Tech Jobs Under the Big Top

Big Top”, one of the more fun job fairs around, was this past Tuesday, September 30th. Big Top is a reverse job fair and a great example of the buzz in the Durham tech community as local employers and job seekers mixed and mingled in a fun start-up environment at the American Underground. Six local tech companies pitched their work culture to job seekers in a fun atmosphere that created casual interaction between perspectives and employers. 

The Iron Yard powered by Smashing Boxes students and graduates attended and networked with local companies. Check out some of the women of the Code Academy with Big Top Organizer and MapQuest Co-founder, Chris Heivly: 

You can check out the tech jobs listings in Raleigh/Durham on the Big Top website.

Written by Jessica Mitsch, Campus Director at The Iron Yard powered by Smashing Boxes in Durham, NC. 

The journey from student to teacher assistant

We just completed the second week of Cohort 2 in Durham and the students are hacking away. We’ve come along way since we opened our doors in June and we thought we’d take a moment to highlight members of our team. Meet Amy Gori and Chet Corey, they were students of Cohort 1 and decided to give back by joining Cohort 2 as Teachers Assistants.


Amy Gori graduated from our Front-End Engineering course in Cohort 1 and is serving the role of Teachers Assistant in cohort 2. She’s giving her first lecture next week on HTML & CSS! Amy answered some questions about her experience at The Iron Yard powered by Smashing Boxes in Durham:

What piqued your interest in programming?

I’ve tinkered with code for a long time, but I really started to think I might be able to do this professionally when I took an Intro to Javascript class from Girl Develop It last winter. That surprised me by being a lot more fun than I thought it would be.

What did you do before coming to TIY?

Most recently, I had been a full-time parent for five years. Before that, I was working in undergraduate education, and I have a graduate degree in English.

Why did you choose to take the class you took with TIY?

I took the Front End class because I wanted to learn Javascript. I had some experience with HTML and CSS and knew the basics, but I wanted to learn how to use APIs and build dynamic web applications.

What was your experience like as a student?

Intense. Very intense. I became accustomed to a lot of failure, and I eventually learned to use each one of those failures as a stepping stone to greater understanding. Resisting being discouraged by that process was something I had to work at. I think the most important turning point for me was the realization that thinking like a programmer required me to make a paradigm shift. When I let go of wanting things to make sense according to familiar standards, it felt like things got a little easier. The process of building that new frame of reference — basic programming concepts, a new vocabulary, a new approach to problem-solving — that was the biggest leap I made.

Why did you decide to be a TA?

We had two truly awesome women TAs for Cohort 1, and so I’m just doing my part to keep that momentum going for women in tech! And, beyond that, I am by nature someone who wants everyone else to do well, and I like being able to help other people. Being a teaching assistant is a win-win situation for me, because it gives me a chance reinforce what I have recently learned by sharing it with someone else. As a graduation gift, my front-end instructor gave everyone in her class a rubber duck. This is, I have learned, a thing in the world of programming: the rubber duck is a little friend to whom you can explain particularly vexing problems you are trying to solve, or code you are trying to debug, or whatever. In the process of explaining something to the rubber duck, you often achieve clarity for yourself. And most of the time, talking to a human being is even better than talking to a rubber duck.

What are you looking forward to seeing with Cohort 2?

I’m looking forward to seeing what these folks will create with their new skills. Demo Day brought out the best in our cohort, and I’d love to see that happen again.


Chet Corey is a Cohort 1 graduate of the Ruby on Rails course. While in class, Chet learned to shift the way he approached problems in order to gain programming skills. Through the process he learned a great deal and taught us about the student experience. See how he answered questions about his time with us, so far…

What piqued your interest in programming?

I was moving from career to career and searching for something to scratch my creativity and curiosity itch. Every job that I was at I found myself thinking about ways to make it run more efficiently. This would usually lead me to doing something on the computer to simplify everyone’s work. In my free time I was tinkering with small electronics the Arduino specifically. I remember being so satisfied when I programmed a stoplight with a pedestrian crossing button. When I found out about the Iron Yard I was taking online classes though UNC and was about to sign up for a semester of online classes through NCSU. That learning style was not working for me. I am a tinker and I learn by taking things apart. This leads me into a field of errors and without an instructor to guild me out I would be a very frustrated student.

Also I was a Math major in college and I missed the comradery of geeking out about something that others just don’t care about. Other than asking my fence out on our first date taking this class was the best decision of my life.

What did you do before coming to TIY?

I was a model for around four years after graduating college. That was not something that I would have ever guessed I would have done but it was an interesting few years. I naturally fell into the retail industry. I was the first Brand Ambassador for Tommy Bahama. From there I decided to try my hand at running my own store. I moved back down to NC to learn how to run a Fleet Feet Franchise. I was planning on opening a new Fleet Feet location when I realized that owning a store was not going to fill my need to learn tinker and geek out. In every stage of everyone of my careers I was playing on computers and I never thought that I could do that for a job I thought that I was too old I would have to go back to school for 4 years and then graduate school for another 2. This program has very literately changed my life.

Why did you choose to take the class you took with TIY?

The Iron Yard was the answer to everything I was looking for. It was face to face. It allowed me to meet and work with people that were already in the industry. It gave me a group that I could learn along with. The time and financial commitment was at a fourth of what most graduate programs and unlike many graduate programs they are they are motivated in helping you get placed in a job in the field after I graduate. You get to work on a final project that is a reflection of what it is like to work on a real project for a client.

In all it was a great reason.

What was your experience like as a student?

The program is not easy it was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. But the harder you work the more satisfying it is when you finally understand. I would say that my major breakthrough moment was when we went to the Ruby for Good conference and I had others to reference how much I had learned. It is difficult to see you own growth when you are in a group growing with you but at the conference we meet professionals and we were contributing. That was a great moment.

Why did you decide to be a TA?

I was a TA for a few years in college and I loved explaining things to others. I really like helping and I was just in their place so I understand exactly what they are going through. Also being a TA allows me another view of the material and it feels like last time I was throwing tiles of understanding on the wall and now in am going over it with grout and filling in all of the cracks. Everyday there are ‘oh ya’ moments.

What are you looking forward to seeing with Cohort 2?

It is exciting seeing everyone hit his or her little victories here and there. I just look forward to seeing everyone succeed and I look forward to possibly working with some of them on their final projects. It is fun every day.

Post by Jessica Mitsch, Campus Director 

The Final Countdown to Cohort 1 – Welcome our TAs!

The countdown to our first pair of classes in Durham is now in the single digits! We are busy at work prepping our coursework, setting up the rooms and making the final touches on everything.  It’s really exciting to see everything finally come together!

We are also thrilled to announce that we officially have a full team at the Durham location. We would like to introduce you to our Teacher Assistants for the summer 2014 classes: Ruthan Freese and Emily Perciballi!

Ruthan Freese


Ruthan will be joining us at TA for the Ruby on Rails, course. Ruthan has been interning for Open Software Integrators and has experience working for TechShop, Inc. She just completed a program to learn Ruby on Rails.

Emily Perciballi


Emily comes to us with a wealth of experience. She has skills in Java, C, Python, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, UNIX, Linux and Mac OS. She has performed software verification and validation on early warning systems for the US Air Force, has designed and coded real-time software for the Patriot Missile Defense System among many other exciting career accomplishments. She is also bi-lingual and has taught ESL students in the Wake County Public School System.

“Girl Rising” Documentary Screening

Local group Girl Develop It RDU is showing a special free screening of “Girl Rising” this Friday, May 16th at 6:30pm! After the movie, join a discussion about the film and share your stories and thoughts on the topic. You can also learn more about Girl Rising and the film on their site at

Learn more and RSVP for the event here:

PS – In support of women’s tech education we’re offering $250 off tuition to our Front-End class starting on June 2nd. We are still accepting applications! Apply today:

Welcome our New Instructors: Clinton Dreisbach and Julia Elman

The Iron Yard powered by Smashing Boxes is well underway planning for our first semester of classes (and we’re still accepting applications!). It’s been a busy time of growth, learning and lots of fun planning all of the amazing things our students will encounter in their time here!

To help kick things off we’d like to introduce you to our two amazing instructors, Clinton and Julia!

Clinton Dreisbach

Hi! I’m Clinton Dreisbach and I am excited to be an instructor with The Iron Yard in Durham. I’ve been a programmer since I was 10 and got my hands on an IBM PCJr, and I’ve been writing software professionally for over 15 years, working in everything from Perl to Java to Ruby to Clojure. Of all the languages I’ve used, Ruby has consistently been one of my favorites, so I’m thrilled to be teaching our inaugural Ruby on Rails class in Durham.

I have always loved teaching people and have done plenty of one-on-one mentoring and conference speaking. For the past two years, I’ve been teaching outside of work in programs such as Citizen Schools and ClojureBridge. I’m looking forward to applying the skills I’ve learned to The Iron Yard Academy.

When I am not at a keyboard, I am busy being a dad to an amazing toddler and partner to an amazing spouse. In the sliver of time left after all that, I play and design tabletop games and bang out tunes on my ukulele.

Julia Elman

Hello! My name is Julia Elman and I am a designer, developer and tech education advocate based in North Carolina. I’ve been working my brand of web skills since 2002 and honing my skill set as a front end developer. My creative nature drove me to find work at Hallmark Cards, Inc. in Kansas City in 2007 where I worked on projects such as the Product (RED) campaign and Hallmark’s site re-design. From there, I took a dive into Django as a Junior Designer/Developer at World Online in Lawrence, KS. Currently, I am working on a book for O’Reilly Media on called “Light weight Django” which focuses on advanced and light weight techniques when using Django with Javascript (TBR 2014).

In my spare time, I am one of the local Chapter Leaders for Girl Develop It RDU, a non-profit organization focused on empowering women to learn software programming. In early 2013, I helped teach the initial HTML/CSS class and have since helped grow the chapter to over 600 members, four instructors and multiple teaching assistants. Also in 2013, I helped organize and teach the Teen Tech Camp, a one day for teaching kids 12-18 how to program with Python on a Raspberry Pi.

Joining The Iron Yard in Durham is something I am thrilled to have the opportunity to do and I am excited to show the world the talent the Triangle area has to offer!

Our New Campus Director: Jessica Mitsch

Hello, my name is Jessica Mitsch and I’m thrilled to be joining The Iron Yard team in Durham, NC as Campus Director!

I unexpectedly stumbled into a career in tech at Red Hat, Inc. after graduating from the College of Charleston with a Religious Studies degree (yes, I was one of those liberal arts majors who thought I’d graduate and venture off to find a solution to world peace).

I wore several hats (pun intended) as a member of the People Team at Red Hat and my experience there led me to love the innovative and ever changing world of tech while gaining an understanding of the the extraordinary gap and need for tech talent.

I have always been extremely passionate about education and believe education must be reformed to meet the challenges of the 21st century. When the incredibly talented folks at The Iron Yard approached me about joining their team to launch a code school in Durham, it just made sense to me.

I’m thrilled for the opportunity to pair my passion for education with my experience and excitement for technology. I believe I have found that job I would volunteer for and am excited to start this journey with The Iron Yard team.

In my spare time I can be found moving in a studio somewhere – I enjoy dance, yoga and fitness classes. I love to travel, just about anywhere I can go and consider myself somewhat of a health nut.

To infinity and beyond!