How the pandemic decoded Codaisseur in 2020

Sometimes a single word can define an era, but the year 2020 can be summed up with just one word: Pandemic.

2 years ago   •   9 min read

By Lisa Scorzon
Table of contents

Here at Codaisseur, we will also remember 2020 as the year we redefined ourselves repeatedly. The year when our hiring-rate plummeted, our partner network issued hiring-freezes, and ultimately the year when we had a lot of unhappy students.

Changing our business model, teaching style, and pricing are just some of the things we did to help ease the pressure on our students and graduates. Inevitably, it is impossible to keep everyone happy and satisfied, and over the past few months we racked up a few negative reviews online from students that felt let down.

The challenges we faced as a team, a school and a company pushed us to work smarter, not harder. By redefining ourselves as a company, we're now able to do what we do best again; filling the tech gap by making education accessible to everyone, diversifying the tech scene and becoming the #1 talent source in the Netherlands.

Codaisseur in 2019

We finished 2019 on a high, we trained over 280 students in our Code Academy, doubling the number of students we had reached in the previous year. We were fulfilling our mission; bridging the gap while diversifying the IT market,  and making education accessible to as many people as possible. We were proud to call ourselves Codaisseur.

In January 2020, we had just finished our third workshop on Internationalization. We had big plans; expand our school to locations in Dublin, Berlin and San Francisco all to be rolled out before the end of 2021.

We were excited. We were ready for this new challenge. We had a clear mission, and we were ready to further expand our educational reach in 2020, and this time taking it to the next level by going abroad.

"We had a clear mission, and we were ready to further expand our educational reach in 2020, and this time taking it to the next level by going abroad. "

March, when it began...

We all remember watching the evening news at the beginning of last year. We remember the numbers in Italy and China growing; slow at first and then doubling by the day.

In the first week of March, we had a string of meetings about Covid at Codaisseur. With such an international team, our colleagues were seeing their home countries being shut down completely. We didn’t want to wait, we needed to act.

We made the difficult decision on Friday the 13th (coincidence?) of March that we needed to move to online education ASAP. We decided that everyone should work from home, and all courses would become remote in order to do our best in containing the spread.

We did not wait for the official decision from the Dutch government.

We put the safety of our staff and students first. Starting from that following week, all of our classes were held online. The team spent long days ( and nights) getting everything ready; buying new equipment, setting up software, testing cameras and internet connections. We all pulled together and within just a few days we were running 100% remotely.

At that time, we had 3 classes running parallel onsite, as well as our job search period for our recent graduates. That equated to almost 90 students & graduates to train, coach and ultimately, assist them find their dream job, in a new, virtual environment that neither we nor our employment partners, had ever navigated before.

May, we started feeling the real impact

Around May, we started noticing the first impacts on our business. Our graduates were landing fewer interviews than usual. Many of them wouldn’t even receive a rejection. Companies started ghosting everyone. The pandemic was starting to be felt by more and more companies here in the Netherlands.

classroom picture before and after covid

Our students come to us with the dream of becoming a developer. Those that pass our admissions process, receive a big promise from us: if you don’t graduate or don’t find a job within the job search period then we will waive all of your tuition fees. We put tremendous faith in our students and academy. The data from the previous years showed that on average 92% of all graduates were getting hired within 3 months. Now we were starting to worry that we might not be able to accomplish our goal of getting all of these amazing and inspiring graduates hired.

After 4 consecutive weeks where our graduates were seeing very few interviews, we considered what actions we could take to help our graduates find employment during these unprecedented times. We increased the number of required job applications per week during the job search period from four to six. We also asked that graduates track their job applications using specific tools. We asked that they check in with us via video call at least once a week, and that they attend all workshops we set up for them. We asked a lot. Maybe we asked too much.

"We asked a lot. Maybe we asked too much. "

Just like our staff, our graduates were exhausted and stressed. No one was ready for the toll the pandemic would take on our mental health; social distancing and learning from home is hard. No matter your living situation - whether you live with your family, partner, kids, a roommate or alone, we can admit that this year presented challenges that we all had to adapt to without any preparation.

Around a month later, we had to start releasing graduates. Their 3-month job search period was up, and we had failed them. When they applied at Codaisseur we told them that if they graduated from our academy, they would have a 92% chance of getting hired.

June, "just keep pushing"

The team pulled together again to try to come up with some options for students. They had signed up for an on-site course, surrounded by fellow students, teachers and staff. We had promised them a hot lunch on the house each day, and unlimited amounts of strong black coffee to keep them going.

We decided to make them an offer; to extend their job search period and all the coaching/workshops that come with it, for an extra 2 months. We scheduled 1:1 weekly check-ins with every single student. We wanted to make sure we were doing everything in our power to help them succeed. We listened to their concerns and worries. After collecting all their feedback, we decided to offer them a 25% discount on their tuition fee if they agreed to the extended period.

Most of our students understood the situation and agreed to the modifications. After all, ultimately, we the staff have the same goal as our students - we want our students to gain the skills needed to find employment.

At the beginning of the summer, our historical hiring rate of 92% that we were so proud of, dropped to 85%. And this was just the overall number. Looking closer at the individual classes that had graduated in 2020, we saw that some classes had a hiring rate as low as 50%. We had a lot of disappointed graduates.

image of hiring rate

Around the same time, we started to hear about layoffs. Graduates that had been employed only a few months were being told that their contracts weren’t being renewed. Companies that were navigating their own business challenges, including loss of clients or reduction in revenue, were making tough employment decisions. This was new ground for us.

We had never had to think about graduates losing their jobs because even when it occasionally happened, they would be snapped up within days. We proudly boasted this at every Open Evening we hosted. It was a genuine concern for incoming students; ‘What happens if I lose my job?’. We would offer them a 3-month pause on paying back their tuition fee, and in the 2 and a half years working here, I can honestly say I could count on one hand the number of students that weren’t re-employed before those 3 months expired.

"Our well-known USPs were now working against us. We needed to once again adapt to this new world around us."

But suddenly things were now different. Even our graduates with months of experience working for well-known companies were having difficulty finding employment, and unexpectedly, our 3-month payment pause was like throwing salt in an open wound.

What was once our well-known USPs (unique selling points) were now working against us.

We needed to once again adapt to this new world around us.We decided to ditch the fixed 3-month payment pause and started to offer any graduate that lost their job the option of paying back with extremely low payment options, interest-free. We also invited them all back into our brand new, reinvented Career Accelerator program. We wanted to help them all find a new job.

September, there is hope!

Around September 2020, we started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We started performing matchmaking for companies looking to hire new talent, reducing their time spent on recruitment intensively.  We also started bringing together our hiring partners with our alumni during virtual hiring events where they could meet each other for short informal chats.

By Autumn 2020, we were getting a handle in our new, virtual school. Our teachers went above and beyond. They worked all day, and pulled many all-nighters making sure that all of our students felt fully supported on their journey, even while learning remotely.

Over the past few months, we’ve held 4 successful virtual hiring events, entirely online. Our hiring partner list started growing again.

image of virtual hiring event

By the end of October, our graduates were getting more and more interviews and our hiring rate is starting to pick up again. Class #39 finished with a 73% hiring rate,  and class #40 pulled off an inspiring 100% hiring rate! Every single graduate landed a kick-ass job. Our graduates have found employment with digital agencies that are reaping the new opportunities, while several multinationals have reached out asking to join our hiring partner list.

December, the Recap

The world has changed immensely over the past 11 months. At Codaisseur, we have worked crazy hours trying to adjust our school to operate in this new, virtual world and still deliver on our promises to our students. However, it is impossible to keep everyone happy and satisfied, and over the past few months we racked up a few negative reviews online from students that felt scammed.

They are right; they signed up for an 11-week course onsite, with a 3-month job search period, and a 92% chance of finding employment. And instead, they found themselves with us in the middle of a Pandemic, while we were still adapting ourselves.

If the pandemic has taught us something, it’s that it’s not always about doing more of the same. It showed us that we also have to keep reinventing ourselves, looking for different ways where we can keep bridging the talent gap in tech.

We started off by just working longer, harder and stronger. We did not get the results we were looking for, instead, our entire staff was running on fumes. We all felt like letting our students down, we couldn't deliver any more on what we so proudly had done for all our students before.

We learned fast that we all need to be continuously adapting and improving.

2021, looking ahead!

I’m excited to share that 2021 will be the year where Codaisseur fully fulfils its mission of making education accessible while diversifying the tech scene!

We just launched our first part-time Cyber Security course, with 17 amazing students. In only a few months, these students will start applying for jobs such as Cyber security Specialist, Analyst or Ethical Hacker.

Our two new bootcamps Machine Learning and Ethical Hacking will be rolled out over the next few weeks. We have a brand new partnership with Google and Coursera that we will announce very soon. We are also ready to launch our Admissions Training Camp that will be aimed for very beginners, to make sure you have a solid foundation in development before starting our more advanced courses. We are opening the doors of Tech to all those who never had the opportunity to study it at school.

"If the pandemic has taught us something, it’s that it’s not always about doing more of the same. It showed us that we also have to keep reinventing ourselves, looking for different ways where we can keep bridging the talent gap in tech."

Want to stay up to date with the latest Codaisseur news?

Spread the word

Keep reading