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Back in the spring, as countries essentially shut down entire economies in response to the spread of COVID-19 and millions of workers were laid off, Alteryx developed the ADAPT program in response.
ADAPT is an acronym for Advancing Data and Analytics Potential Together. Alteryx, a data management vendor founded in 1997 and based in Irvine, Calif., devised the program to give people affected by the pandemic -- those who have been laid off or furloughed and recent graduates struggling to find employment in the suddenly shrinking jobs market -- free training in data science so they can have a marketable skill.
And it's for anyone who meets that criteria, not just data scientists and graduates with degrees in data science. It's for waiters, waitresses and bartenders who were laid off when their restaurants closed, retail workers whose stores were shut down, business professionals of all types whose organizations decided to downsize to reduce costs, and graduates with any type of degree, whether in mathematics or not.
Organizations, meanwhile, are realizing the value of analytics, according to Libby Duane Adams, Alteryx founding partner and chief customer officer.
Many were data-driven before COVID-19 sent economies into a tailspin worldwide, but even more are now understanding how important data-driven decisions are to their survival. That means they're looking to hire people who understand data and know how to take information and use it to make the decisions that will best help enterprises thrive under normal circumstances and survive in the current environment.
Libby Duane AdamsFounding partner and chief customer officer, Alteryx
"Business leaders are saying they need solutions," Adams said. "They need innovative ways to think about how to solve. Leaders are saying they will take anybody who can demonstrate this ability and this willingness to think analytically and think about innovative ways to solve. I see that as a big game-changer coming out of COVID."
The idea for the ADAPT program originated at a town hall meeting Alteryx CEO Dean Stoecker held with employees in mid-April. One, Peter Abrahamsen, stood up and asked what the company could do for all the people getting laid off and furloughed.
The response was to develop ADAPT, which was up and running just three weeks later and launched on May 7.
Those who enroll in ADAPT receive 125 hours of training from Alteryx on such topics as creating a data set, developing models, and time-series analysis. Lessons are available on-demand in six different languages, and live help is available to assist whenever a student needs it. Once they complete the program, participants receive an Alteryx Core Certification.
In addition, Alteryx teamed up with Udacity, an educational organization specializing in online courses of study, so that graduates of the ADAPT program can also work toward a "Nanodegree" in predictive analytics, and do so for free.
"It's about that ability to be able to go to a potential employer or a potential interview and say, 'Look what I've done,'" Adams said. "It's that ability to actually influence this global community and bring talent that has these skills in current-day analytics to these companies."
Leeia Isabelle enrolled in the ADAPT program in June.
Isabelle completed one year of college before enlisting in the Navy in 2008 when she was 20. Over the next four years, she spent most of her time on a guided missile destroyer where she was first introduced to computer technology. She served as an information systems technician, working on anything that dealt with computer networks and satellite and telecommunications, and in her spare time started reading books on statistics and economics.
When she left the Navy late in 2011, however, despite the skills she developed in the Navy and even teaching herself how to build websites, she struggled to find work in technology while at the same time going to school. Among other jobs, she prepared taxes for a time. And despite being employed, at one point Isabelle was homeless.
She eventually earned her associates degree in networking server administration while living in Seattle. Now living in Houston, she's working toward her bachelor's degree in software development and completed an externship with AT&T in mid-July.
Isabelle first heard about Alteryx and ADAPT in June while on Facebook through a group called '"Sista Circle: Black Women in Tech" and enrolled within a week.
"During the pandemic I've realized how obsessed with data I am," she said. "Even in just a very casual way, I would spend hours reading over data, trying to make sense of it, so I decided that data science was the way to go. Since I'm a software development major, I was looking for specialty anyway, and it just made sense."
She added that she's always been interested in coding and solving problems, and always been drawn to data.
"It's like a puzzle," Isabelle said. "The more you dig into it you go down a rabbit hole, and the next thing you know you're thinking of things you haven't thought of before, and they make sense."
Barely a month after enrolling in ADAPT, Isabelle only has the capstone left to complete before taking the final test and receiving her Alteryx Core Certification. She plans to immediately start working toward Udacity's Nanodegree once she finishes the Alteryx portion of the program.
Meanwhile, throughout her time in ADAPT, Isabelle said she's received the support she needed to complete the program.
Though an independent learner, someone who is pursuing her bachelor's degree online and has developed much of her tech expertise on her own, the sense of community she's felt from Alteryx has stood out, she said. She's connected with an Alteryx customer who said they'd look over her capstone and give feedback before she submits it and been able to develop a network of people in data science.
She added that because ADAPT is so new she's had to deal with the occasional glitch, but Alteryx has been receptive to any feedback.
"The actual content itself is excellent," Isabelle said. "It's visual, it's verbal, it's hands-on, and they combine the activities with podcasts and articles so people not only get the information but they get the relevance of the information."
To date, with ADAPT still less than three months old, nearly 10,000 people have enrolled and more than 30 have already completed the initial 125 hours needed to receive the Alteryx Core Certification and move on to the coursework toward Udacity's Nanodegree in predictive analytics.
The program's participants hail from more than 125 countries, and though open to anyone who's been laid off or furloughed, the five most common roles enrollees listed as their last job include data analyst, consultant, business analyst, data scientist and analyst.
When they complete the certification -- something that would normally cost $5,000, according to Adams -- and subsequently Udacity's program, while they won't have the level of training needed to be a data scientist, they will have the skills to be a business analyst.
And just as they will be equipped with new skills to take to potential employers, they'll be serving a real need in the workforce.
There's a shortfall of data scientists, and even though ADAPT doesn't result in a degree in data science it does give potential workers a start in data science and a certain level of expertise.
Meanwhile, due to the pandemic, data-driven decisions -- the most informed decisions possible -- are perhaps more important than ever and the demand for workers with an expertise in analytics is only increasing.
"Businesses are continuing to see this demand to be able to answer a lot of questions with data," Adams said. "And [ADAPT graduates] will allow those businesses to evolve first their capabilities with data, second their ability to automate analytic processes, and third continue now to invest in the talent of their teams by adding these skills that will advance the analytics that can be produced for the company."
ADAPT graduates, meanwhile, will be armed with skills they can take in any direction they choose. Like someone with a law degree who can use their degree in myriad ways, a worker with the skills of a business analyst can bring a level of expertise in analytics to just about any industry.
Isabelle, meanwhile, wants to be more than a citizen data scientist. She wants data science to be her career. She also wants to bring her perspective, that of a biracial woman, to an industry that lacks diversity.
"I hope to make a career of data science, and along with that create more diversity in the industry," she said. "Any experienced data scientist knows we have to look at data from so many different angles, and if we have people like former firefighters, former hairdressers that think differently, we can do so much more with data because we have so many people from different backgrounds."
And it's beginning with ADAPT that Isabelle hopes to be able to bring her perspective to data science. In particular, she's drawn to predictive analytics and artificial intelligence. There are nearly 10,000 ADAPT enrollees just like her, laid off and furloughed tech workers looking to add new skills, others searching for a new career path amid the pandemic, and still others trying to get more than just any old job coming out of school.
ADAPT isn't for everyone. But it's for anyone who wants in and meets the criteria of being affected by the pandemic or is completing their degree. It's for people, like Isabelle, who have an interest in data and analytics and want to make them part of their future.
"I've struggled for so long finding my place in the tech industry, and this is the first time I feel like I'm where I'm supposed to be," she said.