An Interview with Qwasar Alumni - Justin Burnett

Jun 17, 2021 8:26:43 AM / by Kristen Capuzzo


We sat down, virtually of course, with one of our alumni, Justin Burnett. Community is a big part of the learning experience here at Qwasar. We wanted to give you an idea of the depth and breadth of who is in our alumni community. This interview is a part of ongoing learner interviews of our Qwasar alumni. Read more to learn about the life of a Qwasar alumni!

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Elite Summer Coding Program - 2021

Jun 3, 2021 5:52:47 AM / by Kristen Capuzzo


Based on the success of last year’s summer coding program, we have decided to run it again this summer. 2020 was a year of triumphs and shifts in everyones lives and this program was one that proved successful for many looking to advance their programming skills and get into software jobs. The remote and hands-on nature of our program allows you to code from anywhere. Your learning is entirely 100% accessible to you. Maybe you didn’t get an internship you really wanted or maybe you want to get better at coding, programming, software architecture, or your code quality. Whatever the reason is, let Qwasar be the solution to helping you achieve your goals in tech this summer.

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Veterans in Tech: Transitioning From Service into the Tech Industry

May 21, 2021 11:04:37 AM / by Kristen Capuzzo


Veterans, the men and women who have served their country are especially great at a lot of things. 

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Why You Should Learn C Programming

May 17, 2021 5:47:23 AM / by Kristen Capuzzo


What is C Programming?

You've probably heard of C programming or you're wondering whether or not to spend the time learning the language. C programming is defined as one of the most powerful "modern" programming language, in that it allows direct access to memory and many low-level computer operations.

C is one of the lowest level languages that is still fairly readable (compared to binary code with 0's and 1's). It allows you to exploit some of the features of a computer's hardware with far more control and precision that higher level languages. A high level language would be something such as JavaScript or Python, where a significant number of libraries and functions are essentially "pre-built" and take care a lot of under-the-hood functionality but very limited precision or control.

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Qwasar Partners With TechMission in Kyiv

Apr 12, 2021 6:16:25 AM / by Kristen Capuzzo


We interviewed with TechMission in Kyiv, Ukraine to learn more about their goals and the market for tech talent in Ukraine. We are so excited to partner with TechMission!

Tell us a bit about yourselves and your background.

Alex, Co-Founder of TechMission: I have been working in the tech industry since 2013. During that time, I’ve had a chance to work on different roles and management positions and to implement a set of neat complex solutions for products in various industries: InsurTech, HealthCare, IT tools, Finances, e-Commerce/CRM. For the last 3.5 years, I have been leading my service company MasterDynamix where we help businesses to build their great tech products.


Diana, Founder of TechMission: I have been working in the IT Education industry since 2014. During that time I have been launching and running courses for the following profiles: web and mobile development, QA, web design and 2D art, digital marketing, and IT recruitment. 10 years ago, the IT Education market of various specialists was only at its first steps, so different Ukrainian tech companies were easily hiring such graduates. With the growth of the industry, the number of private IT Education courses has increased, hence we have more and more people willing to become IT specialists. Nowadays, tech companies not only require theoretical knowledge from junior-level applicants, they expect such applicants to have practical experience. My additional activity is the preparation and coaching of IT Education graduates for their interviews and getting a first tech job.

Do you believe there is a need for tech talent in Ukraine?

During the last several years we observe a harsh competition in head hunting of tech talents in Ukraine. The industry has grown 26% in 2020 and estimated $4.7 billion. Still, it continues to grow, the salaries are on the high rise as well, and we tend to see a big lack of good developers and engineers.

What would tech talent mean for Ukraine?

According to our experience, every tech company in Ukraine has different standards of the Software Engineering/QA/BA/PM etc. For example, small service companies are ready to hire less experienced developers in order to keep the margin while running Time&Material contracts with foreign clients, while tech product companies or heavily-invested startups are mainly interested in top-notch engineers and tend to pay higher salaries.

How long does it take to become a software developer in Ukraine right now?

Local IT schools have really various sets of programs and tracks. Some of them give you false promises that you’ll become a software engineer in 2-3 months, while the others are ready to teach and mentor you for 6-12 months.

How would you describe the market for tech talent in the Ukraine?

Even though there is a lack of good engineers, the HR market is full of unqualified talents that would like to change their current careers and become software engineers, QA engineers, UI/UX designers or IT Project Managers. The reason is pretty simple, an average Middle-level developer makes 3-5 times higher than an average office employee in Ukraine. 

Our investigation has shown that a lot of local Tech Education Institutions do not provide their students with the high-quality programs that would satisfy the modern standards of the tech talent. Most of young applicants succeed with their first IT job only because of their self-motivation and perseverance, not because of the IT courses. When we first got in touch with the Qwasar team, we understood that their methods of education might be what our local market needs. That is why we decided to start “Tech Mission” in Ukraine.

What are some of the advantages that you see in hands-on learning compared to traditional knowledge transfer?

Only when having practical tasks and projects a student realizes what they will be doing on their jobs during the next several years. With the good basis of practical skills, such specialists will easily adapt to their first project and will have less stress. Another advantage of such method is that despite the lack of commercial working experience, these candidates will have higher salaries at the start only because of their portfolio. Moreover, their monthly wages and the career will also grow faster.

It is really sad that our state universities usually don’t have modern software engineering learning tracks except for theory classes. Most of them are not teaching modern technologies and programming languages / frameworks. Therefore, young specialists usually have only one way out - to go to private IT schools. And they have to choose them wisely.

What are employers looking for in candidates in Kyiv?

During the last year, there was a huge offset to the remote work, so working ‘on-site’ has become more an option rather than a must. As said above, different companies mostly have different approaches to their recruitment standards, but all of them have one common thing. No one wants to hire a candidate who doesn’t have real-life experience for the current position since it is a big risk. If a candidate already has a portfolio or proven track of projects, then we can continue our discussion. Otherwise, the candidate can be easily lost in the tons of other CV’s and their chances are really low. 

Of course, it is still important to have the willingness to learn new things and evolve your skills, be agile in terms of collaboration and have a good level of English and soft-skills.

How can people apply to the program?

Diana: We have a website https://techmission.pro, anyone who is interested can apply and leave their contacts. Our managers will contact all applicants. I am also running free webinars for people who want to become Software or QA/QC Engineers on a monthly basis where they can get a lot of useful information and ask questions.

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Meet Cecile Thirion: An Advisor with Sales and Marketing Expertise

Mar 31, 2021 6:30:50 AM / by Kristen Capuzzo


As part of a short blog series, we're interviewing each of our advisors here at Qwasar. Meet Cecile Thirion, founder of Thirion Advisors, LLC. Cecile has extensive experience in sales and marketing. She provides immeasurable support to our team.

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From Mechanical Engineer to Software Engineer, Meet Mammadu

Mar 25, 2021 8:06:23 AM / by Kristen Capuzzo


We sat down (virtually) with one of our learners, Mammadu Diallo to share more about his learning journey, background, and motivation for joining Qwasar. Community is a big part of the learning experience here at Qwasar. We want to give you an idea of the depth and breadth of who is in our community.

This interview is a part of ongoing learner interviews of our Qwasar students to give greater insight into our inspiring community members.


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How Long Does it Take to Become a Full Stack Developer

Mar 8, 2021 9:02:06 AM / by Kristen Capuzzo


Identify your goals/intentions

Once you make the choice to become a full stack developer, there are a few things you need to identify prior to your journey. It is crucial to understand your motives and intentions. Is there a specific role or company you aspire to work for? Is there a career path you have been wanting to go down? Are you a CS grad and don’t know where to go next? There are high-quality, low cost programs out there to make you an elite candidate in a competitive full stack development job market.

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From Public Administration to Full Stack Development - Meet Iana

Mar 2, 2021 10:59:36 AM / by Kristen Capuzzo


We sat down, virtually of course, with one of our learners, Iana Alekseeva. Community is a big part of the learning experience here at Qwasar. We wanted to give you an idea of the depth and breadth of who is in our community. This interview is a part of ongoing learner interviews of our Qwasar students. Read more to learn about the life of a learner here at Qwasar!

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Qwasar Co-founder Kwame Yamgnane on His African Roots, Diversity in Tech, and Cooking

Feb 26, 2021 2:27:17 PM / by Kristen Capuzzo


In honor of Black History Month, we sat down with Qwasar co-founder Kwame Yamgnane to talk about his African roots, changing diversity in the tech industry, and a bit of life outside of work. Kwame has a deep and inspirational background working over the last couple of decades to change diversity in tech and can often be found pursuing a culinary adventure.

Kwame, tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re from, and where you’re based now.

Hello, my name is Kwame! I have a lot of cultures mixed together. My mother is from Brittany, in the western part of France. The people from Brittany are well known for their strong culture (including their own language). My father (along with uncles, aunts, cousins and the rest of the family) comes from Togo, so I also have a strong African culture influence. My wife comes from Norway, so I think you could say we are an international family! For now, we live in the East Bay, outside of San Francisco.

I have a lot of cousins in Togo and part of the Qwasar team is in Togo, so we are really an international company. It is absolutely amazing to work with my African cousins, there are so many talented people over there.

What was your journey from high school to a Master’s in Computer Science and what was it like being a minority in your program?

We need to go back to my high school first. Thanks to my father’s profession in Togo, (a former French colony) I was eligible to attend some select schools in France. I attended one of the high schools - here’s a picture, see if you can spot me: 

Honestly, I didn’t find it terribly difficult to study here as a black French African and I have a lot of friends from there, but things are not the same in France as they are in the US; it’s a very different culture.

Before going to university, I did an amazing internship in DC and this was my first time in the United States as a young adult. I made many incredible friends for life there, many of whom still live there. I spent a lot of time discovering this new city. I fell in love with the Adams Morgan neighborhood which was packed with Ethnic restaurants. I found a Togolese restaurant that was incredible. Twenty years later, I went back to Adams Morgan and it had changed quite a lot.

Honestly, until I got out of high school and went to college, learning was a bit of a nightmare for me. I have dyslexia and find lectures and writing difficult, but in the early 80’s and 90’s, it was “not a good idea” to have a learning challenge. The university program I joined was mostly learning by doing as the program was more connected to the vocational system in France than the traditional university system (meaning there were few lectures and much more hands-on learning). We did a lot of coding, every day, and worked from 8 am in the morning to 8 am in the morning the next day (typical all-nighters for college students). I learned so much this way and the hands-on learning meant I absorbed a crazy amount of knowledge in a short space of time.

It certainly wasn’t common for black people in France to attend an IT like Epita. Access to top French universities isn’t necessarily equal or easy for minorities, and I was an exception. I served as a Teacher’s Assistant, which was really the seed that fueled me to join the creation of a new university called EpiTech. There weren't a lot of females and even less black people in my program. Out of over 200 students, there were only 2 or 3 black men in my program, and that really sparked a desire to change diversity in tech; there must be more minority graduates in computer science.

I can honestly say that hands-on education and learning by doing was revolutionary for me. It brought me a lot of freedom because how I learned is how work happened on the job, so transitioning was easy. When you have a job and a salary, suddenly your life is changing. You start a new life and it’s amazing. Hands-on learning is the foundation of what we do at Qwasar. I’m a very firm believer in learning by doing and its importance for the digital world.

How does your French African heritage relate to your work here in the US?

When I arrived here in the United States, my parents came to visit me and my mother bought a genetic test set for the family. Fun fact: it seems I am a descendant of Egyptian Pharaoh Ana. But the other part that was absolutely amazing was the DNA map of all your cousins.

I was considering retiring before I saw that map; launching and growing 3 successful IT schools had already helped 25,000 students get into tech roles, and because of those schools there were significantly more underprivileged students who had access to education. You sleep well first, you say to yourself you are useful for humanity and it’s a very strong feeling to have that.

What really made me change my mind - and this is the honest truth - was looking at the map of my cousins around the world - in France, in Africa, and I discovered that most of my cousins are in California. That map was the first time of really seeing and feeling the history of black people and African people around the world, and it’s my history. It was a slap in the face!

I really believe that hands-on learning and the power of a strong IT education were things that I had to bring to more people in the world, not just in France. It was time to write new history, especially here in the US, and change who has access to top-level IT education. That is roughly why, it’s not the only reason, but it is one of the major reasons, I decided to create Qwasar with Jennifer and Gaetan. It’s quite close to my heart.

What is your vision for diversifying talent in industry, especially the tech industry?

It’s a difficult question. It’s a tough question. One of the largest pillars of a company is its culture and this comes from the founders. The difficult part with the tech industry in the U.S. is that most of the tech companies have been created by white men who have a white culture. This is 100% normal. It's not something that is bad, it’s just a reality.

The big issue is that if you really want to integrate something inside your company, for example black culture, you have to naturally also change the culture of your company. Let’s say you’re working in a traditional industry in the 80’s: you’re expected to wear a white shirt and tie. But if you want to really integrate black people, minorities, or people from different cultural backgrounds, suddenly you’re bringing a guy who doesn’t have a white shirt, but has a multicolored one, and he has long hair. There is a cultural gap here and realistically, either you change your company culture, or you won’t retain your new employees.

Say a company makes an effort to hire black men or women, or Hispanic or Native American or Pacific Islander or Romanian or whatever, but they must wear white shirts. Do you really have diversity at your company? Or do you just have a nice picture for your company website and social media? It’s symbolic, the white shirt. If you want real diversity, it means you have to integrate into your company people who are really different and who bring their culture with them.

Some companies, because of the way they have been created and their history, have a very hard time with cultural diversity and creating a new kind of culture; they’re sluggish to really change. I truly believe one of the ways to fuel diversity in tech is to create tech companies from diverse people. That means having more founders who are, to be blunt, not white men in America. This is core to what we do at Qwasar: when you have the tools to build digital products in a digital world, then you have the basics for starting a company. Part of making our training accessible is so that there can be significantly more diverse founders.

The other way is by providing on-ramps to existing companies that are affordable and accessible. That means training needs to be up to industry standards, affordable, and available. We purposefully made our programs affordable and created part-time options that have flexibility. And it’s working. I am convinced that what we are doing here at Qwasar is a game changer and that we have the ability to really change the pipeline of tech talent.

Hopefully, we’re inspiring learners in our community that diversity is a good thing and that tech is for everyone. Our company, Qwasar, has three founders: a black man, a white man, and a woman. Further, we have a diverse team and a diverse board: from east coast to west coast, from Africa to America, from young to old. Our diversity makes us stronger and better as a company.

Outside of work, what can we find you doing?

I have two favorite sports. The first one is handball, which is not the American style of handball, but the Olympic game handball. I was part of the French national team when I was younger. My second favorite sport is rugby. I love rugby. I could watch it all day long. I was the coach of the East Palo Alto team for a couple of years. I used to train some of the local kids, and a lot were Pacific Islanders. They were great fun and such nice kids to train. It was absolutely amazing.  

I love to cook an African dish called FuFu, which is basically a big pasta dish with some sauce and meat or fish. It’s very good. I never see it in the U.S., but all the people from Africa that read this are going to know that this exists! There is a fabulous little African restaurant in Oakland, Alloko Garden. I visited with an Uber driver once. Alloco, as it is called in Côte d'Ivoire, Togo and Burkina Faso, is a popular West African snack made from fried plantain.

I also love very traditional French dishes, such as Blanquette de Veau which is a veal stew with a white sauce - also one of my favorites.

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