Business Insider Highlights “Game-Changer” SV Academy’s New Collegiate Program with First Partners Arizona State University and Florida International University
By: Rahim Fazal
As the first tuition-free, online vocational school focused on opening doors into Silicon Valley for those without access, we know that our success — and our reputations — depend on the success of our students. Employers are placing bigger and bigger bets with us, as evidenced by an in-depth profile published in Business Insider on December 6th by editorial fellow, Sherin Shibu.
Shibu opens with news we’re ecstatic to unveil: “SV Academy recently announced plans to partner with two public universities — Arizona State and Florida International — to create a path into the program for recent grads” and career switchers.
This Collegiate Program marks an important milestone for us as a company. It positions us well to not only reach more diverse talent, but also to help thousands more hardworking college graduates — who might not otherwise have gotten the chance to work in tech — jumpstart careers in the industry without having to learn how to code.
“We’re excited to partner with SV Academy, a team that’s democratizing access to life-changing careers and economic opportunity with a truly unique approach — this is education that’s hands-on and tuition-free, with a job on the other side” -Ashton Kutcher, Co-founder and General Partner at Sound Ventures.
I couldn’t be more excited to kick off this national program with ASU and FIU, two leading universities focused on diversity and increasing access to education through online learning that believe in our unique approach to helping underrepresented talent transition into the tech industry.
While tech sales positions are a high demand career option for college graduates, most universities (surprisingly) don’t offer sales courses at all.Through the Collegiate Program, ASU and FIU have agreed to issue certificates to their students who complete the program, which has never been done in this way before for tech sales. Now, both universities can fast track more diligent, determined seniors and alumni to high-growth tech jobs in Silicon Valley by ensuring they acquire the tangible skills and mentorship they need to pursue their dream careers.
As immigrants who faced arduous paths to get to where we are today, both my co-founder Joel Scott and I deeply understand first-hand the value of mentorship and career guidance. Shibu goes on to highlight the successes we both were able to achieve thanks to the help of a very supportive network. “Fazal ran the social media startup Involver before it was acquired by Oracle in 2012, and Scott had climbed the ranks at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, all the way to VP of Operations.”
While pointing out that our three-month program is “intensely competitive,” the article posits that, “SV Academy could be a game-changer for people at a career crossroads, especially immigrants and low-income students.”
“This partnership marks a significant milestone for FIU and opens up doors to careers in tech for our alumni everywhere.” -Joseph Riquelme, Assistant Vice President, FIU Online, FIU.
We told Business Insider we wanted to open the doors for our younger selves, or people who didn't have the industry work experience, didn't have insider connections, may not have gone to the right school. We explained how we wondered, could we do that through some combination of skills and equipment in a way that we could provide the most access? Shibu writes, “They could, and they did. SV Academy has been around for more than three years now, and it's hit over $40 million in combined full-time starting salaries.”
Our business model, because we don't charge students anything, is novel and we work with hundreds of top tech companies like SurveyMonkey and Palo Alto Networks among a host of other companies innovating in their respective fields. What it means is that if the employer is our customer then we have to make sure, again, that we are really preparing these individual job seekers to do these roles in an exceptional way, because otherwise their tuition will not get reimbursed. In other words, as Shibu puts it, “SV Academy relies on the satisfaction of the employers that hire from the program— so delivering quality applicants to employers is key for retention.”
Shibu also explains how “the onus is on SV Academy to choose the students that are most likely to stick with the program and excel at their future jobs.” There’s no secret to how we make these choices. We shared our criteria with Business Insider:
- Develop a personal and contextual connection of the importance of diversity (ethnicity, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, etc.) in a sales development representative role within the high-growth tech industry.
- Asks questions to support deeper understanding and curiosity before responding or proposing solutions.
- Execute outreach orchestration and timing using three different channels for at least ten (10) target leads.
- Demonstrate command of the steps, content, and timing required to conduct hand-off to account executives.
But really, those are just the broad strokes. Business Insider elaborates on the fact that we have 200 competencies that we grade applicants based on. Shibu writes, “Out of the 200 competencies, Fazal identifies the most interesting one as the proven ability to adjust to a difficult environment. Successful candidates usually demonstrate their ability to overcome difficult circumstances, and they see the opportunities afforded by the fellowship as crucial to their future job success.”
This is just one piece of what makes ASU and FIU alumni such great candidates for our program. Further, as a leader in online education and one of the largest public universities by enrollment in the US, ASU is an ideal partner for us because the university has shown a significant commitment to increasing access to learning through online courses. Also an innovator in the online education space, FIU is an ideal partner because of its diverse student body — it graduates more Hispanics than any other university in the continental US.
“With so many of our graduates interested in technology and our close proximity to California, where many of our students come from, partnering with SV Academy is another way for us to help people pursue the career they want.” -Darcy Richardson, Director of Continuing & Professional Education for EdPlus at Arizona State University.
Since 2017, we’ve led 28 cohorts and transitioned hundreds of fellows into high-paying, high-growth sales careers. Now, ASU and FIU alumni who go through our program won’t only have a leg up in the job market based on their skill set; they’ll also land their dream jobs way faster. On average, SV Academy graduates secure a career in just 39 days, whereas it takes the average college graduate three to six months to secure employment after graduation.
In addition to speaking with us, Business Insider also spoke with two of our graduates, pointing out that SV Academy students “can also balance the rigor of the part-time program with current professional and personal responsibilities.” Of SV Academy graduate Alba Molina, a Dreamer from El Salvador who illegally crossed the border as a child and was undocumented until the age of 19, Shibu writes, “Molina balanced a full-time job, hour-long commute and all with the weekly courses, graded assignments, and coaching sessions.” The article quotes Molina herself as saying, “What university guarantees you a job at the end of your graduation? Absolutely none."
Shibu also spoke with Ocean Lompo, a graduate of SV Academy whose journey “started in West Africa and traced through Taiwan before finally landing in Silicon Valley,” where he happily works as an immigration consultant at Bridge, connecting immigrants with jobs in the US.
Our ability to calibrate success through the tens of thousands of data points we monitor and add to our program is one of the many differentiators when comparing SV Academy with any school, be it vocational or otherwise. Business Insider points out that it’s passionate students like Molina and Lompo who are helping us spread the word by sharing their own stories on social media.
By scaling the number of student seats 30x over the last two years, and with new investments from partners like Ashton Kutcher and Sound Ventures, engagement with esteemed universities like Arizona State and Florida International and recognition from publications like Business Insider, it’s clear we’re doing something right. The only way to go is up.
If you’re an ASU alum, learn more about our program here.
If you’re an FIU alum, learn more about our program here.