man and woman discussing tech, women in tech, computers, code

Why now is the perfect time to upskill in tech

man and woman discussing tech, women in tech, computers, code

Ahead of a new fully-remote web development course starting on June 22nd, Anna Stepanoff, CEO & Founder of Wild Code School, the technology educator nurturing today’s digital talent, discusses why now is the perfect time to further career prospects in the tech industry.

The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic is causing considerable challenges for us all, impacting all industries and sectors.

Vocational training organisations have certainly been challenged, although some providers, including Wild Code School, have been able to migrate activities online to ensure educational continuity for students. As a technology bootcamp, we are well placed to do this, with the technological know-how and proven remote learning methodologies already in place. And with 90 per cent of our students now working in the tech ecosystem, we know that our courses are aligned to the needs of businesses.

With the pandemic resulting in more time at home, and the tech industry offering flexible and varied career opportunities, could now be the perfect time to take advantage of the fully remote courses that are available and develop those sought-after digital skills?

Everything in place

Until recently, a reliable connection to a broadband network was still a major obstacle to online training’s accessibility, especially when it came to live remote training. However, access to a fibre network from almost everywhere in the Western world has been a game changer, enabling connectivity and access to learning tools such as interactive webinars for consumers and participants across the world.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) have been fully established and accessible since 2012. On these online learning platforms, resources are freely accessible to students who can choose the pace of learning that is best suited to them and their personal preferences. MOOC are particularly well suited to autonomous individuals who are looking to upskill or acquire new skills to develop their careers.

In recent years, the tools and technology available have grown rapidly and been introduced to ensure an even higher quality of online courses. Video conferencing platforms, online chat and communication tools, as well as document sharing capabilities have helped accelerate the possibility of indirect interactions and made it possible for instructors or course tutors and lecturers to remotely interact with a community of students. Although online courses have been around for many years, they provide a shining example of efficient, practical and effective remote working.

Remote working expertise

As the majority of us have discovered during this period of worldwide lockdown, working from home requires a new set of skills. It is making us rethink our working habits and adapt to new tools and practices, forcing us to be more than flexible and agile than ever before. And with the future looking to be more reliant on remote working, learning in a remote environment is helping our students with both the digital and soft skills that will support future remote working.

Adaptability, proactivity, and communication, for example, are not only essential skills for the tech industry, but also for discovering opportunities in challenging situations. Online learning also allows individuals to develop autonomy, rigour and the ability to organise yourself more efficiently.

But these skills are not unique to the tech industry, and in fact people from a diverse range of careers and backgrounds are well equipped and suited to the training.

Helping career changers

Our first fully remote course began in April, and we’ve been canvassing the opinions of our first fully remote students to find out how it’s working for them and why now was the right time to learn new skills and make the change.

One of our current web development students, Leonore Ghisalberti, previously worked in design and product management for a fashion brand and is now working to building her own creative design agency. She realised her new world required further digital skills to complement her design credentials and told us:

“The main draw for me was that I needed to further my skills in order to progress my business. Front-end development especially, which this course focuses on, has many synergies with my design background. It is very visual and creative, and enables you to build something, and see it come to life with your chosen design.”

Another student, Gladys Pascual is a Chemical Engineer, qualified with a PhD and working in a Dublin-based startup. It’s a career she enjoys and finds fulfilling, but she has seen the flexibility that a career in tech can offer, as well as the opportunities in Dublin and abroad:

“Technology is a big industry here in Dublin, and indeed all across the world and I was keen to see what doors I could open through training that will allow me to consider a shift in career. While I have still been working full time, lockdown meant that all my travelling plans were cancelled and I’m not able to do any of the sports I’m used to – I’ve therefore got more time on hands and so it has posed a good opportunity to upskill and do something I’m interested in.

“Like anything new, at first I was a little overwhelmed – especially with a demanding full-time job. It is quite advanced, which is a good thing in terms of its long-term use and after just a few weeks I have had the time to focus and absorb what I’m learning.

“The multi-national nature of the course is also really cool; the class is made up of students from all across Europe and it means we get to work with people from different places and with varied backgrounds. This sort of environment is common in the tech world, so it’s useful to get a taste here.”

We’re looking forward to welcoming our next set of students onto the June course and excited to see both men and women embrace technology and realise its career opportunities.

About the author:

Anna StepanoffAnna Stepanoff is the CEO & Founder of Wild Code School, the technology educator nurturing today’s digital talent.

Founded in 2014, Wild Code School has more than 20 campuses across Europe. It has trained more than 2,000 students, with 90 per cent of graduates now working within the Tech Ecosystem. The School offers part-time front-end, or full-time full-stack web development courses that take place over a five-month period. Both courses will get the student to where they want to be, with the full-time course offering a more immersive environment that gets them there quicker. The school was founded by mother of three Anna Stepanoff, and is now the fifth largest school in Paris.

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Inspirational Woman: Anna Stepanoff | CEO, Wild Code School

Anna StepanoffI am married with three children and the CEO of Wild Code School, a technology educator with the goal of nurturing today’s digital talent.

I founded the School in 2013 and with more than 20 campuses across Europe, and my role is in the global management and strategy of the business, helping to ensure we have the best teachers, technology and culture to attract and further tech talent. Our latest courses (the next starting on June 22nd) are fully remote as a result of the global lockdown so we have all been working hard to ensure students have the best remote experience.

My education has included a Bachelor of Arts at Harvard University in social sciences, after which I moved to Paris to do a PhD at La Sorbonne on the History of museums, where I also taught for three years. During this time, I was also working as a consultant at the Management Consultancy, McKinsey.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No. And I would never have imagined I would be where I am today! Even five years ago I couldn’t have known where my interests in education and technology would have taken me, and indeed how Wild Code School has developed.

I was once given what I have found to be very valuable advice. If you want to hit a target, you should shoot first and then decide your target. Being too precise too early limits your understanding of potential opportunities and can stop you from discovering the exact area that interests and motivates you.

I used this thinking when I realised while doing my PhD that I was not meant to be a researcher or a professor as I had previously felt was my direction. I wanted to do something more entrepreneurial and felt that educational environments and approaches to learning needed re-thinking. I also realised in my professional work that the biggest issue facing businesses today is a lack of talent, and this is most pronounced in technology.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

I have and continue to do so. At university I sincerely thought I would become a professor but had to accept I was not happy and this direction was not right for me. I knew I wanted to work in education so had to re-think how I could achieve this goal outside of the existing educational structures and hierarchies.

I began by creating a summer school and organising international conferences – which is where I found the meaning of what I intended to do. There were important technological advancements being made in education, and I believed that technology needed to be coupled with a new approach that inspired and engaged students, and that was more aligned to the needs of companies and the commercial world.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

It has to be Wild Code School. It now employs over 100 people and we have more than 1,000 students every year. I believe it has had a positive impact on, not just the students, but also the educational system in general, demonstrating alternative teaching approaches, the inclusivity of the tech industry and the need to make further education more aligned to the needs of business.

What motivates me is that technology talent is all around us, but it needs to be nurtured and encouraged in order for businesses and society to access to that talent.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Timing. Quite simply, I embarked on the Wild Code School project at the right time. At the time I was also interested in other projects around childcare, but did not pursue them as I realised I was too late and the innovations had already happened. Technological advancements were new and ready for me to take advantage of in 2013 in the field of further education.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Be comfortable with uncertainty and understand you can never know everything, because the tech world changes continuously. Some of our students struggle with this, especially when they have come from other fields that are more settled. It’s important for them to understand early on that being comfortable with uncertainty is a fundamental requirement of working in tech.

Do you believe there are still barriers to success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Yes, there are certainly still barriers for women working in tech and I have been lucky that I have not been confronted with these too directly or harshly. The main barrier, and this is not specific to the tech world, is in having children and raising a family.

There is no simple answer to overcoming the fact that many women bear the brunt of the physical and mental responsibilities of looking after children. With three children, juggling responsibilities can of course be challenging and it is about managing stress as well as possible. I completely understand women deciding not having children, in favour of pursuing a career, but moving forward there has to be a stronger cultural change in men and women sharing the responsibilities of childcare. While there is some bias towards careers that men and women are drawn to, I very much believe that women can achieve the same things that men do.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

The most important thing is to ensure that there is a good percentage of women in any team or company. If percentages are low, there is a risk that women will be less comfortable and less likely to succeed. It is a question of making a conscious effort to address, and where necessary, adapt work cultures to ensure there are successful female role models in any business.

There is currently only 17% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

It would be to increase the number and visibility of role models of women working in important positions and to be better at promoting tech as a creative and diverse career option. For us at Wild Code School we can do this by supporting women and developing stories about students that succeed. However, the promotion of tech as an attractive career path needs to start much earlier; with changes in the curriculum that will help to inspire teenage women.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

At Wild Code School we offer a number of free preparatory courses to introduce people to the world of technology. We make these accessible for people of all educational and career backgrounds; teaching students how to create memes, for example, knowing they are a popular piece of tech that most people are familiar with, but might not realise are created through coding. We also use storytelling to demonstrate our approach to learning; for instance, using ancient Greek mythology and the story of the Argonauts as a useful analogy to the basics of software development.

Our paid data analyst, web development and front-end web development courses take five months and are full- or part-time depending on the course. Under lockdown we shifted our courses to be fully remote and are extremely pleased with how little we need to rely on face-to-face interactions to maintain the energy and fun that our course supervisors inject into learning. Our students come from a diverse set of backgrounds, from finance and engineering to design and even dance, and for our next June course, we are all very excited to see both men and women embrace technology and realise its career opportunities.

WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here