Makers – the company Claudia runs today – was designed to unlock this pool of under-discovered talent. Makers retrains people to be software engineers, putting them through a 16-week boot camp which lands them an entry level job and a £33k salary in one of the most exciting – and important – careers of modern times. Uniquely, Makers selects students based on their aptitude and attitude – an ideal known in HR circles as blind recruiting – rather than their CV. This opens up the tech industry’s appetite for engineers to the under-discovered talent held back by our traditional education system.
Makers training goes beyond just software engineering. “Yes, we train people to be software engineers, but more than that,” says Claudia, building on her McKinsey experience, “we train people to learn how to learn and feel confident in solving problems.” Students are given problem-solving tools, but this also gives themselves the tools to be happy because they feel in control of their own destiny.
“I feel passionate that this is a space that can have a really big impact on how people feel about their own lives and their work.”
The art of being a CEO
Transitioning from consultancy to being a CEO is not necessarily straightforward. For one, you have to shift away from an ‘advising’ mindset towards the ‘doing’ mindset. But for Claudia, this wasn’t the issue. “I have always been quite a doer. More than your average McKinsey person”, she says. “But I still made a million mistakes in my first year,” she admits.
One early lesson was to close her laptop. At McKinsey, she lived behind a screen, deep in presentations, spreadsheets and documents. And on elevating to her first gig as CEO, she continued to spend too much time at her desk before the truth dawned on her. “The art of being a CEO is to never have your laptop open. You should be talking to people, almost never touching a document or computer.”
The biggest thing Claudia noticed after leaving McKinsey was “just how strong the culture had been”, and how everyone had bought in to it. It was so strong as to be almost imperceptible and yet it underpinned and held the organisation together. Processes run smoothly and management is (relatively) easy with such a strong culture. It was clear to Claudia that building and maintaining a culture of that ilk would likely be a prerequisite of success as a CEO.
The culture at Makers was clearly one of its strengths and what attracted Claudia to the role: “Makers was always a business focused on doing the right thing”. Her predecessor, Evgeny Shadchnev, believed that everybody should enjoy their work, and founded the company with that very idea at its core. “We have a Chief Joy Officer. She was Evgeny’s first hire”. In fact, sustaining an enjoyable work experience for staff and students was so fundamental to Evgeny that it formed the foundation of the company’s values: “At Makers we favour trust over fear, nurture a growth mindset, and prioritise joy”.
That Makers should care passionately about individual’s personal development should be no surprise. Taking inspiration from their students, the team at Makers are encouraged and supported in their personal growth. And a walk through the office demonstrates the sheer joy of their work. Employees are also encouraged to share this joy through a culture of appreciation. “Thanking people around you and them thanking you back has a really positive cultural effect.”