March 20, 2020

Three questions for three (awesome) women leaders at The Iron Yard

We chatted with three amazing women who make The Iron Yard the incredible school it is. We learned more about what they do, how their positions impact students and what it means to be a female leader. These are the women who are truly shaping The Iron Yard -- read on to learn more about them!

Sam Kapila

Name: Sam Kapila

Position: Director of Instruction

Why she's awesome: Sam works with the other members of The Iron Yard's executive team and with more than 50 instructors on all things related to hiring, onboarding, curriculum development, instruction and supporting students - basically, it's her job to make sure that students receive the best education from the best instructors.

Why is it important that The Iron Yard employs full-time instructors?

Employing full-time instructors is so crucial in supporting students through their journey. Having the same instructor conduct morning lectures and actively work with students one-on-one or in small groups during lab time over 12 weeks gives students consistency and support. Additionally, these instructors are amazing mentors with incredible professional experience. They're passionate about helping junior developers, teaching them and preparing them for the real world. And they're all still practicing developers themselves, so students have the added benefit of getting to see how they go about being developers and problem solving.

How do you ensure high quality and consistency with so many instructors teaching in so many different physical locations?

We've built out an incredible team of support for our instructors as we've grown. We assign mentor instructors to each new instructor who provide support on both instruction and curriculum. We've also recently added several curriculum director positions to help mentors build out more consistent programming for our students. Additionally, with a Director of Curriculum Design, we'll all be working to take the consistency competencies to a whole new level. We'll document and train on the core competencies for each our Programs (Front End, Back End, Design and Mobile) to ensure all of our students are as prepared as possible to enter the workforce.

What does it mean to you to be a female leader helping shape The Iron Yard as the largest in-person code school?

The Iron Yard is truly committed to making sure our classrooms, communities and industry are diverse, and it means a lot to me to be a part of an organization that puts such a high value on diversity. It also means that both me and The Iron Yard have the responsibility to set a strong example for our industry and our students - something I'm proud to take on. Letting students and applicants know that there isn't just one type of person who can be successful in this industry is so important and will help change the face of tech for the long run.

Sarah Lodato

Name: Sarah Beth Lodato

Position: Director of Onboarding and Training

Why she's awesome: Sarah's job is to create strong, supportive teams internally at The Iron Yard. She believes that healthy, nurtured and engaged team members provide the same level of support for the students and provides an incredible experience for them.

How does your position impact The Iron Yard's students?

One of our strongest values at The Iron Yard is "people first," and it motivates our activities internally through and through. Improving the training and support that we provide our team, from the moment they join, ensures that our students have the best-trained and most engaged members of the community to lead their path to success. We want to make sure that the operations team that supports their overall experience and employer relations are fully equipped to provide an incredible campus experience for them, with creative programming designed to send them on the path of lifelong learning and curiosity when they leave The Iron Yard and join a team in industry. Our instructors spend the most time with our students while they're undergoing our immersive training, and we're refining their onboarding process so that they can properly prepare the most relevant curriculum for our students, as well as understand the pedagogy we care so much about so that our graduates enter a career path with the confidence to tackle the many challenges that engineering work presents. If we nurture our team from within, it means healthy, nurtured, and engaged team members are there to provide the same level of support to our incredible students.

When you are onboarding and training new Iron Yard team members, what stands out as important motivations for them? What excites them about being part of this team?

Motivation is top of mind for me these days. It dictates the direction we take with our training, but also in the way we look at retaining our talent. What I love above all is how dedicated this team is to creating a positive impact in our communities. We seek thought leaders, engaged community members in our recruiting process, because we want to grow a team that sets a great example for the engineers we're preparing for the tech industry. Helping others discover their innate propensity for problem solving, creativity and discovery is a huge motivator for our team. In fact, the same can be said about our students. These are people who are genuinely excited about sharing knowledge with others for the purpose of empowerment, and that is such a cool team to be surrounded by. Internally, in our communication channels, we spend a lot of time sharing stories about our students' successes, because that's really what motivates everyone to get up and get out there in the morning!

What does it mean to you to be a female leader helping shape The Iron Yard as the largest in-person code school?

I was one of the first 10 people to join The Iron Yard's team, which means I've seen a lot of changes and positive growth since our first expansion out of Greenville, SC. What I love most about our values in how we nurture our team, is that it's the same values we bring to the table when recruiting students and planning our community initiatives. Diversity is always a hot topic in tech, as we see the industry booming and the needs expanding, we need to think very definitively about what it means to have a diverse workforce. I come from a very creative background, in an industry dominated by women. The male-dominated tech industry seemed like a huge shift when I attended my first conference on behalf of The Iron Yard, and realized I was one of three women in a room of over 200 participants. However, I've realized that we all have backgrounds and experiences that make us diverse, which brings such a creativity to the table when folks are collaborating on projects. We've always hired creatively, which means our team is supportive of all backgrounds, both professional and cultural. I fit into two major minority groups in tech, being Hispanic and a woman, and I think we've grown an incredible culture of seeing beyond those categories and recognizing talents in people for who they are, celebrating mixed experiences, and relishing in the innovation that it brings to a work environment. As a leader in the largest in-person code school, specifically on our Talent, Engagement, and Culture team, I think that means ensuring that we hold strong to those values and make sure we focus on genuine approaches to nurturing a diverse population of students, advisory board members, and community partners beyond our internal team. I feel really proud of our commitment to diversifying our talent pool, and I think my experiences can help bring some insight and perspective on how to continue to support more women in the industry.

Jessica Mitsch

Name: Jessica Mitsch

Position: Executive Director of the Code School

Why she's awesome: Jessica's focus is on building and growing national partnerships, increasing diversity and inclusion efforts, and supporting the growing alumni network through engagement programs and career support.

Can you tell us about some of the partnerships The Iron Yard is currently involved with?

In each of the cities where The Iron Yard has a campus, we build an Advisory Board of local companies big and small that partner with us to provide our students with job opportunities and exposure to the tech industry. We work with Advisory Board members throughout each immersive program to coordinate field trips and guest lectures for our students. These relationships strengthen the opportunities our students have access to and help them become a part of the local tech community before they even graduate.

Among all of our partnerships, one I'd particularly like to highlight is with a program called ​Code Start ​in Atlanta. Code Start is a program started by Tech Square Labs in partnership with the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency and The Iron Yard. Students from 18 to 21 years old who weren't able to pursue traditional post­secondary education and have a demonstrated financial need, received scholarships from the local workforce agency in addition to housing and transportation support for a year long program. The Iron Yard provides three months of technical training in JAVA, and students also receive financial literacy training along with job and life skills training over the course of a year, with access to apprenticeships at local companies. It's been fantastic to partner with a group of civic and private organizations that are all committed to innovation and increasing access to high-­return education and skills training.

How involved is your alumni network? How do they stay in touch with The Iron Yard?

The Iron Yard has an incredible alumni network, with more than 1,000 graduates nationwide. Our graduates have strong bonds that they developed by working together during our immersive program, where they spent three months side­-by­-side learning how to learn, solving complex problems and building with code.

We have a dedicated Director of Alumni Engagement, Dana Duncan, who just launched an Alumni Ambassadors program to highlight and connect our most active alumni. Each campus also hosts meetups and events for graduates and we have an alumni channel on Slack to keep graduates stay in touch.

One of the best ways our alumni stay connected is by supporting each other in their careers. Many of our graduates find themselves working for the same company when they leave, or even recommending each other for jobs. A month ago I had the opportunity to visit IBM Design's headquarters in Austin where we took the current cohort of Austin students for a visit and they met three of our #IronGrads, who graduated from three different programs in three different cities and are now all working together. They hosted a panel to speak about their experience working for IBM Design, and alongside other bootcamp grads from The Iron Yard for current students. It was really amazing to see the alumni network in action at an incredible company like IBM.

We're excited to continue building and growing our alumni programs over the next year, and providing even more opportunities for our graduates throughout their careers.

What does it mean to you to be a female leader helping shape The Iron Yard as the largest in-­person code school?

I love the tech industry. I started my career at a big tech company in Raleigh before joining The Iron Yard and have had the privilege to work with companies of all shapes and sizes through my various roles at The Iron Yard. I care deeply about this industry and I want to make sure it reflects the diverse population it serves. Technology has an impact on all of us. It shapes how we get through our days, communicate with each other, check in with our loved ones, schedule doctors visits and book vacations. It's crucial that women along with minority groups have a seat at the table in every industry, but especially in tech. Women make up 47 percent of the U.S. workforce and have huge spending power. It's important that we have a voice in shaping the world and products we use. Education is the starting point for building the talented workforce that will keep creating the products we use every day on our phones, through our email and in e-­commerce. I'm proud of the many female leaders we have at The Iron Yard who lead by example and show our students that tech is open to women.

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