The new Wharton Coding Club brings MBAs of all backgrounds together to explore software engineering, polishing leadership and teamwork skills along the way.

No coding experience is required to join the Wharton Coding Club.

“The core intention of the club is to bring people together in an environment where they can get past the initial learning curve,” said Kahini Shah, WG’19, its co-president. Coding, she explained, is like any new language. “The hardest parts are learning the alphabet, sentence structures. Once you get there, everything else becomes easy.”

Tackling an unfamiliar language can be a daunting task, so when Kahini and her co-president, Roashan Ayene, WG’19, launched the Coding Club at the start of this year, their own academic and professional backgrounds in engineering and tech guided its structure. In order to provide a fully hands-on experience for MBAs curious about software engineering, their pedagogy falls on a few fundamentals — two being teamwork and fun.

Why Coding Matters

Wharton Coding Club’s Facebook page gained over 100 likes in under 24 hours after going public. It speaks to a particularly receptive audience; now more than ever, Wharton students know that tech skills can give them a competitive edge in the business world.

“I think for the first time this year tech was actually the biggest industry interest group among people with internships and full-time offers. Because of that, there’s a lot of need for people to get exposure to technical skills,” Roashan said.

More importantly, learning how to code can help MBAs acquire more than just a niche skill. “It adds value to your employers to be able to provide creative solutions of your own,” said Vadim Vishnepolsky, WG’19, the club’s vice president of education.

“If you’re managing engineers or if you’re a product manager,” Roashan explained, “just having that technical understanding, being able to speak the language of coders and understand some of the ways they work with things, makes you much better at your job.”

Lessons Beyond Tech

To meet the needs of as many MBAs as possible, the Wharton Coding Club is embracing accessibility and flexibility. Engagement so far has seen instructional classes, working with Coursera, as well as social lunch-and-learns, where members can meet other like-minded people.

Coding is “100% collaboration-based,” according to Vadim. Not only is the club hiring undergraduate computer science TAs, but its system of coding cohorts — students who work in teams on course modules of their choosing — is designed to overcome learning blocks through ample, inter-peer support.

The six-member board is trying to take personal learning styles and overall popular interest into account— it’s the reason why Python and JavaScript topped lesson plans this past semester.

While the future may see the Coding Club hosting Penn-wide hackathons, workshopping Amazon Echo Deals, and collaborating with similar groups at other universities, catering to the Wharton student community is their present priority.

Roashan believes their tech club stands out from similar ones on campus in being less professionally-oriented. Students might be gaining the skills to develop their own apps or advise CIOs on digital strategy, but job placement is not the club’s imperative.

“I really want to emphasize how coding is not only rewarding from a career perspective, but from a personal perspective of being able to tackle any challenge in front of you,” Vadim said. “Sometimes you’re stuck on a problem for days and finally find the code that makes it work — there’s no better feeling in the world.”

— Gloria Yuen with reporting by Caroline Harris

Posted: June 11, 2018

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