My Revature Story: Knowing Your Why

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When I think about motivation, I often turn to a boxing match that took place when I was six. The year was 1990, and Mike Tyson was riding high. He’d won all 37 of his pro fights; 33 of them by a knockout. So when he was challenged by Buster Douglas, a nobody from Columbus, Ohio, there was never any doubt as to the result. The bookies pegged Douglas at 42 to one. Everyone assumed he wouldn’t last one round.

But somehow, Buster Douglas kept fighting… and fighting… and fighting. At last, 82 seconds into the tenth round, Douglas landed an epic series of punches that sent Tyson sprawling onto the canvas, down for the count. It was one of the greatest upsets in sports history.

Asked in his post-fight interview how he managed it, Buster Douglas said simply, “Because of my mother.” Knowing Tyson’s brutal reputation, Lula Douglas had been worried for her boy; but Buster had promised her he would beat the champ. Lula had been sick, and three weeks before the fight, she died of a stroke. Buster simply could not let his mother down; he had to win the match in her honor.

The lesson? If you have a strong enough why, you can rise to any challenge.

What I love most about Revature is that, like Buster Douglas, we know our why. We believe that talent is evenly distributed, but opportunity is not. So we have made it our mission to unlock the world of coding for anyone with enough aptitude and determination, regardless of their background.

Coding is already one of the central skills of the modern workplace, and its importance is only going to grow. Yet it remains difficult to break into a career in software, even for those with the “right” qualifications and connections. Without either of those things, it’s next to impossible.

When I was a kid, there were really only two ways to get into coding. The first was to get a computer science degree, preferably from a top-ranked school. But in reality, that path is closed to most. It certainly wasn’t in the cards for me: in college, I was such a terrible student that in Intro to Film—a class where all you have to do is watch movies—I somehow got a D. After two years, I dropped out.

The second was the route I wound up taking: learning to code through years of trial and error, monkeying with the source code of applications, making mistake after mistake until finally something clicks. From personal experience, I can confirm that this approach is like banging your head against a wall for a decade. So frankly, I can’t recommend that path, either.

At 27, I left the startup I had founded because I wanted to dedicate my career to creating a third, more accessible way of learning to code. I taught on Skillshare, a platform founded by a friend of mine. That snowballed into my founding one of the first-ever coding bootcamps. Through it, we helped thousands access careers in technology. We partnered with New York City to teach low-income New Yorkers for free. We even set up a school in Iraq for refugees from Syria.

But after a while, I realized that coding bootcamps, for all their positive points, could not be the complete, sustainable solution. For one thing, they charge tuition in the region of $15,000 to $30,000. Moreover, most of their students already have a college degree, so bootcamps are failing to serve the two-thirds of Americans who do not. Bootcamps require a full-time commitment for six to nine months, with no guarantee of a job at the end of it.

That was when I had a revelation. Ashwin Bharath, the co-founder and now CEO of Revature, came to me and told me about this revolutionary business model he had conceived. Students come to Revature and we pay them to train with us. We place on a project with a kick-ass company. Employers, for their part, get loyal, diverse teams with the right skills at the right time. The more I learned about this model, the more I saw it as the most profound opportunity to pursue my why: to unlock the door for people who have been shut out of tech careers.

So I left behind yet another startup to join Revature as chief product officer—my first job at a company I did not found. I have never looked back. Revature’s culture and values are so strong, so clear, so effective. We know our why. And like Buster Douglas, our associates are ready to take on the world and do the seemingly impossible.

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