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How Flatiron School is helping people change careers through accessible tech education

Flatiron School makes tech training more accessible through its immersive, 15-week programs in software engineering, data science, cybersecurity and product design. Former culinary and pharmacy professionals share the tech educator’s impact on their new careers.

Flatiron School diversifies tech education. (Courtesy photo)

This article is sponsored by Flatiron School and was reviewed before publication.

In May 2021, former catering company owner Marissa Nolan became the 5,000th Flatiron School graduate to land a job in tech.

She began her career in the food industry, but found that running her own catering business wasn’t sustainable long term. Later, an entry level role as IT support piqued her interest in tech, but Nolan was overwhelmed by the logistics of changing careers.

“I had a house, a mortgage, a full-time job and bills to pay,” said Nolan. “It was hard to balance everything and learn the skills to take on a new career.”

When the pandemic hit, Nolan was laid off. She decided there was no better time to apply for The Cognizant U.S. Foundation NexTech 100 Scholarshipone of Flatiron School’s many initiatives to increase diversity in tech. (While that specific scholarship is no longer available, you can visit the school’s list of current scholarships).

“When I was accepted, I asked myself, ‘Is this real?’” she said.

Just over a month after graduating from the software engineering program, the culinary nutrition major was hired as a solutions engineer at Holland & Hart LLP.

Flatiron School, founded in NYC’s Flatiron District, was one of the first coding bootcamps of the early 2010s to make tech training more accessible through its immersive, 15-week programs in software engineering, data science, cybersecurity and product design.

The accelerated program offers an alternative route to education for those without the time, means or opportunities to pursue a traditional degree. Students can choose the pace at which they prefer to learn based on their needs and schedules. The full-time, fast-track program is a structured 15 weeks, while the flex program (either 20, 40, or 60 weeks) is designed for students needing more time and flexibility. Through its many scholarship opportunities, Flatiron School is able to do its part to diversify an industry that is still overwhelmingly white and cis-male.

When I was a student, my cohort had line cooks, hospitality professionals and real estate agents.

“I’ve seen folks come from all different backgrounds and industries, some with a little experience, others with no experience,” said Ian Hollander, senior manager of curriculum for software engineering at Flatiron School.

Having been a student, instructor and now currently in charge of building the curriculum for Flatiron School’s software engineering program, Hollander has seen many different types of students go through the school’s doors.

“When I was a student, my cohort had line cooks, hospitality professionals and real estate agents,” he said.

Flatiron School’s efforts to increase diversity in tech was important to Kosiso Akporji, who was a pharmacist for six years before she enrolled in Flatiron School’s software engineering program.

“I was on the pre-pharm route at Temple [University] when I came across the university’s group that focuses on STEM in the Black community,” said Akporji. “I grew up thinking tech was a man’s world, but I saw that was a lie. Here were all these Black women doing amazing things. If someone had come to me when I was younger and introduced me to technical STEM, I’d have considered that path.”

Just a college junior at the time, Akporji stayed the course and finished her degree in pharmacology. Later on, similar to Nolan’s story, life got in the way of Akporji following her passion for tech until she, too, was laid off.

“I ran out of excuses, but I didn’t want to go back to school and I still wasn’t clear on how to transition into tech,” said Akporji. “Then a friend brought up Flatiron School.”

After graduating in October 2020, Akporji researched and bought her own ticket to AfroTech, the largest conference for Black technologists, startups and entrepreneurs in the nation. She met a recruiter for GoDaddy — which was piloting a new internship program to bring in nontraditional graduates — earned a spot in the internship and turned the opportunity into her now full-time job as a GoDaddy software development engineer.

That level of initiative is what Hollander says makes all the difference for career changers.

“Someone may not be the strongest tech student from the start, but if they have the drive, they get the job done,” he said. “Everybody finds their strength. The best students figure out where to apply those strengths in the job market.”

Flatiron School boasts an 86% global job placement rate for both online and on-campus students.

According to its 2020 Jobs Report, Flatiron School boasts an 86% global job placement rate for both online and on-campus students. That includes job-seeking grads from calendar year 2019 who are now in full-time salaried roles, full-time contract, internship, apprenticeship and freelance roles, and part-time roles — all related to their field of study.

It also counts an average starting salary of $74,962 for students at U.S. campuses who took full-time, salaried jobs, plus an average hourly pay of $33 per hour for full-time contract, internship, apprenticeship and freelance roles, and $24 per hour for part-time roles. Of its graduates who completed a job search cycle, 53% found jobs within just two months of starting their search. (Check out the full report for more details on these stats and definitions.)

To maintain high job placement rates, the tech educator has started an annual practice of adjusting its curriculum to meet the demands of the industry.

Hollander leads the charge by conducting thorough industry research, including the data analysis of thousands of job postings and interviewing Flatiron School’s employer partners to understand what skills are required to get into the industry and what they are looking for from graduates.

“Recently, we saw a huge trend emerge: Companies are placing an emphasis on JavaScript as a key skill more than ever before,” said Hollander. “So we completely flipped the curriculum, resequencing the order of languages taught, so that students learn JS first, rather than at the end of the program. Now they have an entire 15 weeks to refine and build upon their JS skills, while learning additional languages at the same time.”

Flatiron School’s core mission has always been to help its graduates land jobs in order to lead more fulfilling lives. Seeing how dedicated instructors were to that process made an impact on Nolan’s choice of future employers.

“If you were struggling or needed something, they were always there to support you,” said Nolan. “It made me realize how valuable it is to have empathetic leadership. It’s something I look for in an employer now, as well.”

For Akporji, the program helped her do more than change careers, it helped her make the important shift from a scientific mindset to a technical one.

“In pharmacy, or bio sciences, there’s only one way to look at things — you’re memorizing the one right answer,” she said. “With software engineering, you can get to an answer in so many different ways. You have to understand the foundation, but there are many ways to build something or to come to a conclusion. This program taught me a different way to learn. And if you choose to stay in this field, that’s something you’ll exercise for the rest of your career.”

Learn more or apply for a spot at Flatiron School
Companies: Flatiron School

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