Shonna Dorsey is the Managing Director and Co-founder of Interface Web School, an organization that offers web development courses with the goal of increasing the number of tech talent in startups, small businesses and corporations in the Midwest.
This week we caught up with Shonna to talk about her career path, biggest challenges and best advice to jobseekers.
AIM: How did you decide to get into the tech field?
SD: I went back to school in 2008 to pursue a master’s degree at UNO. I was actually thinking about getting into pharmacy, and had some experiences that led me to believe that the thing that mattered to me most was helping people, but to empower them too. I just didn’t feel like I was going to get that from being a pharmacist.
Tech seemed like a way to do that, so I went back to UNO and worked on a masters in MIS. During my last semester I took a capstone course and was the project manager for my group. Our group worked on an app for a local nonprofit called Project Harmony. That experience really solidified that I could use tech to help people, and from there it was just a matter of figuring out how to bridge the two.
AIM: How did Interface start?
SD: In the summer of 2013 I met Mark Hasebroock and kind of talked to him about what I wanted to do and we kept in touch. Later that year, he asked me what I thought about starting up a code school, and honestly I didn’t think it was something that would work in Omaha.
I ended up doing some research and realized that people were actually getting really good jobs after they graduated from these types of schools. I talked to Mark off and on a bit throughout the rest of 2013, and then finally decided to quit my job and start Interface with Mark, Beth Engel, Jake Stutzman, Jerod Santo and Seth Carlson.
AIM: What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome while founding Interface?
SD: One big challenge is being a black woman in tech in Omaha, Nebraska. It’s hard because when I first started, I just felt like I had to really work hard to build up credibility. Having Mark on the board really helped because he is extremely credible.
However, over time I realized that if I was going to lead the company I couldn’t continue to hold onto those crutches. Mark helped me a lot during that time by just backing off and not going into meetings. He basically saw something in me that I didn’t see, and he helped me prove to myself that I could do it.
AIM: What’s the biggest piece of advice you’d give to someone who’s interested in changing up their career?
SD: I remember there was a time when I wanted to become like a software developer. I started talking to people that did that type of work and asked them what it was like and how they got good at it. I think finding different meetup groups is a good way to figure out if it’s something you’d be interested in. It’s just good to get into that community.
AIM: Can you tell me more about your meetup groups?
SD: Well I started out not knowing anyone in the startup community and I was trying to think of ways I could get involved in an authentic way that was meaningful to me. With help from people like Autumn Pruitt, Nick Nisi and Sandi Barr, I ended up forming a few groups like Coffee && Code, Wine && Code and Coding Bliss to get more involved in the startup scene and to create a unique experience for participants.
We host these meetups at places like Aroma’s and give out free pastries and coffee. It’s just an opportunity for me to talk about Interface super quickly and to hear about what other individuals in the community are working on and what they are passionate about. It’s really great to weave the community together in that way.
Are you interested in finding a career in IT? Check out the latest openings here.
Brilliant People of Omaha: A series of discovery.
Welcome to Brilliant People of Omaha. In this series we will sit down with local brilliant individuals who love their jobs, have excellent career advice and are ready to share their story about how they came into their current position.
We will talk to a variety of people in this series including: developers, designers, managers, CEOs, interns, etc. Everyone has a story, and we are here to uncover it and see what we can learn from the brilliant people around us.
Do you have someone you’d like to nominate as a brilliant person of Omaha? Drop Melanie Lucks a line at email@example.com. We’d love to hear from you.