by Dan Roberts, Lead Instructor, Interim Director of Education

Hello Ada community! 

I’ve spent some time reading through your responses to the strategic planning survey we sent out a few weeks back. Something that stood out to me from the written comments is that we haven’t done a particularly good job of communicating what the instructional team looks like these days. So with the “T” in SECRETS in mind, I figured I would write a little update on who’s here and what we’re working on.

Staff Movement

As you might have heard, Charles and Shruti both left the instructional team this spring. Shruti relocated to Boston and Charles has been traveling internationally. Both of them remain Ada fans and supporters, and you may even see Charles volunteering at Ada this summer to support capstones.

In the past Ada has scrambled to cover when an instructor leaves, but this time I would say we did alright. We brought Kaida Masaki on as a new instructional assistant in February, and she’s done a fantastic job spinning up on our curriculum and tooling, and working on admissions for C12.

Heroic as always, in addition to his normal classroom responsibilities Chris covered the tail end of CS Fundamentals for C11. He will be transitioning to teaching CS Fundamentals full-time starting in C12 – be sure to congratulate him if you see him. We’re quite excited about the ideas he has about where to take the curriculum, particularly around making sure everyone is prepared for interviews.

Devin too has been working hard – since she joined the team almost a year ago we’ve seen her grow wonderfully into the role of instructor. Now that she’s overcome the challenge of the first year teaching she’s started to make substantial contributions to curriculum and process, which is exciting to see.

One of the things we’ve been working on during this time is building out a hiring process for instructors that is efficient and repeatable. It’s not as robust as I’d like it to be – we’ve struggled to find candidates of color, and the lead time for a hire is still too long. Even so, I would say Ada is much better equipped to hire an instructor now than it was in, say, December of 2017.

As evidence of that improvement, we had not one but two new instructors start on July 8th. Becca Elenzil is a high school computer science teacher with a Ph.D. in Bioengineering, and Jared Maddox is a full-stack software engineer with experience working with Ada students and alums. We’re excited about each of them individually, but especially about the way their skill sets complement each other. Both will be classroom instructors for C12, Jared teaching the Branches classroom with Dee, and Becca teaching Leaves with Devin. You’ll see proper introductions from each of them in the next week or so.


“Wait a second Dan” you might say, “your name isn’t on that list of teachers!” Good observation. I will be taking some time away from Ada during C12 to relax and travel, with the goal of returning to Ada in the spring of 2020. Let’s talk about what that means for the team’s leadership.

First, the Director of Education role. The DoE is the manager of the instructional team, and handles staffing, career growth, and coordination with the other parts of the org. I’ve been bungling through this in addition to my regular Lead Instructor job in an informal capacity since June of last year, and formally since the end of October.

This hiring process for DoE stalled out over the winter amidst the other changes that were going on, but since Christine Martin came on as our Interim Executive Director this spring we’ve made solid progress. TSNE HR will have my head if I give too many details, but I am confident that we will have the right person hired as Ada’s Director of Education before the end of the summer.

Second, the Lead Instructor position. You can think of the lead instructor as equivalent to a technical lead on an engineering team – they’re still teaching in the classroom, but they also establish best practices, coordinate instructor work, and serve as the final owner of the classroom experience. I am delighted to inform you that Dee will be taking on this role in August for the start of C12. Dee has been teaching with Ada for almost 2 years now, and they have done an excellent job of picking up the slack I’ve left while focusing on DoE work. They were a natural choice for the job.


Special Projects

I said I would be traveling “with the goal of returning to Ada in the spring of 2020.” What exactly does that mean, and what might I be working on? A lot of that depends on the outcome of the strategic planning process, which we’ll be wrapping toward the end of the summer, as well as the ideas the yet-to-be-hired Director of Education will have about where to take the instructional team. But there are a few opportunities that stand out as likely bets, which we’re working to lay the groundwork for now.

One project I’m particularly excited about is rolling out a continuing education program for Ada alums. The idea of a post-Ada curriculum is something we’ve had our eye on for a while now, and it was one of the ideas that got the most enthusiastic response in the strategic planning survey (right up there with a pre-Ada program, which we’re also currently investigating). We see this as a relatively low-cost, low-risk way to better support our community and further our mission, helping our alums to move up the career ladder and into senior and leadership roles. We also hope we can make it a space where alums can retreat from the male-dominated world of engineering, reconnect with each other and provide the mutual support and caring that Ada is known for.

There were definitely some concerns along with the enthusiasm in the survey and we want to make sure we get this one right, with an eye toward equity and supporting the members of our community who need it most. We have already asked for some community input on this project, and we’ll be sending out a survey to alums in the next week or so to get a broader perspective. If you have thoughts on what we should offer, how much it should cost or how the courses should be structured that will be your opportunity to share them. If you have more nuanced ideas that don’t necessarily fit in a survey response, send me an email (dan at adadev dot org) and let’s go get coffee.

Final Thoughts

We had a pretty rocky time in 2018, both on the instructional team and at Ada in general, but in 2019 it feels like things have stabilized. There’s an energy, a forward motion, an optimism that is refreshing and sorely needed. We have some exciting new hires and a plan to grow the program in a way that is responsible and sustainable. It may sound a little corny (or like I’ve drank a little too much Kool Aid), but I feel better about Ada’s prospects right now than I have at any time since I started. It’s almost enough to make me regret taking this time off.