Seven years can feel like a lifetime and a blink of an eye at the same time. We’ve come a long way: Code Nation is 100 times bigger now than it was we started in 2012. My LinkedIn account tells me that our first students are now entering into careers in tech. We have almost 40 full-time staff members. I’m still pinching myself!
At the same time, it still feels like it did in 2012 – a small community of passionate people eager to make the world a bit better. When I reflect on the trajectory of our organization so far, the thing that that inspires me the most is the commitment of our community. Together we have created a movement that is much bigger and more impactful than we could have ever imagined.
It is this community of passionate individuals — people who are just as inspired by our work as I am — that make me so confident about the future of this organization. I am so excited to see a new generation of leadership bring new ideas and direction to our work.
With this in mind, let me tell you a bit about how I got to know Rebecca Novak, our next CEO.
Anyone who knows me well knows about my deep admiration for Becca: she has been my co-conspirator, my confidant and my friend in building Code Nation. Becca became the organization’s first employee in 2013.
Because we did not have office space and I was working out of my apartment, I asked Becca to meet me at one of our partner schools for her interview. I was late, frazzled, having not slept much in several days as the only person making the program run across five schools and I was in desperate need of help but was also very careful about who I picked to join me in growing the organization.
While the job was advertised as a Program Manager position, I knew I would need the person to do a lot more than just run programs for us — the person would need to be great at almost everything. When I asked Becca about her project management skills, she took out a very professional looking cookbook that she had put together as part of a project in college. It required her to visit local businesses to get recipes, ask for sponsorship money, go through the process of getting the book designed and published.
As she walked me through all of this I realized how confident and capable she was and offered her a job soon afterwards. In the negotiation process, she asked me about health care (we didn’t have any yet), where we would work (coffee shops – we didn’t have an office) and salary (again, not much money to go around). She took a big risk on me by accepting the job, and immediately began to work tirelessly with me to build the organization from the ground up.
Becca has gone on to do much greater things than putting together a cookbook since then. She was our first Program Manager and our first Program Director. She brought systems, structure, and rigorous data collection to our organization so we knew whether or not we were on track to achieve our long term outcomes.
In 2016, she left our New York City office to start up our Bay Area office. She became a management guru, frequently citing books she had recently read and referencing things she learned from her friends that run a chocolate factory. She encouraged our team to boil down the essentials of what we were trying to achieve to something that could fit on a post-it note so that we could easily remember our Northstar.
And then one day she managed to secure our very first $1 million donation — something that no other staff or board member had ever done before, including me.
Watching Becca grow as a leader over the years has made me confident that she is the best person to lead us forward. She’s taught us how to celebrate our wins along the way and played a huge role in building the “professional with a touch of whimsy” culture that helps us define who we are. I am certain that we would not be where we are without her leadership, and I am so excited to see her stretch her wings a bit further.
As for me, this isn’t goodbye. I’ll continue to serve on the board and will continue to help move the organization forward onto bigger and better things. I’ll also be taking some time to rejuvenate and reflect to help me figure out where I’ll go and what I’ll do next.
I am so grateful to all of you for giving me the opportunity to lead.