József Boda, Codecool co-founder and CEO tells us about why he thinks we should count 2020 as a „dog year”, how Codecool will shift to rocket gear in 2021, and what he wishes for all us for the new year.
2020 was a really good year for us at Codecool. I am actually admitting this with some reservedness in the middle of a global pandemic. When we were deeply shaken to witness the collapse of whole sectors, the shutting down of hundreds of companies around us. Thousands losing their jobs, all of us worrying about our loved ones’ and our own health. But we at Codecool have delivered all our key targets last year, and exceeded our own expectations by going online practically seamlessly, and growing our business at the same time.
If you asked me around this time last year, if we would be able to enroll our students fully online, take all our classes online, build partnerships online and place our alumni at those partners also online, I would have replied: „Are you kidding me? We surely would not be able to do that.”
And to do this all practically from one day to another? When our very essence is the Codecool vibe at the school where we spend long hours together everyday? And at the same time achieving a record number of yearly enrollments in the 3 countries with a 1.000 students joining us in total? Never ever. But then we did just that. Successfully. We were the most amazed that this was not all impossible.
After the first shock we quickly switched to agile mode. We wanted to help at once. We developed two apps for the National Ambulance Service in Hungary, and support guides about online education for public school teachers in Poland and Hungary. In the meantime, we have moved all our courses online without any considerable hiccup, and enrolled over 300 students to our government supported courses in the autumn. These courses are still going strong in all four specialisations, and we really hope that this forward-looking, popular programme will be continued in some way. In Poland, we have scaled up our weekend courses, and launched our first ever strategic corporate partnership programme with great success – a new service which we would like to roll out in all the other countries, too. In Romania, our first students have completed our first courses, we have forged new partnerships, and the first Codecoolers have started in their first IT jobs. Huge successes to all of us!
Let’s make something clear: these things have not just accidentally happened to us.
We must remember that all of us who have survived last year have been lucky. The only „mistake” that many others made was just being in the „wrong” industry, or they simply became the victims of circumstances.
On the other hand, the huge work done by our colleagues, mentors, students and obviously, our partners all contributed to our success. While, just like many other companies, we were running on non-stop crisis management. In Romania and Poland even without a „Summer break”. (In Hungary we had a chance to literally breath a little freely between the first and the second waves of the pandemic.) I personally felt like on an emotional roller coaster, daily fluctuating on the wide scale between desperation and „yess, com’on, we can do this!”. And I’m pretty sure I was not alone. But all this just made us stronger and brought us closer somehow. And I am so very grateful for this. Without the tireless work, infinite enthusiasm and full trust put in Codecool by everyone in 2020, we would not be anywhere near, where we are today.
Because today, we are actually starting the year stronger than ever before.
Stronger and more mature. Today it is not only the last year, but already five years behind us. (Though I used to say sometimes jokingly that we should count 2020 as a „dog year”, because it really felt like seven, but let’s just count it as one.) And these five years were spent learning not only by our more than a 1000 graduated students, but also ourselves. We have learnt to grow up to our goals, tasks, and the endless trust we have received. And so we have been getting ready for the new year in a much more structured manner this time, with much more detailed plans and in general, with much more control, than ever before.
And to say that our 2021 plans are ambitious would be an understatement.
We will open schools in two further countries next to Hungary, Poland and Romania – one planned for the first half of this year and one for the second. Having listened to our partners, we are widening our corporate services in each country, and enhancing our strategic partnerships. Building on last year’s learnings and international best practices we are lifting the online Codecool learning experience to a new level. And as soon as possible, hopefully by the summer, we are slowly, gradually returning to our favourite places, to the offline schools, too. Stabilisation and growth – these two words summarize our 2021 plans for me best.
However, if we have learnt something last year it is that anything unexpected can happen and overwrite our plans in a flash. We have also learnt, on the other hand, that we will probably be very much able to manage even such unexpected situations. We have learnt to trust ourselves better, than before.
We have learnt that we can carry out our business plans, and we can save our good spirit in our personal lives.
Just like when together with my wife, we managed to carry on performing in our jobs, even with our three kids at home in ad hoc arrangements controlled by changing elementary and middle school closure regulations. It was quite a ride some days, I must say, though surely not as much as for single parents. Or, when I had to help out my English teacher mother remotely, with no tech skills whatsoever about how to hold classes online. This is actually Codecool core competence, which I had the chance to practice in real life. But besides the challenges there were really pleasant things, too. I felt incredibly lucky to spend every night at home with my family, and I actually put more miles in my bike last year than ever before. (7.500 kilometres. Not a world record, but my personal best by far. 🙂 ) The reason was that I stopped travelling around our offices on a weekly basis, a big change after only sleeping at home max. four nights in a row last year.
In the meantime, we have also learnt that besides managing challenges, we can also keep our promises.
Because what do we promise every day again and again? A new profession to our students. A new career, hobby, self-realisation, even the chance for a better life. New talents to our corporate partners. Talents that are not only easy to work with, but also a pleasure to have in the company. Corporate trainings which can help them keep and get the best out of their own employees. And a workplace to our Codecool colleagues, where each and everyone is equally important, where we trust each other and where we feel like in a second family together.
And I wouldn’t promise anything more for this year, either – would rather just have a single wish if I can.
To see each other again, soon. After all the hardships, the excitement and all the plans, I miss this one thing only – our personal, offline gatherings. So this is my wish, not just for myself but for all of us – that we meet again, as soon as we can in our offices, our schools, at interviews, at meetings, at personal get-togethers. Until then, I just wish a little bit more strength and patience on top of this, and rewarding work. And a happy, successful and hopefully a little bit easier new year.