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Entrepreneur That Grew Up In A Household of Educators Creates Solution to Education Challenges

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There’s many ways to learn but for most developers and coders it’s hard to learn any other way then by doing. Similar to entrepreneurship, the best way to learn to be a web developer is to actively work on projects. We had the opportunity to speak with Ariel Quinones of Ironhack with locations in Miami, Barcelona, Madrid and Paris to hear his story, what entrepreneurship means to him and how Ironhack changes the paradigm of what it means to teach 21st century digital skills.

What’s your story? Please tell us about you and your background and why you started your business.

The story of why I started an education business is mostly due to growing up in a household of educators. My mom is a retired elementary school teacher. My dad was a university professor and administrator, who eventually started his own private university when I was 7 years old. Throughout my childhood, I saw firsthand the impact that my parents had on the lives of their students. To this day, many decades later, their students remember me fondly as the teacher’s son.

Through that journey, I also realized the challenges that traditional education faces in fast-moving and  dynamic world. I’ve seen higher education costs spiral out of control. Smart young people graduate with skills that don’t equip them to succeed in their desired professions. And in many cases, they have either a lack of willingness or inability to adapt to the realities of 21st century’s employment market.

Our inspiration behind starting Ironhack was to build a modern school that addressed all of those pain points.

What does your business/organization do? What is the mission and vision? How is it unique? Any major accomplishments? 

Ironhack is a school in Miami and Europe that teaches adults 21st century digital skills. Right now, we’re focused on teaching two verticals: Web Development and User Experience/User Interface (UX/UI) design. Our goal is to ensure that our education delivers high ROI.  That means that if you enroll in one of our courses, we want to make sure that you receive a tangible benefit (make more money, get a promotion, get hired, save in your training costs, etc) in the shortest amount of time. A big percentage of our students enroll in our bootcamp courses, which are about two months long and deliver a highly immersive experience (i.e. they are with us about 60 hours a week).

Here are some of the things that make Ironhack unique:

  • Learn by doing: we believe the best way for our students to absorb the skills that we teach is by actually putting them into practice. So if you want to be a programmer, we’re going to give a lot of things to program!
  • A constantly changing curriculum: in the world of tech, things change VERY quickly. Therefore, it’s important that we’re always updating our curriculum. We actually treat it as if it were a software product, in that we’re always releasing a new and improved version.
  • Instructors who “have been there, done that”: our instructors are not academics. They are experienced professional programmers and designers who have a passion for teaching. If we’re trying to prepare individuals for the labor market, it’s important that all of our faculty members has real world experience.
  • Community driven approach to learning: many people ask me about online education. Isn’t that the future? While we’re big believers in tech, we’ve found that most people still crave human interaction and guidance when they’re going through a challenging educational or professional experience. They’re energized by having a group of peers that helps them to push through and not lose motivation or enthusiasm. A lot of what we try to do as an organization and a school is to enhance and support that kind of peer to peer teaching/learning environment.

Our biggest accomplishment is having graduated over 700 students and built an operation that spans across the Atlantic with campuses in Miami, Madrid, Barcelona, and Paris. The fact that we’ve done all of that with no external investments (we’ve bootstrapped until now) and with no previous formal experience in education makes it even cooler (my business partner worked in infrastructure projects and I was an investment banker on Wall Street for five years prior to this).

What is your favorite business quotation?

“Greatness and nearsightedness are incompatible.” -Daniel Pink

What inspires you? 

There are two things that inspire me: my students and building a legacy.

I love doing what I do because every student has a really cool story. Many of them are willing to put their lives on hold to learn a new skill and dramatically upgrade their lives and careers. That takes a lot of courage, passion, and hard work. I seek to channel the students’ energy to help me continue building and growing Ironhack.

Secondly, I’m very aware of the brief stay that we have in this life so I want to make sure that I enjoy the ride, but also leave a positive mark on future generations. Having a purpose and going after it every day keeps me inspired.

Who is an entrepreneur you look up to and why? 

I have a lot of respect for one of my Harvard classmates: Mark Zuckerberg. I never had the chance to meet Mark personally during college, but by being in the same environment where Facebook was created we all felt a tiny bit involved in his company’s journey. I’m particularly impressed by Mark because he had many chances to “sell out” early and he didn’t. It takes a special type of entrepreneur who is not only financially driven and has strong vision for the impact that his organization can have on the world.

What exciting things can we look forward to from your company/organization? 

In addition to continued international growth, we’re very excited about the intersection of online and physical education. Basically, how can we use the latest technologies to deliver a world-class, in-person educational experience at the lowest cost.  This is going to be a big challenge for us in the next 5 to 10 years, but we’re very excited about the possibilities.

What does entrepreneurship mean to you?

Entrepreneurship is seeing opportunities where others see problems. And of course, acting on those opportunities.

Ironhack is an international coding bootcamp that believes the best way to learn how to do something, is by actually doing it.

About Gresham Harkless Jr.

Profile photo of Gresham Harkless Jr.
Gresham Harkless is a Media Consultant for Blue 16 Media and the Blogger-in-Chief for CEO Blog Nation. CEO Blog Nation is a community of blogs for entrepreneurs and business owners. Started in much the same way as most small businesses, CEO Blog Nation captures the essence of entrepreneurship by allowing entrepreneurs and business owners to have a voice. CEO Blog Nation provides news, information, events and even startup business tips for entrepreneurs, startups and business owners to succeed.
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