We’re collaborating with IBM Design!

This post was written by Katlyn Whittenburg, our Campus Director at The Iron Yard in Austin. View her profile on our site or follow her on Twitter.

Our Austin campus is going strong as it quickly approaches the January 5th start date for its very first cohort. We are thrilled about being in Austin and have already formed some amazing relationships, including one with IBM Design. They are amazing: IBM Design is a unique component of the IBM corporation, utilizing inspired studios and user-focused processes to make their products better.

But they’re also awesome people: IBM Design was even kind enough to host our first Advisory Board meeting and give everyone a tour of their inspirational design studio here in Austin.

Here’s a quote from Katie Parsons, a Front End Developer at IBM Design:

I’m absolutely thrilled that IBM’s pairing up with The Iron Yard—we’re always on the hunt for candidates with both design and dev skills, and The Iron Yard will bring us a fresh new crop of talent! I can’t wait to see what our collaboration brings in 2015!

This collaboration is a great opportunity for our students to be exposed to the inner workings of an incredibly successful and influential technology company, and we are excited to help provide future IBM designers and developers through our program. We foresee many exciting opportunities in working with IBM Design and we’ll keep you posted on all the great things we are working on together!

An Introduction to Your Campus Director

By Katlyn Whittenburg, Campus Director

Hi Austin!

Let me introduce myself. I’m Katlyn, the Campus Director at The Iron Yard in Austin. I’m new in town. Moved here about a month ago from Chattanooga, TN with my two daughters to start this new adventure with The Iron Yard. It’s been an insane few months since I found out I would be working for TIY in Austin. I didn’t even have a chance to visit before the big move, so I was quite worried that I would get here and hate it. I decided to risk it, though, because in the wise words of someone wise, “You gotta risk it to get the biscuit.” Apparently, biscuits are very valuable. So, I moved here, and thus far, I feel like Austin has not disappointed in the biscuit department. Or in the taco department. Or in the coffee department. Or in the BBQ department. Basically, I’m saying Austin has amazing food. So many calories have happened since I arrived in town. It doesn’t just have amazing food, though. It has amazing people. I expected that “big city” attitude. I expected people to be too busy and too important and too hip to be friendly. That is just not true, though. People are busy and important and hip, AND they are friendly. Austin is anomaly among cities. So thank you, Austin, for showing me such a warm welcome!

Before Austin and this job, I was actually a student of The Iron Yard Front End Engineering program, myself, in Atlanta, GA so I have a pretty unique perspective on this whole Iron Yard thing. I know what it’s like to be a student trying something completely new, taking that risk of devoting 3 months of your life to learn an entirely new skill, and being scare sh**less that it won’t take, and it will have been all for naught. I also know what it’s like to build an app. Like… a real working app. That works. A whole app! (Okay… you probably get the point.) I went from thinking that the internet used actual magic to show me all those fancy websites and apps to being able wield the power of the internet, myself, and build something from scratch. I basically control the internet now. (Ok… not quite. But it feels like it sometimes.)

Gaining that skill did not come easily. No part of the process is actual magic. It’s really just a lot of really freakin’ hard work. The Iron Yard doesn’t call it an “intensive” program ironically. It gets intense. After that first day, I was terrified. I already felt terribly behind and overwhelmed. Now, I would say not everyone felt quite as behind as I did so immediately. Everyone in these courses comes from a different background. You’ll have students like me who know nothing about the interwebbernet except for how to Google things; You’ll have students who have been developing for years but maybe want to learn a new language, and you’ll have students of all sorts in between. It’s an odd and interesting mix, and after a week or so of class, I began realizing how beneficial this broad spectrum of skills and backgrounds and personalities is.

Your class is your team. They are your lifeline. They are your family. For those three months, you forget about your ego (if you’re smart) and you ask for help A LOT and you help others A LOT, and this bonds you, and this teaches you. The people of The Iron Yard are an essential part of the process of learning to code. And not just your fellow classmates. Your instructor and your Campus Director and the amazing guest lecturers you get to meet. This group of people gives a shiz. In fact, they give several shizzes. It’s this passion and empathy and collaboration that made me love The Iron Yard, and is what made me want to work for them. Lucky for me, the feeling was mutual, and here I am. Now I get to help shape The Iron Yard experience for new students, I feel very grateful for that. I want all the students to love The Iron Yard as much as I do. I want all the students find this experience to be life-changing. I this to let you know that I actually do care. So please, reach out to me if you’re a student or thinking of becoming a student. It’s my job and my pleasure to help.

Well, I wanted this post to be an introduction to me and my job and why I do what I do. So I hope you got a sense of that. Aside from my job at The Iron Yard, I love writing, reading plays, drinking sugary frozen coffee drinks, dancing awkwardly, but with purpose, to Britney Spears, and taking care of my two sweet girls. Wanna chat about The Iron Yard or plays or choreograph a number to a Britney Spears hit? Email me: katlyn@theironyard.com . Until next post!


Sam Kapila: Thwarting the Challenges of Starting a Coding Career

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.

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/180018303″]

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.