Letters to the Company: Disagreements

When success happens, people tend to view the path leading up to that success with rose-colored glasses.

For those who actually experience the victory, forgetting the past can be blinding. For outside observers, the the tendency is to assume smoother sailing than actually happened and idealize a parts of a story that aren’t rooted in reality.

Any healthy company will walk a path of difficult discussion at some point, and The Iron Yard is no different. Here’s a letter I wrote explaining this to our team:

Hey team,

I wanted to clarify a few things that are critically important for our company.

Disagreements happen because everyone at The Iron Yard really cares about what we are doing

When disagreements arise, it’s *so* important for us to remember that we are all on the side of the student—we are fighting for the same thing. We just happen to disagree on how to go about it.

That’s normal. We are all talented, passionate, entrepreneurial people. We won’t agree on everything all of the time. That’s a clear symptom of a great company: people free to share their opinions and hash things out. Looking at every angle will make all of us better.

This won’t be the last difference of opinion that happens. As a team we will make good decisions and bad ones—it’s part of growing and learning. Sometimes our personal opinions will be the direction things go, other times we will have to concede.

As long as we keep in mind that we are all fighting for amazing life change in our students and handle these conversations in a civil, respectful manner, it will be a good, normal healthy process.

I’ve learned a ton just by hearing the incredibly smart things said on both ends of this discussion.

As a company, we are committed to giving everyone the freedom to do awesome things and make the decisions that go along with that freedom

I want to be crystal clear about this: throughout this entire discussion there was never any intention of sealing the deal with a dictatorial decision.

My fear is that some of you may have thought, “oh crap, some people don’t like this decision so they are going to drop the Iron Hammer and overrule it” without considering the other side of the equation. That is not accurate. People have strong opinions, and some of us are really direct about brining them to the table 🙂

This company is the people who make it up—we deeply respect the opinions of everyone we’ve hired.

At the end of the day, the Team X ((1. The letter in this post has been edited so as not to include specific names or team names.)) needs to make the best decision for their team and students—that decision comes out of a desire to provide the best, highest quality, most amazing experience for our students.

Please know that the emphasis of this discussion was around the excitement of collaboration and encouraging the new cohorts in general. I am absolutely positive that everyone in the company supports that effort and it will happen in many amazing ways.

Please be honest and share how you feel

Problems often arise in companies because people don’t share how something makes them feel, don’t feel like they are heard/valued/respected, etc.

We need to fight that tendency with everything we have. That begins with each one of us bringing our thoughts to the table when we feel we need to.


I’ve said this before, but it’s a privilege to work with each and every one of you. It’s a privilege to learn from this team every day.

Let’s keep fighting to be the best code school in the world…disagreements and all 🙂


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Practicing the art of bringing guns to a knife fight.

4 thoughts on “Letters to the Company: Disagreements”

  1. You guys need to know what a tremendous job you’re all doing. A letter like this being shared with the company just solidifies what’s been evident at every point along the way so far – The Iron Yard is absolutely the best development education in the country. As a current student, of course I greatly appreciate this level of excellence and commitment to students. Keep up the great work!

  2. This article couldn’t have come at a better time. At the risk of sticking my neck out and being the boisterous voice of my cohort, which seems to have become my MO, I’ll fight the tendency to not share how I, & my fellow classmates, are feeling in an effort to start a dialogue.

    We are waterfalling it. We should be scrumming it, and we know that. And we want to scrum it. But we are in a pure freefall-waterfall, or atleast that is how we feel. Maybe we are supposed to be waterfalling right now. Maybe we just need some reassurance that we are in fact waterfalling. That we are just going to keep pushing toward our goal without evaluating our progress, and that is cool because that is the plan. Personally I think we need to have some sort of “let’s evaluate where we are” scrum style meeting, but who knows. Nevertheless, communication.

    1. Austin, I’m so glad to hear that my words were an encouragement. I’m glad you chose to speak up—we always encourage honesty at The Iron Yard.

      First, and most importantly, the discussion about where you’re at will come. You’re halfway through, and over the next few weeks you’ll have reached a point where you have enough understanding about the discipline you are studying for that to be a productive conversation. I know that you can feel like you’re in the dark some of the time, but trust us—we’ve done this before and as I said in this post, our #1 mission is to help you become successful.

      As for waterfalling, or, more accurately, it seems, feeling like you are free falling: that is completely normal at this point. In fact, we talk about how our students feel often as a company. That’s why we tell each student in the interview process that this isn’t an easy road.

      The core of this issue is that your experience during class (and what that feels like) and the reality of how much you’ve learned and where you stand in the industry are extremely hard to put into perspective.

      Our classes are like training under an Olympic weight lifter alongside a dozen other people, all who have little or no experience working out. The trainer doesn’t start light, he starts everyone at the maximum weight they can handle and progressively adds more. It’s painful. It seems literally impossible at times. But that’s not the hardest part.

      The hardest part is that weight—how much you can lift—is the measure you use to compare yourself both to the trainer and to the people training next to you. That’s understandable, because weight is what you live and breathe during training. But that benchmark can also be very misleading. Comparing yourself to the trainer is non-sense because they have years of experience, whereas you have weeks. Comparing yourself to the people next to you can be misleading because everyone has different body types and builds, which makes them better or worse or faster or slower at different types of lifting. There’s also the temptation to think that your training regimen is comparable to the ‘average’ weight lifter out there, which it most certainly is not. Still, though, because you are living and breathing amounts of weight, it’s easy for you to feel inadequate compared with both the instructor and the people training next to you, then use that to try and get an idea of where you stand in the world of fitness in general.

      When you let your mind travel that path, the monumental misconception is that the training program has nothing to do with how much you can lift and everything to do with how much stronger you are getting relative to when you started. How much muscle you’ve built, personally. How much grit you’ve developed to wake up every morning and keep going, no matter how hard it gets.

      The difficult part for us at The Iron Yard is that even if we try to tell you how you stack up in the spectrum of junior-level programming talent, it still doesn’t seem real because the only benchmarks you have to measure yourself by are the instructor and your classmates.

      So, hold on tight, keep your head down, keep getting stronger and soon we’ll talk about where you’re at.

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