Stories

Who exactly is behind you belong in tech?

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Helen and Sefunmi
November 11, 2020

Before we go any further with all of our insights and stories and tips and tricks, it’s important to set the stage and put an actual face to the pseudo-anonymous authors every week. That’s why we made this post!

We are a small but mighty team. And we hope that this article helps you understand who we are and why we’re here… and why you’re here?

Upcoming Live Info Session

Join Sefunmi and Helen, co-founders of Co.Lab, for a Live Info Session and AMA. Come along with your questions as you learn more about the upcoming Winter 2021 cohort and hear Co.Lab alumni success stories.

Sefunmi, 🍍, and Helen.

Meet Sefunmi...

Hi everyone, I’m Sefunmi. I studied electrical engineering but found my way into product management after building an app called Pave with a few friends. Working on a project that solved a real problem led me to product roles at Microsoft and Apple. Most recently, I’m the author of How To Product— a book on transitioning into product management from outside the industry.

With you belong in tech and Co.Lab, our mission is to be transparent about the different challenges people face since there isn't a linear path to success. We hope to share tips and insights to help people gain confidence through the process of getting to their goals.

You can connect with me on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

and Helen...

Howdy howdy. I’m Helen and I work as a Product Manager in between Microsoft and Github (yes, you read that correctly). As someone non-traditional (and non-technical, my background is in Earth Sciences), breaking into the tech industry was already hard. And now that I’m in it… well let’s just say that imposter syndrome is (and remains) real!

My intentions behind you belong in tech and Co.Lab I feel like are pretty clear: To make folks realize that they already have the motivation and the capability and the skills to reach their career (and life!) goals. Even if you might not feel fully confident about it just yet, you’ll get there. And we’re here to help.

You can find me on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram! I ramble a bit and use a lot of emojis… 😅 consider yourself warned!

And another one. But this time with 🌱.

And now from the both of us…

Helen: I don’t think we could have envisioned our future partnership and friendship when we first met at the University of Waterloo. Multiple projects, two missed trips to Nigeria together, and a few years later, here we are!

Sefunmi: Yeah. The two of us collectively have created safe spaces for over ten thousand people, building communities around topics they care about. And I’m excited about all that we’re going to accomplish going forward!

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But of course, we can’t do it alone. Along with our Co.Laborators, supporters, mentors, speakers, we also have Sherry, Swathi, Shurabi, Komal and Clare to thank!

All that being said, what exactly is Co.Lab?

You’re probably going to see “Co.Lab pop up from time to time, intermingled with posts on tips and tricks to break into the industry.

So what exactly is Co.Lab? 🎒

It’s a program we’re running that empowers and prepares aspiring technologists for success within the tech industry. We do this by facilitating the practical, cross-functional, and collaborative product development experience that companies ultimately hire for.

Essentially, we pair product managers, designers, and developers up into product groups to collaborate and launch a real product together. They’ll get to work across-discipline, just like in an actual work environment; ship an actual product (not just a “hands-on project”) that goes beyond just a simple curriculum; and be part of a solid community with professional references and mentorship.

Our entire goal is to give folks the confidence, community, and connections they need to further their careers in the tech space through learning-by-doing.

Why is Co.Lab interesting?

Again, breaking into tech from outside the industry is challenging. Many aspiring PMs, designers, and developers enrol in boot camps, or take self-paced online courses to gain more knowledge in their field.

While you can definitely learn a lot, the problem is that most of these solutions follow the same standard method of teaching, and use boilerplate projects as assessments. It’s also very discipline-silo’d. When you make it to the actual workplace, that’s when you realize that oh wait, real product teams operate across PM, design, and development.

Additionally, I think we can all agree: practical applications of what you've learned (that is, learning by doing) trumps simple theory 100% of the time. We see this again and again. It is the reason why apprenticeships, internships and work placement programs are hugely successful for participants and companies alike.

But getting access to internships, work placements and the like… those are privileges that not everyone has.

And that’s why we created Co.Lab. We want to make practical education accessible to all. We want to empower folks from all backgrounds to reach their goals. Building confidence through communication and collaboration is our purpose. And we aim to prove to people that they’re capable, not only to companies and employers, but also to themselves.

We hope you can join us on our mission.

And don’t forget, you belong in tech.

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