Interview: Dean Jenkins, Codez Academy

Setting up a business isn’t easy by any means, and many of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs have fought hard wars to get where they are today.

Dean Jenkins proves that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. With health concerns and unemployment stacked up against him, he found a problem and a worthy solution.

His company, the Codez Academy, aims to end the digital skills gap. And Jenkins is full of drive and ambition to make that happen. We talk to him about his company and journey.

TD: Who are you, and what do you do?

DJ: I’m Dean Jenkins and I’m the managing director of computer science academy, Codez Academy. Having left school with few prospects as I struggled with dyslexia and dyscalculia, I ended up bouncing between a few job roles, including work in the construction sector and setting up my own sweet shop business.

I later managed to secure work with healthcare company Learna Cardiff as a web designer, however, and at the age of 25 I discovered a passion for web design and teaching. Codez Academy is the result of my journey. 

TD: What is the Codez Academy?

DJ: Launched in 2015, Codez Academy was set up by myself with the aim of helping to develop digital skills in Wales. Codez Academy is a coding school working with individuals of all ages and all capabilities to ultimately teach anyone the basic skills required to create websites, apps and other digital platforms. We offer classes to cater for every individual from children to adults, which are designed to suit any scenario and fit in around work or busy life schedules. 

TD: Why did you set it up?

At Codez, we understand that computer skills have now become just as important as traditional core subjects such as maths and English, and our goal is to ensure that Wales has the necessary skills to compete digitally.

I set up Codez Academy as I believe that anyone and everyone has the ability to code. I wanted to create a business to prove that traditionally academic teaching isn’t the only way to get ahead in life and provide all of our students with the life skills in order to progress or start a career in the digital industries.

TD: What has your start-up journey been like?

DJ: My journey hasn’t been easy, but it has been fuelled by my passion for getting young people and those who are unemployed into relevant job roles. When I first started in web design, I struggled to learn by simply using Google as there tended to be a lot of text on screen and due to my dyslexia, this was quite challenging. However, I realised there is always ways to learn if you’re determined enough, so I wanted to create a place where children or adults of all capabilities could have an easier experience than I did. 

TD: What makes your business unique?

DJ: At Codez, we don’t simply let our students complete their course and then send them on their way. We also help adults get into employment with our three-month scheme called Digital Roots. By running this scheme, not only do we provide our students with digital skills but we also work with local businesses to provide relevant work experience, ensuring that when they are applying for jobs they are in the best position possible. 

TD: What has been its biggest success and biggest obstacle?

DJ: I believe that my biggest success was my first ever student, who was an eight-year-old boy who learned to code within a week. Teaching children to code has been a huge delight for me generally, as I believe they’re the next generation of tech leaders and not all students will develop future careers through traditional academic methods. 

I’d say the biggest obstacle I experienced was originally starting out and selling the Codez Academy service to potential students. Part of the problem with this was the fact that Codez wasn’t well known previously – we had a lot of profile building to do but I feel as though that has improved a lot over the past year.

TD: Where do you see yourself and the firm in five years’ time?

DJ: In five years’ time, my aim is to ensure the business is firmly established with up to 10 staff, having helped a significant number of students reach their digital potential. Ideally I want Codez Academy to be based around the UK with up to 40 tutors on hand.

From next year onwards, I will be looking to expand into Bristol, London, Manchester and Glasgow. Within ten years, I hope to establish a creative college where students of all abilities can learn vocational skills ranging from coding to engineering, with particular support for students who have learning difficulties.

TD: What advice would you give to the next generation of business people?

DJ: My biggest advice would be not to be scared, and to put yourself outside of your comfort zone. I strongly believe that age is no barrier at all when it comes to starting a venture – just believe in yourself and the potential you have.

I’ve received my fair share of criticism but have chosen to ignore any negative comments and just keep on going. Overall, the best advice I can give is not to be scared and learn to take risks, because they usually pay off. Even though certain decisions may seem intimidating at the time, they can be crucial to your success.