Over my 20 years working experience in Dublin, I have started 7 different companies, ranging from complete start-ups to global powerhouses like Getty Images. Wild Code School is by far the most unique and interesting company so far. I thought I knew everything there was in starting a company but this industry and company have taught me that I did not know everything. Here is why...
The friendliest industry I have ever experienced
So, I have been at Wild Code School for 6 months as the campus manager in Dublin, and I have to say it has been a crazy ride so far. This is my first role in such a company and it has proven to be so different from anything I have ever done before, and different in such a positive way.
The experience has been so varied and every day throws different challenges at you. I know people will say that is the case with lots of jobs, but in 20 years of work, I can truly say this has been the most diverse in such a short period of time. From finding premises, putting together furniture, running events, interviewing people, meeting companies of all sizes and speaking at industry events, every day has been challenging, fun and rewarding.
So, when I joined I went through the onboarding process at the central office in Paris and then visited the Lille campus to experience the environment and culture. I was lucky to attend the demo day at the campus and saw the culmination of 5 months of hard work. What struck me was how impressed the partners were with the finished projects. Even though everyone was speaking French it was clear that the work done was of very high standards.
This was made even more apparent when one of the partners decided to donate €4,000 to the school. That money was then earmarked to help a potential student get onto the upcoming course. I found out she had no way to raise the funds so it was really refreshing to see that we opted to help her instead of putting that money into the bank. It's clear the relationships with partners are crucial, not only for projects and guest speaker slots but also for knowledge of what they want from potential students. This knowledge helps us ensure the training courses are as up to date and relevant with a single aim to give students the most relevant skills to succeed in this industry.
The importance of finding the right partners
Being part of the local tech ecosystem
After experiencing the onboarding, I made it a priority to immerse myself in the tech ecosystem and find partners as quickly as possible. Having good partners who can share their experiences and help with the learning process I believe is crucial for success. It became clear very quickly that the tech industry and people working within the tech industry in Ireland really want to help and work together. It feels like there is a collective problem all tech companies have in that there just simply are not enough people to fill the huge amount of open roles. Then there is the added challenge of not enough women, in general, to help give a more balanced workforce. One of our first partners was Dress for Success Dublin who shared our desire to help inspire more women into coding. When I explain our methodology and approach and explain we look at both technical and soft skills, this seemed to resonate very deeply with companies. The practical project-based approach and the fact we are classroom-based also is a huge plus.
Finding the right team members
After seeing the way our instructor interacts and teaches, and speaking with the students, it's clear to me that to learn web development from zero or from a basic level is much better in a classroom than in a purely online environment. One of the challenges I faced in the first few weeks was when my instructor was rushed to hospital with appendicitis. While he was off we ran the course virtually and the students felt it was much harder to grasp things than when they had the instructor present. I am a complete advocate of modernisation and evolution, but feel very strongly that if you want to learn something new, it's much easier and more appealing to employers if you learn in a classroom.
The first class started mid-January, and in less than 2 weeks the students had already created their first websites. I cannot wait to see what they are capable of when they complete the course in May and also what jobs they get hired for at that point!!
In those first 6 months, I also learned that most people in Dublin are looking for a part-time option when wanting to upskill or retrain, as it is too hard to quit a job to do a full-time course. We, therefore, decided to create a brand new part-time course for Dublin, focused on the key skills required.