We talked to Stephen Gruppetta of codetoday about teaching coding to children and adults, and he had the following to say:-
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded codetoday.
My “original” career was that of .a research scientists. I studied Maths and Physics at University and then went on to complete a Ph.D. in Physics. This is where I first learned and used coding, as it was an essential skill for my research. My research focused on creating new ways of getting images of the retina as a way of diagnosing eye disease as early as possible.
After around 15 years in academia, I decided it was time to move on, and I set up codetoday.
How does codetoday innovate?
When I started codetoday, we weren’t the first company to teach coding to children and adults. However, we decided to do things our own way rather than replicate what was already being done by others. In the children’s coding area, most of the “coding” focused on treating the subject as a lightweight topic, using platforms designed specifically for children that didn’t have much in common with real coding. Codetoday chose to treat coding as a serious, academic subject, teaching exclusively using a proper programming language, Python. Teaching coding this way is harder, but it’s the way to do it properly!
We are also one of the very few companies worldwide that teach coding to both children and adults. In the adults’ sector, we chose to focus not on those who wish to learn coding to change career and become full-time developers, but instead, our specialty is to focus on beginners who wish to use coding as an additional tool in their jobs, for example, those working in fields such as finance, science, and other data-driven subjects.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Until February 2020, all our services were face-to-face courses. When it became clear that these had to stop abruptly, we decided not to carry on with the same services we had and just move them online. Our teaching methods and course formats had been carefully planned and thought out, and we knew these wouldn’t work in an online environment.
Luckily, we had been planning to launch a hybrid course that includes live sessions delivered remotely along with recorded videos and a support platform. The problem was that we were still at the very early stages of preparation. But three weeks of intensive work, almost literally day and night, by all of our team meant that we ran our inaugural Live Online courses over the Easter holidays. And we haven’t looked back since as we have expanded our new product. The business model had to change significantly, and things have been difficult, but we will emerge from this in 2021 in a stronger shape than before the pandemic.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
The choice to design a new product specifically for online delivery, rather than just transferring what we did before to Zoom, was definitely a hard choice to make. The easier, simpler option would have made things a lot more straightforward in March, April, and May. However, the harder choice meant that we built a sustainable and scalable model that puts us in a better position now and in 2021.
Adversity forced us to innovate and execute plans very quickly. Although I’m not planning another few weeks like those in early March of 2020, the satisfaction of creating a very successful product with such pressures gave us all a sense of achievement that has benefited our team greatly. Having successfully tackled this challenge, it now feels as though no future challenge will be too big to tackle.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and codetoday in the future?
We all had to adapt to how we work and how we juggle work and life, especially as our offices moved into our living rooms! The best technique I found that works for me are to separate those things I have control over from those I cannot control. No point in worrying about lockdown and restrictions on our business and family life as I cannot change any of that. That allowed me to focus on the things I can change. Having more time with my family during this period, especially during the March-May lockdown when we were all at home all the time, was, in many ways, a positive experience, despite the circumstances that were, of course, negative ones.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
This market has been getting more and more crowded every year as both new companies have joined the fray, and international companies have come to the UK. Our plan was and will remain the same: As a company, we have focused on looking at coding as a serious topic, teaching it as an academic subject, and providing exceptional customer care. These aspects have given us a good reputation that we want to build on, which will serve us well in the future.