Life is too short for bad software... or bad teams.
The following content was contributed by our friends at Bridge Foundry.
For ten years, Balsamiq has been making good design more inclusive by providing an ideation tool with a low barrier to entry — and teaching human interface design principles along the way. Over almost the same time period, Bridge Foundry has been making the tech industry more diverse by teaching coding in an inclusive learning environment — and modeling respectful work practices along the way.
Both organizations have always recognized that there’s a lot more to software development than writing code. Team practices and culture have a significant impact on software quality and business success. Our very different organizations have some common characteristics that make for a great partnership. We believe in generosity and hold the shared beliefs that small actions lead to big impact and in empowering individuals.
As early as 2008, Balsamiq stated that they would strive to “be a company that’s human, respectful, transparent, [and] inclusive” and their mantras include being servant leaders, being good citizens and being generous. At the same time BridgeFoundry was growing out of initial workshops where a culture of abundance created a new approach to learning to code. At those first workshops, Balsamiq supported attendees with free licenses to help them continue learning and designing software. Fast forward to 2017: Balsamiq’s generous sponsorship enabled BridgeFoundry to establish its presence as an independent nonprofit organization (with tax-exempt status in the United States).
Balsamiq CEO, Peldi Guilizzoni describes the reasons for Balsamiq’s software donation program as a moral duty, a rewarding and inspiring experience for the team, and good for business. This parallels how how Bridge Foundry programs work with volunteers and companies.
Sarah Allen, founder and CEO of Bridge Foundry notes that “people usually volunteer to teach because they want to help others, then later they realize how much they learn.” Companies who sponsor workshops and other programs genuinely want to improve the tech industry, and also find that their involvement helps them connect to diverse talent as well as improve their own software engineering culture when their staff gets involved.
“Everything is a core product. That’s right. The software is just a small piece of it. The documentation, so important. The tutorials, so important.” -- Peldi
Balsamiq has a concept they call the Golden Puzzle — whenever someone writes something good about the company publicly, especially when not about its core competencies (product and support), they add them to a collection. These are pieces of the puzzle of what makes Balsamiq a great company.
Bridge Foundry has found that what makes an effective learning environment is more than great teachers and hands-on technical curriculum. A shared meal, supervised play care to give parents a chance to focus, a post-workshop celebration -- these are all pieces of the Bridge Foundry puzzle. The issues blocking more diverse participation in the technology industry are rarely technical.
At the core of both organizations is the idea that by making better tools available to more people, we get better software. Balsamiq’s Wireframes product makes software design accessible to anyone in an organization — individuals can quickly communicate ideas as UI sketches. Bridge Foundry is increasing access to the tech industry not only by making technology more accessible to underrepresented groups, but also by making diverse talent and inclusive approaches more accessible to a broader range of companies. Even a small company can make a big difference through its own outreach programs. Diversity is not only about hiring a diverse team. Bridge Foundry works with CEOs and technical leaders on developing practices which include outreach in all aspects of their programs — how they reach customers, engage in open source and participate in conferences and developer community eventsI
You can read more about our collaboration on our blog: Bridge Foundry: 9 Years of Making the Tech Industry a Nicer Place to Work.