The Grace Hopper Program is excited to announce their new Progam Manager, Meg Duffy. With a background in written and video content development, Meg loves connecting people with the information they need to do their best work. We sat down with her to learn more about her background and the Grace Hopper Program.
Can you tell us about your background prior to GHP?
I took the circuitous route to my current role. I have degrees in psychology and library science and worked as an ESL tutor and archivist before I made the leap to tech. Most recently, I worked at Hopscotch, a company making a visual programming language for iPad and iPhone. When I’m not working, I’m most likely running with North Brooklyn Runners, cooking for friends, or doing crossword puzzles.
Tell us about your role at the Grace Hopper Program. What do you like best about the environment?
As Program Manager, I’m paying attention to all aspects of the program. Are we recruiting strong students? Are they having a great experience in the program? Are they achieving strong outcomes? I have the privilege of working across all the teams to help GHP be successful, but the best part of my day is getting to interact with students. When I come into my office and see all these smart, capable women whiteboarding problems, I get a clear reminder of why I’m here.
Bootcamps are known for attracting students from all backgrounds. How can a student who does not have a tech background prepare for a bootcamp?
There are plenty of resources out there to help you start today! Codecademy, Code School, or Treehouse are great places to pick up programming fundamentals.
Fullstack also offers a free Fullstack Prep class for total beginners and a Bootcamp Prep Live program to help students get ready to apply to GHP. (I actually took Bootcamp Prep Live myself when I started as the Program Manager and had a blast.) The biggest key to leveling up is consistency. Code every day, or do it with a friend so you can hold each other accountable. A supportive learning community helps a lot when you dive into more difficult material.
How can an all-female bootcamp be beneficial to aspiring women programmers?
A common piece of feedback I hear from students is that the GHP learning environment feels so supportive. It’s a safe place where students feel comfortable asking questions and receiving feedback. But it’s also an environment where students can really stretch outside of their comfort zones, take risks, and push themselves farther than they thought they could go.
We also have a fantastic alumnae network. Not only do our alums provide mentorship and professional introductions, but they naturally serve as role models. By working as developers at a wide range of companies, our alumnae illustrate future possibilities for our current students.
If a student is deciding between The Grace Hopper Program vs Fullstack Academy, what’s your advice?
In terms of timeline and curriculum, GHP and FSA are the same. But there are two factors that make GHP unique. As I mentioned earlier, GHP offers all-female cohorts, and this option appeals to many women. But the other piece that’s different is it’s a tuition-deferred model. That means students don’t pay tuition until they get a job as a developer, and this reduced upfront cost can make a big difference. If you’re going through the process and are on the fence, I recommend chatting with our fellows about their experiences to get a feel for which option is right for you.
What are the informal learning opportunities at GHP?
Completing GHP is a full-time job; students are in class from 9-6:30 five days a week. But that doesn’t mean that learning stops when they leave campus. We offer remote CS Saturdays, a series of specialized deep dives into security or cryptography. Hackathons are also an excellent way to meet people in the tech space and try out new ideas and technologies, so we encourage our students to compete when they can. A few of our students won the Capital One Labs hackathon in June and had a blast!
What types of jobs are you expecting your students to be prepared for when they graduate? How does GHP ensure graduates stay competitive?
We prepare all of our students to be full-stack developers and we make sure that our curriculum stays current. In addition to technical skills, we also have a tremendous Career Success team that helps students prepare for the job search.
As they near graduation, students receive 1:1 help with résumés, practice technical and behavioral interview questions, and listen to lectures on salary negotiation, networking, and cracking the coding interview. We’re founding members of the Council of Integrity of Results Reporting, a coalition of bootcamps committed to standardized results reporting and truth in advertising. By their rigorous standards, we have a 100% placement rate for students 180 days after graduation.
Where are your students now? What types of jobs have your students secured after GHP?
GHP’s network is impressive; our graduates work everywhere. In terms of sector, it really depends on a student’s interests and preferences. We’ve got folks in finance at American Express, JP Morgan, and Capital One. Some alumnae work at media companies like The Atlantic, The New York Times, and Buzzfeed. Some students opt for smaller startups while others take jobs at big tech firms like Facebook, Google, or Spotify. The majority of our students work as developers, but some students have found hybrid roles like product manager or tech evangelist roles that are a good fit for them.
How has the direction of GHP’s curriculum changed over time to adapt to students' and industry needs?
We make sure to constantly update our curriculum so that students are learning technologies that the tech industry demands. Moving from Angular to React and SQL from NoSQL are two examples of how we’ve changed to meet the tech landscape’s needs. We also review and update testing methods to optimize the balance between assessing ability and unearthing potential.
Why do you think it is important to have programs like GHP?
First, diversity in tech is important because out of all the people who consume the internet, only a small portion of them know how to create for it. By helping a broader swath of the population break into tech, we can source more original ideas and collectively solve more complex problems.
Second, our cofounders, David Yang and Nimit Maru, started GHP to combat the gender gap they witnessed both in the field and in the applicant pool for FSA. In order to reduce bias in the tech sector, we need to create more access to technology. The GHP tuition deferred model lowers the upfront investment to make this type of education more attainable. When we first started Grace Hopper, about 20% of Fullstack graduates were women. In our July 2017 cohort, 46.8% of graduates were women. GHP started in January 2016, so that’s a big leap in a short time frame.
Finally, In a time when there are still arguments that gender, race, and other attributes, have natural limits in career choice and performance, programs such as Grace Hopper Program push boundaries and prove that being a woman should have no diminishing impact on her ambition or ability to be a successful software developer.
What advice do you have for women who are thinking about becoming developers?
It’s going to be hard, but if you love it and persevere, it’s going to be worth it. You’re going to wrestle and you’re going to struggle, but be persistent. Leverage the great free resources out there. Find a community of people that can support your learning, answer your questions, and pump you up when motivation is lacking. It is a big reason why many attend a bootcamp. Programming can be difficult, but the satisfaction of taking a nebulous idea and building a tangible product is tremendous. You got this!
You can find Meg on LinkedIn, or follow her on Twitter @ladycollective.
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