August 12, 2015
When Adam Enbar graduated from Cornell University he felt prepared to take the professional world head on. However, as time went on, he became increasingly frustrated with the fact that he lacked hard skill sets.
Despite graduating from a top notch university, and getting an MBA from Harvard, he couldn’t go into a company and show the value he brought to the table. He knew that if he wanted to succeed he’d have to go out and learn these skills on his own, so he took a job at Hubspot and committed to learning the art of selling.
As he tells me, it was the first marketable skill he formed, and it always struck him as odd that there wasn’t an emphasis on building this skill – and others – during his formal schooling. The question stuck with him, even as he transitioned into a role working in VC.
Enbar saw an opportunity in his VC job though: he could meet with education companies and attempt to answer why these skill sets weren’t prevalent. That is, he wanted to address what he calls the ROI on education, but he found that nobody was doing anything to solve it.
Time and again, he came up empty searching for people who could help students maximize this ROI on their education. Further, according to Enbar, the companies in the education space were just building incremental improvements on what he considered to be a broken model of education.
Around that time he met up with Avi Flombaum, who had walked a different path through life. He had dropped out of college, taught himself to code, and was CTO of a hedge fund by age 20.
However, Flombaum grew somewhat bored with office life, so he took time off to pursue his own passions. Chief among his interests was the desire to teach others sound technical skills, specifically how to code.
On nights and weekends he would bring in eager students and teach them via Skillshare. Not long after he got started, word got about that he was a master and his classes were packed.
“We got coffee together, and he told me that his favorite part of teaching these classes was that he was able to get his students job interviews,” explains Enbar. “That’s when my mind started melting – he’s doing what higher education campuses should be doing.”
That conversation over coffee led them to found the Flatiron School, a place where people could go to learn applicable, relevant, hard skills. There was one caveat to the agreement though: they would only admit people who were dead serious about learning.
“We believe everybody can learn this stuff, but the program is short and intense so you have to be incredibly driven,” says Enbar.
A rigorous curriculum has elevated their initial idea to a high pedigree of excellence. Their first class graduated in October 2012, and 100 percent of the 19 students had job offers after graduating with an average salary of $74,000.
What gets me the most is what Flombaum and Enbar decided to do after they built the Flatiron School’s foundation: they began to adapt the program for high schools. It was time, they jointly decided, to be the ones changing education and teaching computer science in a meaningful way.
“Every high school wants to implement computer science, but there are no teachers and no curriculum. We use the same Flatiron School curriculum for both adults and high school,” says Enbar.
This desire to teach computer science in high schools is one of the biggest educational paradigm shifts we’ve seen in schools to date. Think about it: when was the last time you saw something get added to nationwide curriculums?
“The way we teach math and history to our students is different, and the most we can do is make incremental improvements because it’s entrenched material,” says Enbar. “But because computer science is new, we can come at it from a whole new way. It’s also easier to teach a teacher how to code than to teach a coder how to teach.”
If the Flatiron School can introduce coding in a new and popular way that’s different from anything currently available, they’ll arm entire generations of students with the skills Enbar so desperately wanted when he graduates. It’s absolute proof that a small idea over coffee can grow to legitimately, truly change the world.
Image Credit: The Flatiron School’s Facebook page
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