Every once in a while, the ground shifts. Things settle. New possibilities take root. That’s the state of Turing with recently instated Alex Robinson as Director of Back-End Engineering and Will Mitchell as Director of Front-End Engineering. Both made the leap from instructor to director at exactly the same time. We sat down with them to talk about what they look forward to helping their respective instructor teams, Turing students, and future employers manifest.
For starters, confidence. Will is really interested in “creating a culture of experimentation.” It’s one in which instructors feel comfortable and excited to try things they haven't done before—even if they might not work. His hope is that this exploratory nature will imprint on students. For him, confidence is not a permanent state of affairs…it’s a gradual build as he works through a difficult challenge that recedes at the onset of the next problem. As starting over is the constant when solving the challenges that are inevitable in software development, this confidence crescendo is key.
“It is our job to create spaces for students to build bridges between their heritage, lived experiences, the things that they are passionate about, and their work as software developers.”
Alex is really focused on "bringing your whole self to what you are doing." Grounded in the concept of culturally responsive teaching, it is the recognition that the diverse backgrounds and experiences students bring with them are strengths and not hindrances to their success. Not only does this help their learning be more relevant and effective, but it is important to achieving Turing’s mission. “We cannot train a diverse population of students for high-fulfillment careers if they aren't given space to bring their whole selves into their learning,” she says.
Will fundamentally agrees. And it is exactly this celebrated, cumulative life experience that adds tremendous value for employers who hire from Turing. He jests, “We are not all wonderkids who grew up as developers from our prepubescent years. Who wants that?” Instead, it’s about using your past to inform your present.
Turing grads bring varied life experience to the table that makes them more resilient and better equipped to face real-world challenges.
Both Alex and Will are living proof as former Turing students who transitioned into software development from other careers: Alex as a mechanical engineer in HVAC manufacturing working in small, industrial towns across America on a purgatorial campaign trail of sorts and Will as a property manager feeling lost and somewhat soulless. Even after five years as a developer at some pretty cool startups, Will reflects, “No matter how much you enjoy something, if it doesn’t have a strong ethos at the core, it’s still soul-crushing.” And perhaps that is what led both of them back to Turing. As a nonprofit, Turing has always had a tight alignment between incentives for students and incentives for staff members. “At the core of its ethos, it’s the right place,” Will says.
For Alex too, it’s about a place of belonging and identity. Drawing from her experience as a Black woman working in past environments that were not inclusive to women or black and brown people, she understands how stifling it is when people are marginalized (intentionally and unintentionally) because they don't fit in with the group that holds the social power. “I want Turing to be that space for students to feel motivated and empowered to do their best work,” she says.
Both directors are also committed to creating spaces for their instructors to grow, as this creates residual value for students. Alex and Will plan on aligning with their teams on opportunities for professional development, continuous mentorship, and fostering networks.
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