International Women’s Day, Interview with Anna Stepanoff

Published on 04 March 2019

Reading time 5 minutes

On the occasion of the International Women’s Day on March 8 and the launch of our first session in London on 7th May, we will meet Anna Stepanoff, Wild Code School founder and get to know more about her background, her advice and experience.

Hello Anna, tell us about your journey!

Hello Carolina!

I did a lot of studies before starting an education business. It all started in Belorussia, where I’m originally from, then I did a Bachelor in arts at Harvard.

I always had a dream of being a teacher, my grandmother was a kindergarten teacher and she was so inspiring. When I was growing, my ambition became to teach higher education, and after my bachelor, I moved to Paris and did my PhD at La Sorbonne where I also taught for 3 years. I also spent several years working as a consultant at McKinsey.

Having studied in different countries helped me to experience diverse learning environments, and it gave me a lot of ideas about education and how it could be done in a different way. I really like teaching, but I like even more to create projects in education, getting inspiration and imagining a different approaches in learning. That is how Wild Code School was born in 2013, in a small town called La Loupe, in France.

Today, 5 years later, we have 13 campuses in France, and now we are expanding to Europe with campuses in Lisbon, Madrid, Brussels, Berlin, Bucharest and London, what is very exciting!

You founded Wild Code School in 2013 – What is the concept of the school?

It is a very simple concept. Wild Code School is a European network of campuses that teach the newest and most in demand digital skills, so that our specialist graduates are able to adapt to any work and cultural environment.  They can work in startups, fast growing companies or multinationals, as the skills we teach are very in-demand in the job market today.

We have a pedagogical philosophy based on blended learning approach, meaning that we use technology to enhance the quality of education, but our beloved instructors are key on the student learning process! We have our own online platform to help and support our students but the real people, pragmatic real projects and life interaction is what makes the difference.

Wild Code School focus on the professional success and career of our students. We put a lot of emphasis in professional coaching and career orientation.  

The Tech World is one of the most difficult for women to get in and accepted. What was your biggest motivation to found a coding school?

My primary challenge was to create a new environment of education, but not necessarily in coding.

Coding is the most important skill today and the most creative, all our connecting environment is based in coding.

If you learn how to code you won’t be dependent on the algorithm; you will be able to work on it, change the way you phone or laptop works so you are not dependent on technology – you use it to empower yourself and other people.

Wild Code School works with inclusion and 30% of the students are women. How do we attract women to study web developer training courses?

Firstly, it is very important to have women in coding – you create a website and a app, and you have women behind it, as a user, as much as you have men. If you don’t have women in the first creative phase, you create products that are not perfectly adapt for them.

Also, web developers have key competence in companies – so, if you don’t have women, the developer team will be only male, what does not create a good work environment; diversity is very important.

To attract women to study code we need to show that coding is a job for them – show history of women, tell their journey, their stories.

Basically, we need to have more women around and spread the message; invite  women to be speaker and have them as a teacher.

And finally, we don’t have shoes at the school, we are all in the same feet! We can be our comfortable and more creative.

According to Harvard Business Review (June 2018), only 9% of women in senior management are CEO’s. There are structural and other barriers that limit women’s progress in their careers. How have you overcome those barriers?

It is not easy and we don’t have a lot of models to go and ask for advice.

Organise your life balance, work and family – with kids specially, they take time and the company takes time. I have 3 kids and that is my everyday challenge, we need to share responsibilities with our partner and father of our kids and be supported.  

I personally recommend women to be brave, to think that it is possible – I see a lot of women limiting themselves. Just go for it and try things and if it doesn’t work, it is ok!

What is your view of the future of women in our society?

Big question !! I just  hope women will have the same role as men in society – equality and balance!

I would love to see women going for higher ambitions and more power, and men accepting and sharing responsibilities.

What are your recommendations for supporting women’s leadership careers?

It is very important to try things out and think: “What do I really want to do in my life?” Take the possibility or idea and push themselves to try it out!

As an example, I see a trend in our students with the same level of skills – men tend to say: “I know it all, I can do it!” , in the other hand, women tend to say: “I need more training, I’m not ready!”

I see it all the time when I’m looking for instructors to teach in our schools. When I reach out for men, I see very young developers with not a lot experience saying they are ready to be teachers, and women that have PhD saying that they are not ready to teach. It is lack of confidence in the work environment that we need to overcome.  

Wild Code School supports women in tech!

Apply for our Women in Tech Scholarship!