How my school received funding from the Obama administration

Very recently, the Obama administration admitted us (http://www.makersquare.com) into a group of eight schools to receive $17 million for student financial aid (https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2016/08/16/testing-access-low-income-students-new-generation-higher-education-providers). Not bad for a school that started 3 years ago with $8,000 and four short Indian dudes.

Looking back, I am curious how we managed to make this happen. I believe the most important thing we did was follow the Golden rule — treat others the way you would like to be treated. I would have liked to learn how to code and start a tech company without spending $100,000 and 4 years on an undergrad education. That is what I wanted. We assumed that’s what others wanted as well.

Four of us made the decision to start a school that trained software engineers in an accelerated, cost-effective format. Among the four of us, we had experience working for Teach for America, Facebook, and Ernst & Young. We believed we had the right team and we moved to Austin from our respective cities (Chicago, New York City, Dallas).

Our first class had 28 students — 14 male and 14 female, ages 22 to 47. We made that decision because we assumed students wanted to see a wide range of individuals within their classroom. Every day we received negative feedback about how our class was going. Every night we did our best to make revisions so that we would have less negative feedback. We assumed our students wanted experienced engineers as mentors. We found engineers and provided our students their own mentors. We assumed our students wanted to do philanthropy work. We geared some projects towards for-cause organizations.

All that was mentioned in the last paragraph is what we did in our first class in June 2013. We tried to continue this level of empathy with every class and student. We did not want to provide a “one-size-fits-all” education system.

Whether I start another school or jump into more public speaking, I want to remember the importance of empathy and the golden rule!

How has empathy affected your life, work, or relationships? If only I was more empathetic to females…I rarely know what they are thinking.

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