Saron Yitbarek pursued diverse career disciplines — from her college plans to become a doctor to a stint in news — before she found her calling in tech community building.
Yitbarek emigrated to the United States from Ethiopia as a child and worked at NPR and Discover Magazine after she graduated college. But rather than assimilating to the cultural and professional norms she experienced in journalism, Yitbarek sought out her own path, she told the Free Code Camp podcast.
She emailed tech startup founders in the New York City area, which ultimately led to an internship and later a full-time account executive job with the content marketing platform Contently, she told They Got Acquired. After feeling the freedom to build something new, Yitbarek was hooked.
“When I worked in journalism, I was part of something that was already established and I had to insert myself into a system that already existed,” Yitbarek told the Free Code Camp podcast. “[This startup] feels like we have no social norms quite yet, we have no rules, we don’t really really know what we’re doing and we’re going to figure it out. And I was really excited to be a part of that figuring-out process and not part of the assimilating-to-something-that-already-existed process.”
CodeNewbie: From weekly Twitter chat to forum and conference
A few years later, in 2014, Yitbarek launched CodeNewbie as a weekly Twitter chat for new programmers who were learning the craft. The organization grew from social media-based conversations to a dedicated online forum, an annual conference called CodeLand, and podcasts on coding topics. In addition to hosting the CodeLand conference, Yitbarek has hosted hundreds of podcasts on programming, technology, inclusiveness, ethics and more.
By late 2019, Yitbarek had amassed a dedicated following of tens of thousands of users, she told us, and she considered selling the firm to move onto other projects. She ultimately found a buyer in the very company on which she built CodeNewbie’s forum: the open-source software company Forem, which acquired CodeNewbie in November 2019 for an undisclosed amount.
In 2017, Forem launched DEV, a tech community with a similar educational mission to CodeNewbie. DEV, which attracts more than 5 million unique visitors per month and has 250,000 registered users, raised an $11.5 million series A round in November 2019, the company said in a press release.
Together, DEV and CodeNewbie now offer a large support system for programmers of all levels, providing podcasts, Twitter chats, the annual CodeLand conference, hackathons and a platform for developers to write about their knowledge and experience.
Yitbarek is now a consultant for Forem, and she hosts two podcasts for the community as well as the annual CodeLand conference.