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Michaelwellison6 karma

For-profit vs non-profit

For-profit and non-profit are both interesting and exciting in different ways. If you have the right team in a nonprofit, you love your life. It can be the perfect marriage between passion, purpose, and career because at the end of the day you can unapologetically be so mission-focused. In our case, keeping promises to our students. The downside is that philanthropy is broken. A lot of great, innovative nonprofits are never funded because wealthy donors are risk-averse and more interested in a "safe bet" vs a transformational one.

For-profit and especially venture-backed is like a sprint where every day you are forced to learn fast, tackle new challenges you would have never imagined, and push your comfort zone. It's an incredible opportunity for personal gowth. The downside is that you are accountable to your investors and there are times when profit gets in the way of purpose or the type of work you truly enjoy.

For both, I think it's about the problem you want to solve and what better fits in your life. You don't have to pursue one or the other. Learn more and see what is the right fit.

Gaining Student Trust

Building trust is about keeping your promises.

If we say our courses are free forever, we can't break the promise. If we say this courses teaches industry-leading cybersecurity courses, we need to be able to back it up. If we run a course series on passing the technical interview, we know what grades correlate to passing the bar at different technology companies. Facebook's former Chief Security Officer (who teaches Cyber at Stanford) co-created and funded the creation of our cybersecurity course. We don't have to go that far to create a course but we did because we want to ensure that students are learning best practices taken from the companies they might want to work at.

I also encourage you to talk with students. Go to linkedin, google CodePath, and there's a good chance students from your school have taken CodePath classes. Don't take it from me. Talk to students you trust and hear what they are saying about our courses and our commitment to you.

Michaelwellison6 karma

Thank you for your question and I emphasize with you. Depending on the quality of the program, company employees could see some programs as lowering the bar. There are certainly diversity programs out there that put students who are underprepared in companies but I will say I'm a huge fan of the diversity programs done the right way. CodePath teaches the education component of Facebook University with is a diversity focused program for sophomores. The idea is that we are providing an early internship (often the first internship) for students who can then earn an offer at the end of the summer to Facebook's junior year internship program. I also want to clarify that employers like Facebook don't take race into account in the selection of these programs and for return offers. They do market the courses to underrepresented populations but they don't actually select based on race. I'm supportive of this as an inclusive strategy for running a training program.

If you think about it, it's a bit ridiculous to expect a student who discovered programming in college, comes from a disadvantaged background, and attends a low ranked C.S. program to be able to compete with MIT students coding since they were 10 years old. Their resume would also never get looked at. A lot of the disparity in experience often comes from disparities in income and privilege which I believe we should not penalize students for. Let's instead create more pathways to proficiency and excellence. A diversity program done right will fill in the gaps like confidence, skills, work experience, and more prior to the competitive internship or entry-level opportunity. At CodePath, we actually measure the number of first gen colleges students from low ranked schools who we get jobs at the most competitive tech companies. Diversity programs done right should deliver diverse, excellent engineers meeting and exceeding current standards. In my opinion, the best way to do this is by adding additional layers of curriculum and support in college CS programs and more early career development opportunities for disadvantaged populations.

Michaelwellison6 karma

Honestly, there were two parts to this.

  1. In every startup, and as soon as I got into college, I would try to connect with people that were smarter than me and were so talented, it would make me feel inadequate. This meant trying to work with students who were naturally amazing public speakers, the students on campus who were entrepreneurial, the students that though school was easy. I also didn't limit this to students. When I'd meet a new professional, investor, successful entrepreneur, I'd always treat them as a friend who I might work with one day. To my surprise, people who were much older and more experienced were often open to not just mentoring me but collaborating with me.
  2. I also had a lot of hacks. The most important was to try to add value with every interaction. I realized that I had one very important asset that many of the people I wanted to work with did not. I had time. I would try to guess what would be valuable to busy professionals and try to help them out even without their permission. Being willing to do anything and everything and focusing on understanding what was valuable to them created numerous opportunities. For example, when I was 20, I was serving on a task force managed by Goldman Sachs to help young black men in NYC because I was the only one who had time to do the logistics and I was aggressive about trying to help.

Michaelwellison6 karma

Honestly, you just have to dive in and get started. There are a lot of motivations behind why people want to start startups but I encourage you to start with a problem that you want to solve, ideally one that you have a lot of knowledge about. Startups are really hard and not likely to succeed, so if you are trying to solve a problem you're really passionate about you increase your chances of learning fast and persisting to make something valuable. For me, it's all about finding ways to level the playing field for people from similar backgrounds. I also get excited about big ideas that have the potential to change the way millions work and live. My first company was a nonprofit where I went into low income communities and just started asking low income high school students how I could help them. Not wanting that nonprofit to die led me to think about scale, growth, raising money, and all the rest. It all started with a passionate desire to make an impact. Your why might be different but the idea is the same. Don't just focus on making money. Focus on finding a problem you want to solve so badly, you can't sleep at night. If your goal is not the money, as is my case, you never have to worry about losing your motivation. My focus is impact and changing the world, not just getting a big payday.

Michaelwellison5 karma

We are invisible. We don't have a seat at the table, heck we're not even in the room. The hardest part for me was trying to figure out how I could convince people of wealth and influence to trust me. I knew that if they believed and trusted me, then if I asked them for a million dollars or more, they'd give it to me. Unfortunately, trust is all about networks. Did you go to the same school as me? Are you from the same neighborhood? To overcome that, you have to be aggressive, understand how people are sizing you up, and how you can differentiate or build trust within the first 10 seconds of the conversation.