How Noah Scheffel Is Bringing Transgender People Into Tech Careers In Brazil


To say that 2019 was a life-changing year for Noah Scheffel is an understatement. That year, the Brazilian technologist had been impacted by transphobic attitudes in his working environment due to his own transition journey, which led to a near-death experience. Little did he know this trajectory would result in EducaTRANSforma, an edtech focused on changing realities by training and plugging the transgender population into the technology market.

Access to formal work opportunities for transgender individuals is a massive challenge in Brazil. According to the National Association of Transvestites and Transsexuals of Brazil (ANTRA), only 4% are employed by companies, and many resort to prostitution to survive. Moreover, when it comes to starting a business, particularly in the technology space, their presence is minimal: only 0,1% of the 13,000 startups in Brazil are led by transgender women or men, according to data from the Brazilian Startups Association (ABStartups).

The goal at EducaTRANSforma is to change that reality by providing a career path in technology to trans people, as well as the resources they need to get trained in the first place. Participants of the courses the edtech provides in areas from coding to soft skills are also supported in aspects ranging from access to computers to stipends for food and medical treatments for their transition. The company has trained over a dozen people after starting operations in 2019 and aims to reach 10,000 people in 2023.

“I never imagined that I would start a project like this: it was something that came from the heart”, Noah told Forbes. The spark that led to what would become the edtech was a post from a transgender man on Facebook, where he was asking for a feminine outfit for an interview for a job he desperately needed because he had been out of a job for three years. “I was shocked by that situation and decided to do something.”

Scheffel then reached out to the contact network he had built over the years to get the project off the ground while working full-time as a manager at a tech company in Porto Alegre, a city in the south of Brazil. “I knew a lot of decision-makers in tech, and went around asking them for financial support. The initial vision was very much based on my own experience and the observation that there was no way of developing technology without a pool of diverse people,” he noted.

“Diversity was always a prominent feature of the teams I’ve built over the years as a manager: I would often hire [individuals] with no experience at all, even if that got me into trouble with top management. Fast forward to 2022, these people are all top performers in their specialist areas within technology,” Scheffel noted.

While striving for a more significant presence of trans people in tech, the transphobia Scheffel faced at work prompted him to leave his job to embrace EducaTRANSforma fully. At that point, in August 2019, he had raised enough to keep the project going for a year, with training sessions taking place at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, initially for 16 people. Beyond coding lessons, the year-long training also encompassed socio-emotional training and psychological support.


At the same time the training sessions progressed, Scheffel was presented with a different type of corporate demand. When introducing himself with a name different from what his business contacts knew him for, the founder noticed the market was not nearly ready for trans people in the workplace. “People within organizations would ask me, ‘what is a transgender person?’ So I then started to help and provide them with insight in terms of documentation, healthcare benefits, and so on, because I didn’t want people to experience what I went through in the past”, he noted.

EducaTRANSforma started generating interest with requests for expansion in other Brazilian states. “I remember thinking that would never happen – it was already tough to make things happen with the initial scope we had, let alone expand elsewhere,” Scheffel said. However, Covid-19 accelerated these plans. The process involved surpassing the technological barrier since the training had to move online and be asynchronous, given the lack of structured routine of the participant students. It also entailed understanding how the additional support from professionals, such as psychologists, would happen remotely.

Under the new format, Scheffel decided to shorten the course duration to six months, with each student receiving individual mentoring. “I made an open request for mentors on LinkedIn [Scheffel is the first transgender man to receive the Influencer accolade on the professional networking site], and many people offered to help. We then started to offer new development tracks, with other courses within tech beyond coding, in areas such as data science and business, HR, and other areas. After all, trans people want to have all sorts of careers rather than limiting themselves to a few options”, he said.

After this restructuring process, the online version of the EducaTRANSforma offering went live in August 2020, this time for 52 participants. “[The shift to digital] was game-changing since I could open up the opportunities to the whole of Brazil,” Scheffel noted, adding that more than 1,500 people had demonstrated interest when EducaTRANSforma announced the relaunch.

“It was incredible, but it also struck me that there were many people in need of an opportunity and that I needed to scale the project further”, Scheffel pointed out. This growth process was supported by the attraction of partners, such as technology training company Alura, which provided the platform for technical training. Other edtechs, such as Women, Apply!, which focuses on encouraging women to apply for jobs, also joined the EducaTRANSforma network.

Meanwhile, Scheffel turned the corporate advisory into a product and started to provide in-company training to help companies attract and retain transgender talent. These activities enabled the startup to boost its ability to train students. EducaTRANSforma ended 2021 with an increase of over 3000% in participants. For the cohort ending February 2022, the startup will have trained 1,500 people. And what was a social project became an actual business, with a social arm that supports non-profit activities.


The increase in uptake of EducaTRANSforma’s courses is also due to the hiring boom during the pandemic, accompanied by skyrocketing demand for advisory and corporate interest in increasing workforce diversity. “We know that some tragic events such as Black Lives Matter boosted that demand for diversity and, more specifically, the transgender discussion, which was practically inexistent in companies until then,” Scheffel said.

However, the entrepreneur said organized movements have been managing to hold companies accountable for increasing the share of black staff in their workforce. Still, the same has yet to happen regarding the transgender population. “There is a fear on the part of companies of dealing with trans people”, said Scheffel. The founder added that his company has been focusing on intersectionality and looking into other social markers, such as race. The entrepreneur said this is key given that black trans women represent the group that suffers from inequality the most.

According to the founder, 2020 was a busy year for the edtech, which catered to 30 companies as the pandemic hit with custom training and advisory. “The preconceptions were set aside for a while because they needed the expertise: we were providing that and helping them meet their diversity targets. At the same time, I was there helping with training, events, and everything else,” Scheffel pointed out.

“But the saddest part is having the feeling that [companies] only [increased hiring of trans people] because they didn’t have to be close to [transgender] people daily,” he added. In addition, according to Scheffel, companies became more resistant to hiring trans professionals as businesses reopened their offices.

To address these concerns, EducaTRANSforma developed a journey whereby the edtech sticks with the company four months after hiring the graduates. This is to ensure employers can appropriately deal with any challenges that may arise and that employees feel the company provides a positive working environment.

“It is about intentionally hiring and looking after people rather than just focusing on getting people into the company. Thankfully, we have been able to continue to work intensely, despite the year that 2022 has been, with a decrease in diversity from the companies’ perspective, as well as elections, war, and everything else”, Scheffel said.

To help companies evolve their approaches towards intersectionality in their hiring practices, EducaTRANSforma has just launched its own platform, whereby candidates can sign up and enter their social markers and socioemotional skills and their areas of professional interest. In addition, members can self-assess their employability and also get access to asynchronous training programs. According to Scheffel, the platform launched at the start of November currently has 1,000 members.

Under the second phase of development, corporates will be able to get access to the pool of candidates for a monthly fee. “This is an anti-bias, anti-turnover platform. Companies often hire people who already have experience and those candidates normally have a better performance in interviews, whereas trans people have a hard time recognizing their own talent because they haven’t had a formal experience yet – and this is what we want to address”, Scheffel pointed out.

In a year’s time, the entrepreneur expects that EducaTRANSforma will be Brazil’s most significant education and hiring platform focused on diverse talents. “We see companies looking for diverse professionals and unable to find and train them. We are positioned as a one-stop-shop for businesses in that sense”, Scheffel noted, adding that the company will also continue to train people for clients according to their needs.

“We also want to continue to support transgender people in getting access to opportunities that are constantly denied to them. We want to contribute towards reducing turnover and improving hiring rates of people from underrepresented groups so that the corporate picture can reflect Brazilian society. We have a lot of people to support, and the market needs us.”



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