Andrea Guendelman is best known for spearheading BeVisible, the first and only career platform connecting Latinx professionals.
Since its inception in 2015, BeVisible Latinx has made great strides. The job portal and peer-to-peer platform of 20,000 registered users have created a hyper-engaged online community and collaborative network among the fastest-growing demographic in the United States.
Now Guendelman is taking on the tech industry head-on. The Chile native has turned her passion to ruffle the status quo into a brand-new startup aptly named Wallbreakers. WB promises to break down barriers of entry in the tech industry by identifying, selecting, and training underrepresented talent for positions at top-notch tech companies.
“Our vision is for Wallbreakers to remove the bias in hiring, so the guessing game will be reduced because we’re working within the system with employers, to understand what they require, need, and test to get into a job so that it’s not subjective,” says Harvard Law Graduate Guendelman. “It’s more objective and we can provide hard training to achieve those goals.”
So, for the best part of the part of three months, Guendelman’s team has been busy working on a 6-week beta pilot connecting students to five leading tech firms, including Twitter and PagerDuty. Selected candidates go through a rigorous selection process to participate in an extensive online boot camp that includes everything from coding to recruitment preparedness. Students work with Wallbreakers instructors who are underrepresented minority senior software engineers.
Indeed, Wallbreakers bridges the skills gap between traditional higher education and employer needs in the innovation economy.
“The Wallbreakers program helped me become more familiar with the types of questions asked in technical interviews, and it also helped me learn from my mistakes through mock interviews,” says Dennis Sosa, a computer science major at Georgia Tech, who participated in the inaugural cohort. “I enjoyed connecting with Wallbreakers’ partners; it gave me the opportunity to learn about different companies, and it also opened up interviewing opportunities for me.”
“The training is free to students unless they reject a job offer,” says Guendelman. “Wallbreakers makes money from the tech firms through varies payment tiers.”
At the end of the certified training, WB presents candidates to the tech firms who meet their specific hiring needs. The undergraduates have a specific skill set that the interviewing companies identify as crucial to success at their organization. They also have to be ready for the interview process.
“We ended up selecting 35 students in the initial pilot. Of those, 12 graduated because it was very intensive, with 100 hours of coding and one-and-one mock interviews. All 12 were offered interviews, 7 received second interviews and we are still awaiting results leading up to some of the final interviews.”
WB helps companies solve three huge problems. Firstly, saving engineering recruiting time and money. Secondly, saving college campus recruiting dollars, and finally solving their diversity pipeline problems.
“We want to work with these companies to make the hiring process as efficient as possible. We save them time and money. So in the pilot, we went from referrals straight to interviews and then hiring.”
Indeed, Wallbreakers is in safe hands. Guendelman’s expertise is matched by her cofounder’s strategic prowess. Latinx serial entrepreneur Isaac Saldana is one of three co-founders that launched SendGrid, a cloud-based email service helping companies increase their email deliverability. Twilio acquired SendGrid in 2017 for a cool $2 billion.
Salanda is now at the helm of Joy Labs. Launched in 2018, Joy Labs is focused on building great companies with world-class software validation and development practices.
“At the moment we only work with students studying computer science degrees from four-year colleges,” says Guendelman. “We will expand to candidates with other degrees. During the pilot, we found that the majority of the students had solid computer science fundamentals but lacked experience coding. Most of them have never prepared for real-world interviews.”
Talent-hungry tech companies should cast wider nets to recruit where talented Latinx and African Americans go to school, adds Guendelman. The pipeline is there but companies must look to connect beyond the same old schools that executives and senior engineers attended, she adds.
In fact, Wallbreakers has been mindful of sourcing talent from a wide pool. Students come from a variety of universities across the nation, including Ivy League schools, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs).
But implicit bias isn’t the only reason that Latinxs and African Americans do not connect with opportunities. “Many do not apply for plum job openings because they lack the networks and social capital that help individuals learn about career opportunities and get their foot in the interview room door.”
Wallbreakers helps facilitate these networks.
The team is still collating data but there has already been success. Cloud computing company PagerDuty has offered sought-after jobs to Wallbreakers graduates. “From five referrals PagerDuty made three offers,” says Guendelman. “That was a huge accomplishment.”
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Guendelman was born in the States but spent her formative years in Chile. She returned to the U.S. to attend Harvard Law School. After graduating, she worked for a STEM-focused Hispanic non-profit. Later she practiced as a corporate lawyer. Her entrepreneurial journey started when she moved to Boulder, Colorado where she cofounded BeVisible.
Wallbreakers is a testimony of Guendelman’s ongoing commitment to transform the diversity pipeline rather than PR ‘window dressing’ it too often is. “Companies must be intentional about going further than simply inclusion, and Wallbreakers will help them get there.”
“Wallbreakers will also host workshops within companies to train engineering recruiting teams how to source, identify the best-underrepresented software engineering talent,” she adds.
WB is an innovative passion-fueled startup co-founded by two tech-savvy Latinx entrepreneurs. It will almost certainly help Latinx and African Americans finally crack into the innovation economy in numbers instead of the historic trickle.
Main Image: Wallbreakers cofounder Andrea Guendelman
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