By Eric Dodds, Partner at The Iron Yard
After six years of full-time teaching on Communication Design at Texas State University, Sam Kapila joined The Iron Yard Austin in October of 2014 as a Web Design Instructor. The Iron Yard is both a code school and a startup accelerator that began in Greenville, SC and has since expanded the code school side of the operation to ten more cities throughout the country.
While at Converge Florida, Kapila opened up about her recent transition in a conversation with Clark Buckner of TechnologyAdvice. Along the way, she also shared how technology teachers can help students bridge the gap between graduating and getting a job.
When asked how she got into educating others on web design, Kapila recalled being against the idea from a very early age because she thought her parents’ jobs—her father was an engineer and her mother was a teacher—were boring. But as the youngest sibling, her room became the computer room, and with so much free access, she found herself on the computer a lot, playing games and making Geocities pages.
Still, it wasn’t until she began teaching that she realized how much teaching was making her a better coder. “By being able to verbalize what you already do, you have a better understanding for it,” she said. It was during her time at Texas State University that Kapila “became really passionate about wanting to help people who wanted to find out more” about coding and web development.
Bridging the Gap Between School and a Career in Technology
Kapila first witnessed “disconnects” between her students’ work and employers’ expectations when she conducted portfolio reviews at TSU. In her words, “what’s being taught isn’t necessarily what people are hiring for.” Part of the problem stemmed from academic bureaucracy. Kapila noted that it typically takes three to five years to change the curriculum in a state university. With web design and development being such a fast-moving industry, it’s little wonder that what was being taught hadn’t caught up to what was being requested in “the real world.”
Kapila brought up two other suggestions to help bridge the gap: schools and agencies should communicate more frequently. “They could all benefit from having advisory boards on the school side and then having teaching apprenticeships on the agency side.” Furthermore, Kapila cites employers’ acronym-filled, jargon-laden, experience-heavy job postings as an unnecessary impediment to qualified graduates who want to apply for those jobs. “We need some way to quantify someone’s experience, but I don’t know if the right unit of measure is years of experience. I think someone can learn more in one year than someone in a different situation [can learn] in three years.”
Despite these issues, Kapila believes that the gap has decreased over time, especially with the rise of Twitter and web design blogs. She cites StudentGuideWebDesign as an imminently helpful resource for design and development students to read. According to Kapila, a student named Janna Hagan, created the website and asked others to guest write for it because she noticed the same kinds of disconnects that Kapila spoke of. The website was his way to help bridge the gap.
Of course, Kapila believes that The Iron Yard Academy, and especially the one based in her backyard of Austin, will definitely help students young and old bridge the gap between learning code and landing a job. Free from some of the constraints that accompany teaching at public institutions, Kapila aims to regularly update what the Academy teaches on design and development that can be immediately implemented into most job hunts.
Listen to the full TechnologyAdvice interview to learn more about The Iron Yard Austin. To see if The Iron Yard is offered near you, visit TheIronYard.com, or connect with them on Twitter @theironyard. You can also connect with Sam Kapila at @samkap.
This interview was conducted by Clark Buckner of TechnologyAdvice, an Inc. 5000 company that is dedicated to educating, advising, and connecting the buyers and sellers of business technology. Clark hosts the TechnologyAdvice Podcast, and also keeps tabs on news and events in the company’s tech conference calendar. Tweet him a hello or connect with him on LinkedIn.