It started with a simple question. In the fall of 2017, a classmate asked me how he could learn the basics of software. He felt that having even a broad understanding would give him an edge in his investment management role. “Maybe I should join the Coding Club,” he mused, to which I replied, “I don’t think there is one.” What he said next was unexpected but made perfect sense: “You should start one.”
That was the genesis of the Wharton Coding Club, which provides a forum in which MBA students can come together and learn about building software. Roashan Ayene C12 ENG12 WG19 and I launched the club last spring after seeing the enthusiasm and desire among our classmates to broaden their skills. How do you build a website? Create statistical modeling in R? Spin up a cloud server? We wanted to create a community in which to discuss these topics and more.
Our members have diverse experience levels, and we work hard to ensure that beginners feel welcome. The club also represents a wide range of careers—we have consultants, bankers, and entrepreneurs, among others. Our most popular offerings include hands-on workshops about machine learning and the Python programming language, as well as guest speakers such as Christine Hurtubise C08, vice president of data science at Stash Invest.
We’re a new organization, and much like a startup, we’ve had to pivot several times after early disappointments. One example was the idea of creating “Coding Teams,” with four to five students working together on a common learning objective. While coding is a collaborative pursuit, our team-activity concept didn’t catch on. We continue to collect feedback and learn from each experience to build the most useful and robust programming possible.
Now in its second year, the Coding Club has grown from 50 to 150 members. We have some ambitious goals for the future, including the launch of a Hackathon and our own Startup Challenge. We’re also working on creating deeper ties with the burgeoning technology ecosystem at Wharton, including a “Women in Technology” panel in partnership with the Wharton 22s and the Vice Dean’s Diversity & Inclusion Fund this spring.
Because technology plays an increasingly critical role in every industry, it’s an exciting time to lead a tech-focused student club at Wharton. We’re looking forward to introducing more students to the world of coding, whether they’re hoping to gain a competitive edge in their careers, learn a new skill, or just have fun flexing a different part of their brains with like-minded classmates. —Kahini Shah WG19 (with Anthony Farias-Eisner WG20)
Published as “Cracking the Code” in the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of Wharton Magazine.