Interview with Anna Stepanoff, founder of Wild Code School

With International Women’s Day on March 8 coinciding with the new term of Wild Code School’s ‘technology bootcamp’, Anna Stepanoff, Wild Code School founder, explains the importance of getting women into tech, as well as more about her background and what attracted her to this industry. 

How did you get into this industry?

I have always been very enthusiastic about education. For me, this started in Belorussia, where I’m originally from, after which I completed a Bachelor of Arts at Harvard University. 

I had always dreamt of being a teacher because my grandmother was a kindergarten teacher, and an inspiring role model. My ambition became to teach higher education, and after Harvard, I moved to Paris and did a PhD at La Sorbonne where I also taught for three years. During this time I was also working as a consultant at the Management Consultancy, McKinsey. 

Having studied in different countries, I was able to experience a number of varied learning environments, which over the years sparked ideas about education and how it could be done in a different way.

I really like teaching, but what I love is creating educational projects that inspire different approaches to learning. That is how Wild Code School was born in 2013, in a small town called La Loupe, in France. 

Today, seven years later, we have 24 campuses across Europe, with bootcamps in Lisbon, Madrid, Brussels, Berlin, Bucharest and of course, London.

What were you hoping to achieve with Wild Code School?

It is a very simple concept. Wild Code School teaches the latest and most in-demand digital skills, so that our specialist graduates are able to adapt to any work and cultural environment – be that in startups, fast growing companies or multinationals.

While we use technology to enhance the quality of education, with a bespoke online platform to help and support our students, it is our instructors, pragmatic real-life projects and work-place interaction that makes the difference. 

Wild Code School focuses on the professional success and career of our students, with a great deal of emphasis on professional coaching and career orientation.  

The Tech World is one of the most difficult for women to get into and accepted. What was your biggest motivation in founding a technology bootcamp? 

My goal is to create an educational environment that empowers people, and especially women, to truly understand technology, rather than to be dependent on it. 

Coding is the most important skill today, as well as the most creative, because all our connecting environments are based around coding.

If you learn how to code you won’t be dependent on the algorithm; instead you will be able to work on it and with it, to change the way your phone or laptop works so that it works for you or for your career.

Less than 20% of the tech industry is made up of women – how do we attract women to study web development? 

We think it is very important to have women in coding. Websites and apps should be created by women as much as they are used by women to help ensure inclusivity. Web development teams should also be mixed to help create healthy, diverse working environments.

To attract women we need to show that the tech industry is rewarding and offers flexible careers that are just as well suited to women as they are men. And we hope to this do by promoting the women on our courses, sharing their professionals successes and how they view the industry. 

Essentially, we need to have more women in the industry to spread this message; and we think having women speak at industry events, in panels and indeed employing them as teachers and instructors is important for this process.

We also make sure we treat everyone the same at Wild Code School, in order to create a comfortable and creative environment.

With reports that CEOs are more likely to be called Steve than be a woman, it’s very clear that there are still significant barriers that limit women’s career success. How have you overcome those barriers? 

It is not easy as we don’t have a great deal of role models to go to for advice or inspiration. I’ve had to organise my life balance, work and family – with kids especially, understanding they take time and building a company takes time. 

I have three children and that is my everyday challenge; we need to share responsibilities with our partner and father of our kids and be supported.  

I personally recommend women to be brave and to think that anything is possible – it’s sad to see women limiting themselves. Just go for it and understand it’s ok to fail. 

What are your recommendations for supporting women’s leadership careers? 

It is very important to try things out and think: “What do I really want to do in my life?” Take the possibility or idea and push yourself to try it out!

As an example, I see a trend in our students with the same skill levels – men tend to say: “I know it all, I can do it!”, while women are more likely to say: “I need more training, I’m not ready!”

This attitude is mirrored when sourcing instructors to teach in our bootcamps. When I reach out to men, I see very young developers with limited experience saying they are ready to be teachers, whereas women, even who have PhDs, often worry they are not ready to teach. It is lack of confidence in the work environment that we need to overcome. 

You can find out more about Wild Code School on their website.