Ilana Milkes: Founder, Maker & CEO, World Tech Makers
Ilana Milkes is a pioneer in the world of on-site coding bootcamps. The CEO and founder of World Tech Makers, she works to narrow the diversity gap in the industry and unlock human potential in Latin America with 12-week, beginner-focused coding bootcamps in Chile, Colombia and Brazil. While she is at the top of her field, she had to overcome a number of daunting challenges to get there, and today she is dedicated to helping others tackle the boundaries that prevent them from achieving their own career success.
In her own words, Ilana tells us about her experiences in the technology field, and her path to the founding of World Tech Makers.
“Before I helped cofound WTM, I was involved in private equity and consulting. In both fields I had up close and personal experiences with many technology companies. All of them were trendsetters in their respective industries, which was something I truly admired. It was then when I realized I was essentially limiting myself by not knowing how to create things. Not knowing how to program limited how much impact I could have on the world since I wasn’t able to create anything new.”
“Around the same time in 2012, I was also lucky enough to meet the creators of Code Academy. They were the first in the world to build an online educational platform that allowed students to learn how to program. Watching their company expand so much in such a short time made me realize that traditional education is not fulfilling the needs of people today. It was then when I decided to embark on this journey, to learn how to code, and to create WTM.”
Ilana also shared the challenges that she had to overcome, facing discrimination and outright abuse at work, as she tried to develop her professional career.
“As a 22-year-old, young and new in the workforce, I was sexually harassed by my boss. For months, I had to deal with the extreme discomfort of inappropriate comments and touches. Had I known about WWCode back then, I probably would’ve dealt with the situation completely differently. Mostly importantly, I would have had a network of strong, powerful, and empowered women to look to for advice.”
“Today, constantly traveling and attending conferences and meet-ups, I often feel like I am approached not because of what I have to offer intellectually but because of how I look. I know for a fact that this is something all professional women across the world face. Thanks to WWCode and other supportive networks, I have been able to develop the confidence to deal with these challenges.”
As she overcame each trial, Ilana became stronger and better able to face the barriers and blockages that tried to hold her back, until finally she achieved her dreams, founding a company that helps to make a difference in the lives of people around the world.
“This is my dream job! World Tech Makers is my passion. To me, however, it’s more than just starting my own company. It’s also about building something sustainable that will be able to run without me in the future. I want to create and develop this company that will not only have a tremendous social impact in Latin America, but also all across the world.”
“Through WTM, we have created scholarships for women to attend the bootcamps in order to further promote gender equality in the tech industry. We have also sponsored ‘Women in Rails’ in different cities across Columbia and have helped organize events ranging from hack-a-thons to social impact seminars to promote women in entrepreneurship and technology.”
“What we’ve created with WTM thus far is just the beginning. In the future we hope to create other software products with the same goal in mind of creating invaluable and sustainable impact.”
Ilana also reflected on the tech industry as a whole.
“There is often a negative stigma against coding because of how hard it seems. I can tell you as someone who once knew absolutely nothing about code, learning how to program is super doable. We all have to break the perception that it’s difficult, work through that plateau, and encourage yourselves and others to get into tech regardless of previous experience.”
“Software has huge potential, and right now there are so many exciting things surrounding us. The more you learn about coding, the more you’ll be able to immerse yourself into this world. I encourage everyone out there with event the slightest interest in programming to learn.”
When asked what advice she would give to up and comers in the field, Ilana responded, “Keep doing what you’re doing and start thinking beyond what you see right now. A lot of the things we dreamt about decades ago are happening, and that’s only because someone out there decided to push their limits and try new things.”
Originally published at www.womenwhocode.com.