Diversifying Technology With We Can Code IT

Hannah Gierosky

we_can_code_itWhile working together at imageNation Web Experts a few years ago, Shana Mysko and Mel McGee started noticing a pattern: friends and colleagues, women in particular, asking them how to program and code. To answer those questions, and “do some good in the world,” as Shana said, they started a free series of classes to help women learn front-end development.

“We got great feedback, but they wanted something that would help them change careers,” Shana said. And so, We Can Code IT was born.

We Can Code IT is a social technology education organization whose aim is to diversify the technology field. They offer coding boot camps to help anyone seeking a career in the tech industry get the training they need. With full-time and part-time boot camp offerings, students are fully certified and ready to enter the workforce in either 12 or 25 weeks.

The program is targeted towards women and more diverse populations, and they work with organizations in the area that are looking to hire tech team members and diversify their team. As Shana, the Community Outreach Director, said, “you create better products if you have a diverse team.”

The very first We Can Code IT boot camp took place this past March, and while that beta group was all women, they have since opened their doors to both men and women interested in the tech industry.

“We decided to open it up to everyone pretty early on because we really wanted to help everybody. That’s why we’re not exclusive as to who we work with,” Shana said of the decision.

Every student at We Can Code IT has a different story and situation: some people have master’s degrees, whereas some never went to college. Some people are dissatisfied with their career or feel that they are underemployed while others are looking to get paid more or have more lucrative careers.

Prior experience is not necessary, the only requirements to apply for a boot camp are that a student is at least 18 years old and have either a high school diploma or GED.

In addition to those requirements, prospective students must pass an assessment test that evaluates their analytical thinking. On average, about 10% of applicants pass that evaluation and move on to a class sit-in and interview. This process ensures that the maximum 16 students per class are prepared for the intensive programming boot camp.

Students pay tuition in order to attend, but in order to make the experience possible for their student demographic, the tuition can work as a loan that students pay back after they complete the course.

“This is our way of reaching out to low-to-moderate income students who wouldn’t be able to pay up front. Even installment plans don’t work out well for most of our students, especially full-time who are not often working and attending boot camp at the same time,” Shana said.

We Can Code IT is not just about preparing students for a job, it’s about finding them that job too. Every boot camp ends with a career day during which all employer partners are invited to come and speak to each student one on one about their organization. Further interviews are scheduled from there to determine if any of the new developers are a good fit for their work forces.  

This extra step of helping their students establish a career is just one example of the passion that the We Can Code IT team has for their mission. Everyone is dedicated to helping their students succeed.

Founder and CEO Mel McGee is also the lead instructor on the team. Her Computer Science degree and programming background has established a solid foundation for the rest of the program to build on. Additional team members include more instructors as well as teaching assistants, a host of administrative members, and volunteers.

“Our instructors are the best at what they do, and they are very dynamic and engaging,” Shana said.

The energy brought to their classes is what helps make the program so impactful. We Can Code IT’s dedication to diversifying the tech industry by empowering a diverse population is apparent, especially when speaking with Shana.

“We really care about our students and we really want them to succeed, so we go to great lengths to make sure that they do.”

If you are interested in helping out We Can Code IT, consider making a monetary or device donation. The Briteskies office recently donated a bunch of unneeded machines for use in boot camps and workshops. Monetary donations go to scholarships for low-income students to help them achieve their technology goals. Additionally, consider becoming an employer partner. You can learn more here.

If you are interested in joining a We Can Code IT boot camp, apply here.

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