Growing with a Not-For-Profit Code School

Lauren Mabra

“Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.” This quote from Anthony D’Angelo has been one of my favorite quotes that has been kept in the back of my mind ever since I can remember. I’m currently a senior at the University of South Florida and as I’m wrapping up my formal education and getting ready to graduate, I’m fully aware that my learning isn’t done. In fact, my learning will never be done because, just as D’Angelo said, ceasing to learn means ceasing to grow. I have been a part of the SDG for just a short amount of time and it’s clear to me that they fully embrace this view as well. In just a month, I have learned very valuable lessons both related and unrelated to coding.

  1. Problem Solving

As many know or could guess, coding is all about problem solving. The size and topic of the problem may vary, but the approach to solve it is fairly basic. Through working at a code school that is also a startup, I have learned the importance of problem solving in both coding and everyday life. Whether it’s a software problem or trouble finding the right job, the first goal is to always troubleshoot and ask yourself questions in order to develop an understanding of the problem. Next, find what the expected cause of the problem and test it. Finally, be resourceful! At SDG, I’ve learned to not let myself get stuck working on a problem for more than 25 minutes- Pomodoro inspired! Results significantly diminish after the first 25 minutes. If this time has passed and the problem still isn’t resolved, I ask the people around me whether it’s a student, team member, or graduate. Problem solving is everything especially in an environment as agile and dynamic of a startup organization. There won’t always be someone to watch over and help, so developing problem solving skills is essential to enabling us to have control over our environment and to the success of SDG as a whole.

  1. Networking

When I first stepped into my role at SDG, I didn’t realize how much of this job revolved around networking. Demo Days and the start of new cohorts have been major networking opportunities for me to get to know our students, graduates, employers, and other professionals within the community. Despite what many might think (including myself at one point), networking isn’t just an exchange of information and business cards. SDG has taught me that networking is about connecting with others and nurturing the relationship long term. The whole point of these relationships is to have people who support you, but it isn’t just a one-way street; the support should always be reciprocated. The benefit and importance of networking could be an entire blog on its own but I’ll keep it short. Learning to network enables you to have a support system, help others, exchange new ideas, and often opens many doors that lead to new jobs and opportunities.

  1. The importance of community

It was evident from the first day that everything SDG is and does is with the community’s best interest in mind. This is covered in more depth here. The sole reason SDG exists is to help the local tech community learn and grow. Personally, I have seen several startups not do well simply because they are failing to keeping the community’s well being and demands in mind. The organic support that this organization receives is astonishing but makes sense. The organization is solving a real problem and even offering free crash courses to teach anyone wanting to learn. As someone who plans to be an entrepreneur, I realize how important it is to always keep the community in mind with everything I do.

I also wanted to touch on the importance of SDG’s own community. It’s a support network for everyone involved and aims to be a safe and trusting space to find comfort. It’s a place to share ideas, ask questions, express creativity, and promote innovation. A place to turn to and find inspiration from like-minded people… Even on the days when we feel no fire.

  1. Anyone can learn how to code

I’m sure you’ve heard this mantra many times before. Learning something new such as coding can be done by anyone at any age. I am not a coder, but from just listening to all the different stories from the people involved in SDG, it is apparent that though everyone has a different background, they have one thing in common… they never thought they would EVER be a coder. I’ve heard stories from people who have kids, people who attended college for a completely unrelated degree, some have (or have had) their own businesses. I’m not saying that coding is easy, but it’s evident that it is most definitely achievable by anyone who is willing to put in the work. We are most often limited by our own assumptions of what we’re capable of.