Detroit is fast becoming the home base for companies and entrepreneurs in industries ranging from healthcare and defense to information technology and homeland security. For tech talent, opportunity in the Motor City is enormous. In fact, companies in the area posted nearly 800 junior-level programming jobs in the last 90 days alone.
In the tech world, it’s not everyday that you get to brag about having a full roster of female leaders, but that’s exactly who we have leading our Detroit campus. So who are the three women leading The Iron Yard in Detroit? We sat down with Emily Crisman, Campus Director; Emily Znamierowski, Campus Operations Manager and Ronda Bergman, .NET Instructor to learn more about their stories, passions and goals for the Detroit campus.
Tell us about your background. What were you doing professionally before joining The Iron Yard?
Emily C.: I have worked for both for profit and not-for-profit education systems throughout my career. In Michigan, these schools include: Dorsey Schools in Madison Heights as the Assistant Director of Admissions; Marygrove College in Detroit as the Graduate and Undergraduate Director of Admissions; and ITT Tech in Troy as the Director of Admissions and Marketing. I have also worked for Argosy University, Eckerd College and Utica College
Emily Z.: I have a really diverse professional background, having had the opportunity to work at organizations of all different sizes in various different industries. Prior to attending The Iron Yard in Nashville (yes, I am an Iron Grad!), I was in corporate marketing and was thinking about going back to school to get my MBA. After researching my options, I just couldn’t justify spending that much time and money. I have always been drawn to technology and had been dabbling in online coding courses, but wasn’t getting as much as I wanted out of them. I started Googling code school options, found The Iron Yard and the rest is history!
Ronda: I earned my CS degree from the University of Michigan-Dearborn in 1999. I got my first job as a junior developer about a month before graduation. In my 17 years working as a developer, I have been fortunate to have worked on some really interesting projects including developing a system to help cardiologists more accurately read and interpret echocardiograms. I have also worked on some pretty awful projects including helping a company produce junk mail more efficiently. The last eight years of my career have primarily been spent in the medical device arena.
How have these past experiences influenced your approach to your role at The Iron Yard?
Emily C.: More than anything, my experiences in the education world have taught me that there is always something more to
learn and different ways to approach things – I’ll bring this attitude and approach to my role as Detroit’s campus director. Each market and school is unique, so be open to anything is my motto!
Emily Z.: I had such an awesome experience during my cohort at The Iron Yard in Nashville. It’s my personal goal as campus operations manager to build the same kind of supportive community for every student here in Detroit that I had during my course in Nashville. Additionally, I’m proud to be part of a passionate, talented team that’s helping continue to grow this campus, build awareness of The Iron Yard, and be an active member of the Detroit tech community.
Ronda, you’re the Co-Founder/Co-Leader at Girl Develop It (GDI) Ann Arbor, tell us more about how you got involved with GDI and a little bit about your experience:
Ronda: I became interested in GDI when another organization, The Association for Women in Computing, I was involved with decided to disband. I wanted to be involved in the development community and, specifically, I wanted to be able to interact with other female developers. This can probably be attributed to having worked for two startups in Ann Arbor where I was the only female employee.
After a little research I came across GDI Detroit. This seemed perfect but at the time I lived and worked in the Ann Arbor area. Getting to Detroit for meetings after work was difficult and prevented me from attending events regularly. I decided to reach out to GDI national and request they consider an Ann Arbor chapter since the the tech community there is very vibrant. They responded with “we think that’s a great idea, would you like to help create it?” At that point I was introduced to my co-founder and as they say, the rest is history.
Starting and running GDI Ann Arbor has been, and continues to be, an amazing experience! I meet the most incredible women and men through that group. I have helped people change their careers and lives. I have gotten to know so many new people and companies because of GDI. I am regularly stunned by the hard work and generosity of the people and companies involved.
Do you have a favorite moment or experience so far from your time at The Iron Yard?
Emily Z.: While I was at The Iron Yard as student in Nashville, I loved getting to know my classmates. We became a tight group after spending hours and hours together learning how to code. Going through the program was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, so it was great to have this awesome support network and we all still keep in touch. My favorite part about being part of the team at The Iron Yard in Detroit is helping to create an amazing culture for the staff and students, and witnessing student’s breakthrough “A HA!” moments.
Ronda: So far the best experience I have had working at The Iron Yard is the graduation of my first cohort! I was nearly in tears as my students talked about what they had learned, what they had overcome and how hopeful they were for the future now that they had completed the program. My heart positively swelled with pride as they showed off their final projects!
What else should we know about you? Any fun facts or hobbies?
Emily C.: I am a proud Detroiter! I was born and raised in Oakland County (Bloomfield Township), and continued my education in Michigan at Albion College where I played varsity soccer and was inducted into the athletic hall of fame a few years ago. We returned to Detroit (from Florida) after I had my baby. I love the holidays (ALL OF THEM) and get very excited to decorate. I am also obsessed with buying kitchen appliances and gadgets that I pretend I will use but then just end up ordering pizza.
Emily Z.: I love Detroit! This city has so much character, and there’s always something fun and interesting to do. I grew up on the Big Island of Hawaii but my parents moved to Michigan when I was in college to be closer to family. I’m a huge nerd. I graduated from Duke University with a major in Literature, minor in history, and certificate in leadership and entrepreneurship. I’ve moved around a lot – I’ve lived in seven different states – and because I have a bit of wanderlust in me, I’m a sucker for adventure, and I adore meeting new people and making new friends. I have a healthy obsession with craft beer, specifically IPAs, and there’s nothing in the world I love more than a good laugh.
Ronda: About two years ago my husband convinced me to attend a weekend class with him because he was interested in getting certified to own and ride a motorcycle. I was very opposed to the idea at first but went anyway. After the class we both managed to achieve our certification. My husband decided that while he enjoyed the class he really didn’t want to get a motorcycle. I on the other hand went out the next week bought the smallest (I’m only 5’1”) street legal motorcycle I could find (a Honda Rebel 250) and started driving it to work!