Alumna Leverages Military Experience, MBA as a Leader in Coding Education
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After serving in the United States Navy and in the Reserves, Koma Gandy (MBA’06) knew she would need additional experiences and preparation to lay the foundation for a successful career outside of the Navy. Upon returning from deployment at the early years of the Iraq War, Gandy decided to further her career and go back to school to earn an MBA at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business.
“I loved Washington, D.C., and I felt like Georgetown had a uniqueness that was supportive, yet competitive,” Gandy said. “The smaller cohort sizes gave students the opportunity to meet other students, but at the same time, we were challenged academically. The Georgetown McDonough name has grown to be a leader in global education and this hidden gem continues to produce high caliber graduates.”
Gandy explained how Georgetown McDonough exposed her to faculty who were invested in her success — giving her a solid foundation and refined toolkit to tackle challenges during her career. She continues to lean on the framework and methodology that was instilled in her while earning her MBA.
“Georgetown doesn’t hide from its Jesuit identity,” Gandy said. “Even if you’re coming from a non-Christian or Catholic background, it’s hard to argue going out into the world and being tasked with making things better and more equitable than you found them. That comes through in their philosophy and expectations for integration in a global community.”
Shortly after graduation, Gandy spent 10 years in the finance sector, including at Ernst & Young and Morgan Stanley. However, in early 2019, she was presented with a career opportunity that would take her out of finance completely. Gandy was offered a chance to join the curriculum team at Codecademy, an online platform that offers coding classes in 12 different programming languages. She also became the head of curriculum in March of 2020.
“I have always been a mission-driven person that seeks to create opportunities for people who may not have the same opportunities, which has always been a common thread in my life,” said Gandy. “So when I got to combine that mission-driven aspect of my personality with my business interests, it was a pretty compelling argument for me to make that leap.”
Now serving as one of Codeacademy’s five vice presidents, Gandy works to ensure the organization offers the right type of instruction to learners. She leads a team that follows pedagogically sound principles with respect to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. She works to close the gap between those who have these skills and the places that need those people. Gandy and her team strive to teach machine learning to make the environment more equitable through the ethical application of technologies that have often been used to further institutionalize biases and inequities the world faces today.
“There are a lot of considerations that need to be looked at when instructing people and giving them the opportunity to improve through machine learning,” said Gandy. “We have a responsibility to make ethical decisions and I think there is an opportunity for Codecademy to be a real leader in that space.”
Gandy’s time at Georgetown McDonough helped her build on her ethical decision-making process, which has always been at the core of Gandy’s leadership philosophy. She has carried that sense of purpose with her throughout her career.
“In my opinion, you’re expected to be an ethical MBA that is not just concerned with maximizing shareholder value, but maximizing human value,” said Gandy. “We embrace the Jesuit values we are taught when we make decisions for others and not just ourselves.”
In addition to her responsibilities at work, Gandy also takes the time to give back to her alma mater. Over the summer she, along with Jason Schloetzer, associate professor of accounting, hosted a webinar on A Reskilling Revolution: Lifelong Learning and the Future of Work.