Meet the Director: Lelia King
We recently sat down with Carolina Code School Director Lelia King to talk programming in Greenville.
What was your education and career path? Do you have experience in the programming field?
My background is primarily in communications, marketing and public relations. I have a BA in Journalism from the University of Georgia and a Masters in Communication from Queens University. I don’t have professional experience in programming, but in 2015 I joined a technology education company and fell in love with the field.
What is the most rewarding part of your role?
Walking with students as they go through the process of becoming a developer is so rewarding. In many cases, students are putting their careers and lives on hold to pursue a completely new path, which can be a scary change. Seeing them struggle, learn, graduate, achieve their goals and begin new careers that have life-changing potential is the reason I do this work. The opportunities are endless!
How did the Facebook scholarship come about?
Facebook approached us because they wanted to find a partner in the Greenville community who was already doing the work of educating people with digital and programming skills. In every city their Community Boost tour has taken them, they have left behind a gift - usually in the form of a scholarship - to make a lasting impact. Facebook knows how important it is to make sure we have a workforce that is ready for the changes that technology brings, and we are so excited that they chose to partner with us to keep equipping people with those skills.
Why do you think Greenville needs Carolina Code School?
Carolina Code School provides a really unique learning experience that is specifically aimed at helping people start a completely new career path in just 12 weeks. We call it “immersive” for a reason - our students spend every minute of 12 weeks learning and shifting the way they think. By the end of our program, someone who didn’t have much experience in programming will have enough skill to land a job in the field.
What insight do you have into employers' programming workforce needs?
South Carolina’s tech sector is responsible for an estimated 5.6 percent ($10.8 billion) of the overall state economy, and it is home to some 6,665 tech businesses. At last count, the Greenville area alone had hundreds of full-time job openings for tech workers.
Our ability to compete in the future will depend heavily on the availability of an educated tech workforce. However, our pipeline of tech talent is not large enough or diverse enough to meet the current demand, much less enough to support future growth in the sector. Meanwhile, pockets of our community are struggling with those who have little access to education and who are unable to break the cycle of poverty.
What technical skills do you think a potential student needs to succeed?
Our instructors encourage potential students to go through online tutorials and to gain as much exposure as possible to the world of programming. If someone is considering a full-time code school course, it's important to gain a clear understanding of what programming is and whether you actually enjoy it. We don’t include a technical test as part of our application process, but we do try to understand each student’s unique needs and career goals, to ensure that our course will help them reach those goals. It’s not a one-size-fits all approach.
What consistent qualities or characteristics do you see in code school students?
Drive, self-motivation, curiosity and a lack of ego.
What advice would you give to aspiring programmers?
My number one advice is to GO FOR IT. If you’re interested in programming, you should do one thing every day to help you achieve that goal. Write down your goal, map out the steps you need to take to achieve that goal, and give yourself a deadline.
How would you sum up the code school experience in one sentence?
I’ve asked our students this before, so I’ll give you an answer from their perspective. In week three, they said code school was formidable, rewarding, and stimulating. My hope is that a year from now they will look back on the code school experience and say it was life-changing.