#WCW – Kathryn Parsons, Founder of Decoded

“If we’re honest about it, we don’t have this digital literacy because we weren’t taught it in schools.”


Web-based coding languages are becoming a part of our daily lives and Kathryn Parsons wants to increase our digital literacy. We see digital code everywhere we look. These are the applications we use on our smart phones and the web pages we visit daily. Parsons’ company, Decoded, teaches anyone to code in a day.


“I saw that technology was changing lives and businesses – there wasn’t a facet of life that was unaffected,” said Parsons.


The British linguist is fluent in Latin, Mandarin, French, and Italian. So, you can imagine how heartbroken she was when she found it hard to hire developers for her creative agency, The Scarlet Mark. Parsons felt that the web-based language we use every day is a language that everyone should know. She deemed coding a dark art.


“I felt like coding was a dark art. I’m a linguist and I wanted to learn the language that underpins our lives right now,” she said.


Her inspiration sparked an idea that seemed unreal but despite the critics, Parsons still teamed up with Ali Blackwell, Steve Henry, and Richard Peters. They came up with their own start-up funding and in January 2011 Decoded was born. They tested the curriculum for eight months and it provided promising results, and in August 2011 Decoded held its first workshop session. There were two instructors and 10 participants involved. After completing the one day workshop, participants were able to build their own app by using programming languages such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.


Fast-forward to 2013, 2,500 employees from over 450 companies attended Decoded workshops and by  September 2014 they almost quadrupled that number. Large clients including Google, eBay, and Microsoft all sent employees to Decoded to learn how to code, launch an app, and visualize data.


In spring 2014, the Guardian Media Group bought a 15 percent stake in Decoded.


“It’s fundamentally wrong that something affecting all our lives is understood by so few people. If we’re honest about it we don’t have this literacy because we weren’t taught it in schools or universities,” said Parsons. Over 500 teachers took the course too. This rose awareness about increasing digital literacy and in 2014 Parsons was able to get coding on the UK curriculum.


In addition to the “code in a day” class,  Decoded  also added “data visualization in a day,” “social data in a day,” “cyber security in a day,” “future platforms in a day,” “digital production in a day,” and “mobile in a day.” The training program also went on to start “codeED in a day” and open-sourced its online materials for UK schoolteachers to use.


Decoded continued to convey its message – the urgent need for professional digital literacy and leadership – and popped up in 40 cities worldwide; including Shanghai, Hong Kong, and LA. The pop ups allowed Decoded to expand and the company now has offices in New York City and Sydney.


Parsons has appeared in Business Insider’s list of The 30 Most Important Women Under 30 in Tech and was listed in several other popular magazines for her work with Decoded.


“We only go when we’re invited …,” said Parsons.

Photo Source – Phoenix Magazine 


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