Community Stories – From demolition to diversity

Below is an extract from Code Institute’s recent e-Book entitled, “Community: your key to career change success -Tips from students who have worn your shoes and from employers that want to hire you”. In this story, we read about Kenan, a stand-up guy who started his career in demolition but now works as a developer and community lead with Code Institute. He tells us about his journey on the Code Institute programme and how he wishes he had gotten more involved with the community while he was taking part. Kenan was in the same boat as our students before, during and after taking part in our full-stack programme.

Kenan’s Story

In South Africa, where I am from, I worked in IT – more on the hardware side – but when I immigrated to Sweden, it was difficult to find work in my field without relevant Swedish qualifications and experience.

I knew I had to find a way back, and this eventually led me to Code Institute. I have that mindset where I think I can do everything myself, which is not a good mindset to have. I tried numerous free courses, but one of the problems with those is that there’s not enough structure, there’s not enough guidance.

I am passionate about the community aspect of the course – not because it was useful to me but because I missed out on it! Out of stubbornness. I was like, ‘I don’t need other people. I can find the information. I don’t need to join these seminars. I don’t need to join the hackathons.’

This was incredibly stupid and short-sighted of me, because I struggled a lot and found myself wanting to drop out quite often. 

My first job

Luckily, I did pass. I found a job at the Dutch fintech Adyen but moving to Amsterdam would have meant sacrificing the process of obtaining Swedish citizenship and I couldn’t jeopardise that.

Code Institute hired me as a cohort facilitator. One of my roles was to evaluate how much of an effect community, and Slack specifically has on a student’s progress through the course. The answer: a lot. Students who engage with the community work their way through the syllabus much more quickly. 

I give students the help and reassurance I could have had if I had interacted more with others and with the support I could have had.

Code Institute has invested a lot into building out the community aspect of the experience, and this needs managing.

Consistent messaging

We have thousands of active users, so moderation is crucial. We are a diverse community of people, and we have to respect everyone’s faith, opinions, and ideas. We can’t have anything even remotely offensive on our platform, so that’s a lot of moderation – on a lot of channels.

There are cohort channels, project channels, a channel about impostor syndrome, which is extremely popular, a Nordic channel, a proud channel for coders in the LGBTQI+ community, a channel for women in tech, a channel for the neurodivergent community which interests me because I have ADHD. 

A few weeks ago, we did a neurodivergent training seminar, and this shows you how seriously Code Institute takes diversity and community.

Stand-Ups

An important part of the Code Institute community is the weekly stand-up meetings. This is an opportunity to ask the students how their week is going. Have they had any wins for the week? Have they had any struggles that we might be able to help with? And so we get them talking to each other ‘live’ in a Google Meeting, not just through Slack messages. This is an online course, so it’s crucial to create a sense of togetherness and solidarity among the students.

An initiative that Sawyer, my colleague in Community, and I are looking at is to hold open stand-ups so anyone from any cohort at any point on the course can jump in. This is especially useful for people with work or family commitments who can’t make the usual time for their cohorts.

All this takes organising because every stand-up needs a facilitator, and we are always looking for talented and lively students to do this.

What we do is try to create a virtuous circle where students on Slack see the link to the various stand-ups and the information posted on those channels, which can be a basis for discussion. So we are creating different ‘entry points’ to the community and grow the support ecosystem in this way.

And what we see time and again is that students who spend time on Slack and go to stand-ups get through the course quicker. We monitor this, not because we like to spy but because we want to help students who may be falling behind. Everyone’s situation is different; many students have children, full-time jobs, or are carers – not everyone has the chance to do as much as they would like.

But I am inspired all the time by how much our students do contribute.

Today was the last stand-up meeting with the “Career Coding for Women” cohort, which is an initiative to get more women into tech. Nearly the whole cohort attended: mothers of young children, some in part-time employment, and one looking after her sick parents and husband. And she’s managing to get through the course. It’s just awesome that these busy women juggling 100 different things are some of the most positive in the community.

I am proud to be part of our vibrant community and committed to finding ways to do more.  

Read more community stories

Want to read more stories like this one from Kenan? Download our latest eBook and read more stories from the amazing Code Institute community. Remember, if you’re thinking of a career change to software development, these amazing people wore the same shoes as you. Download the eBook through the form below.

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