How Kathryn Parsons aims to teach world to code in a day
We believe that no technology is too difficult to teach so we spend every day decoding different technologies and hacking the human learning experience. We have taught Code in a Day to people in over 45 cities around the world, from seven to 70-year-olds, from multinational CEOs to freelance entrepreneurs. No one has ever failed to code an app from scratch in a single day. The future is being written in lines of code and I want everyone to be part of that.
What are the business benefits of your courses?
Imagine if we still thought the world was flat. That is the level of understanding we are at when it comes to technology. By taking away the smoke and mirrors we empower business leaders to devise an effective growth strategy for the future and make the right decisions about how and where to innovate and invest.
Do you think a fear of tech is putting businesses off from learning basic coding skills?
Technology is terrifying: it's important to put it into context and humanise it. When it goes wrong that we feel it has become the master of us rather than the other way round. Learning something new is also terrifying for most people: it is hard for a professional to put their hand up and say ‘I don't understand, I want to learn’. Lifelong learning and re-skilling needs to become the norm.
You now employ over 80 people and you're expanding into Australia. Did you have any idea when you launched Decoded it would grow to be as big as it is?
Never! We launched in 2011 in a marketplace which didn't even know what the word code meant, with no funding, a £27 marketing budget, a credit card loan for a dozen laptops and a ton of hope and belief. What we have now is all thanks to a team of superstars and some brave global leaders who took a punt on us.
Countries in Scandinavia and Asia, especially Singapore, have a reputation for teaching coding to children earlier than in the UK. What's the perfect age to start coding?
As soon as you can read and write - anywhere between five and 100 years old. Are you creative, persistent, curious or a good problem solver? If you tick two of those boxes, give it a whirl. It is a rapidly-growing mindset not born out of the UK’s traditional education system.
When it comes to coding, how does the UK perform in the global market?
When we started, everyone told us that we would fail and no one wanted to learn this stuff. Look how that’s changed. Coding is on the school curriculum and the UK was the first in Europe to legislate this. As we expand globally it has only cemented my belief that the UK can and is developing world-class ground-breaking innovations, talent and creativity.
You're not afraid to be different: you once stopped using email for three months and you use a meditation app. How would you describe your business philosophy?
RIP email! In all seriousness, we have a very strong culture. There isn't much of a hierarchy, it’s more of a network. There’s no real monitoring: trust is important and because we all share the same vision and culture it means we can focus on the stuff that really matters, not the office politics which crush the spirit.
You're a big advocate of women in business. Why do you think there are so few women in senior positions in tech?
Some of the earliest pioneers in computer science were women, yet today women are opting out of STEM at school and career level in their droves. Why can’t the next billion-dollar tech company be led by a woman? And why aren’t there more technology products created for and by women? This is why I am such a big advocate for women in tech and business, ensuring that there is visibility, opportunity, education and mentorship, but much more is needed - specifically financing.
How big a problem do you think cyber security is?
If I told you that tomorrow at work you needed to undertake a day’s worth of cyber security training, would you feel like pulling a sickie? This is the most business-critical issue today, yet of the lowest interest. They say ‘change your passwords’ but you've got more important stuff to do than remember a dozen of those. This is why we've tried to create an education experience which is live, real-world, hands-on, within the parameters of what's legal and the most immersive deep dive into the dark arts of hacking imaginable. A company is as weak as its weakest link - potentially, that could be you. Wouldn't you rather be prepared?
What plans have you got for Decoded now?
To continue to demystify the world of technology; to move from teaching individuals to entire businesses, sectors and economies; to create a society where learning is invested in at all ages and across all demographics; to connect the human and the machine so that they can co-exist harmoniously. We want to empower the people wrestling with the implications of rapidly evolving technology on their business.
Beyond your own business what types of technology / social media would you recommend?
To avoid internal email, try Slack. To automate repetitive tasks, IFTT. To play with augmented reality try MSQRD; and for self-improvement listen to Tim Ferris’ amazing podcast, author of the four-hour work week.
Finally, in technology circles, what do you think is the next big thing?
The average speed of human progress has, in historical terms, been relatively slow – yet the impact of technology in the last 30 years has radically changed this. The impact on existing structures of business and the millions of easily automated jobs will be very real. What happens to the truck drivers, call centre and factory workers when they can be so easily displaced by technology? The human capacity to adapt, survive and thrive will be crucial.