Diversity & Inclusion
Coding / DEI / Delaware / Education

Code Differently and Anthony Mays are rewriting the coding school model

The DEI consultant and former Googler joined the Wilmington organization to help “bring other people in” to the tech industry.

Code Differently cofounder Stephanie Eldridge and guest instructor Anthony Mays (Courtesy Code Differently)
In 2022, Anthony Mays made a choice: After eight years working for Google, he would leave the company and focus on DEI.

Now, he’s revamping — or as they say in coding, refactoring — the curriculum of Code Differently, the 6-year-old tech training program program in Wilmington, Delaware.

Mays, who proudly wears a ball cap emblazoned with the name of his hometown of Compton, California, didn’t see a lot of people like himself as he worked his way up in tech.

“As someone who grew up a foster kid and abuse survivor, enduring physical sexual abuse in the hood when I was 4 years old, going from that to becoming a software engineer in the industry was a mind blowing achievement on its own,” Mays told Technical.ly. “But it was also an isolating one, because there aren’t a lot of people who went through what I went through who came from where I came from, whether we talk about from a racial perspective, or from just the trauma that I had to endure as an individual person.”

Mays decided early in his career that he would make it his mission to help chart a pathway for other people who looked like him or came from backgrounds similar to his own.

“I became very passionate about advocacy. And that really took off when I made it to Google about 13 years into my career,” Mays said. “Making it to Google, that was the pinnacle of what it means to be successful in tech. But again, I felt that same isolation and felt like, ‘Is this it? Can I do more to bring other people in?’”

While at Google, Mays worked on the company’s behalf to make tech jobs inclusive. In 2021, he helped launch technical interviewing company Karat’s Brilliant Black Minds program, for which he is still senior advisor.

As the pandemic began to settle in 2022, Mays decided to quit Google to concentrate full time on DEI. He soon launched Morgan Latimer Consulting, named after the African American inventors Garrett A. Morgan and Lewis H. Latimer.

An opportunity to go big

Mays had crossed paths once or twice with Code Differently cofounder and CEO Stephanie Eldridge.

The Black-owned coding school, which often draws students through word of mouth in Wilmington’s predominantly Black neighborhoods, aligns with Mays’s work.

When its other cofounder, CIO and instructor Tariq Hook, decided after many years of teaching that he wanted to take a job as a developer with local Black-owned tech company HX Innovations, it meant big changes for the organization’s programs, even as Hook remained as a technical education consultant.

It was an opportunity to go big, Eldridge said — to revamp not just Code Differently, but the tech education space altogether. She threw caution to the wind and reached out to Mays to see if he might be interested.

Mays was interested, even though it would mean traveling from California to Delaware multiple times over a 20-week cohort to teach. The weeks when Mays isn’t in the classroom with the students, he teaches virtually, with assistant instructors on hand throughout.

A man standing in front of a whiteboard in front of a class.

Anthony Mays in the Code Differently classroom (Technical.ly / Holly Quinn)

Mays arrived at the classroom three weeks into the cohort.

The way the current curriculum is modeled, it leads with two weeks of preparation for the rest of the program, which is meant to feel more like work than school. Students of the full-time-stipended cohort learned office culture, soft skills, durable skills and had training in all the Microsoft products that one would typically be expected to use.

“Usually when you come out of training,  you have to figure out how to transition into work,” Eldridge said. “We want them to feel like they’re at work while they’re in training.”

Relearning to learn

Mays’ method of teaching initially caught some of the Code Differently students off guard.

“At first I was a little iffy about his teaching style because he teaches different from how I typically like to learn,” said Kevin Mason, a 31-year-old from New Castle. “I usually like for somebody to show me first and then I go back, and then if I do it wrong, you correct me. But he likes to see what we know, then we come in with questions, so we actually have to work first.”

Like many other students in the cohort, Mason has worked several different jobs, and hadn’t found one that stuck.

He’s now enjoying this challenge. The first assignment, about markup languages, will require most of the students to start by researching what, exactly, a markup language is. “Some people are spinning a little bit,” Mason said.

Rich Hawkins, 37, from Newark, has been struggling to get back into the workforce since sustaining an injury.

“I’ve always worked labor jobs, blue collar jobs,” Hawkins said. “Tech has always been a hobby of mine, so I was Googling around looking at opportunities to learn how to code and found Code Differently.”

Three people standing next to each other in an office.

Kevin Mason, Nataya Price and Rich Hawkins (Technical.ly / Holly Quinn)

Nataya Price, 24, of Wilmington, is one of the students to come to Code Differently by word of mouth after a friend recommended the program.

“It’s been challenging, but it’s exciting because I kind of like not knowing exactly what you’re talking about,” Price said. “Watching them do things repetitively and picking up on the patterns, it’s starting to make more sense. I’m excited.” At this point in the program, they’re not thinking too much about exactly which positions they’ll seek out. But they’re feeling positive about the future.

“I’m hoping to secure a job after this, and then I want to keep getting better and better,” said Mason, the New Castle resident. “That way I can evolve.”

One way Code Differently is changing things, org cofounder Eldridge said, is by focusing not just on software development, but on software engineering. For those 20 weeks — and hopefully beyond — that’s their job, complete with the problem-solving that comes with it.

“A lot of larger movements in tech start with a small thing,” Mays said. “My goal right now is just to make sure that we get it right here in Wilmington, Delaware. If we can get it right here in Wilmington, Delaware, we can make an impact in Compton and Lynwood in Chicago and Nigeria and all these other places.”

 

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