and inclusion for the Hispanic population in the tech field, the numbers are also disparate. According to the 2014 Diversity in High Tech Report from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the participation of the Hispanic population in the high-tech field accounts for 8%, while for the white population this number accounts for 68.5%. For black people, 7.4%.
The three Peralta students are thrilled with the opportunity to learn about software testing alongside a team that is truly committed to making the world a better place. “I really believe that Testlio Ignite is preparing me for big things that are yet to come in my life. For the first time I feel that I am being included, that I am being heard, and that I am part of a team. Sometimes I look at myself and think “I am studying in America, and I have a job in an American company, this can sound normal for many people, but for an immigrant this means a lot”, shares Marina.
For those students interested in applying for the Testlio Ignite class of 2022 the applications will begin in the summer. Stefanie leaves a message of encouragement for those young and returning students who would like to be part of the Ignite class of 2022, “APPLY! Follow through. Pour your heart out and do not be afraid to be vulnerable. If selected, it will be challenging but the rewards and benefits far exceed any challenges. You can do it! The team will be there to support you! Challenge yourself!”.