Anjali Dighe uses her passion to code to elevate younger generations in Charlotte
People of Charlotte, please meet Anjali Dighe. She and her husband, Vivek, are the owners of Code Ninjas. With locations in Concord and Ballantyne, Code Ninjas provides a fun and engaging environment where kids learn computer coding. Students advance from “white-belt” through “black-belt,” similar to how they would in martial arts. In just a couple of years, the Dighes have created a thriving business that is making a difference in our community.
When did you move to Charlotte and what brought you here?
We moved to Charlotte in late 2017. Vivek (“Ve”) is a native Charlottean and went to Olympic High School. My family moved to Concord in the mid-80s and I went to Northwest Cabarrus High School. With a lot of family in Charlotte, we wanted to make sure our son (now 15) knew what it meant to have family in his life before he left the coop to start his own life in college. After living in Washington, D.C., for over 25 years, my husband and I decided we were also ready for a career change; one in which we could fulfill our itch to become entrepreneurs and also give back to the community we grew up in.
What led you to start Code Ninjas?
One piece of advice that all of our friends who owned companies stated was that whatever we decided to do, know that it will be a 24-hour job. With that, make sure you choose something that you can be passionate about. With our move to NC, one thing we realized was that our educational system was missing a beat when it came to STEM curriculum. We wanted to fulfill a gap, a need, and become a disrupter in the educational field to provide a resource that is right now too difficult for our schools to fulfill.
In addition to learning about coding, our students make lasting friendships and build self-esteem and self-confidence through critical thinking skills, logic, mathematics, and collaboration.
Don’t you also have a personal connection to STEM?
Our son, Deven, is a STEM kid through and through. We knew that there were a lot of kids like him who really wanted to learn about coding but didn’t know where or how to learn it, outside of YouTube or other sources on the internet. We did our research and created business plans and financial models around a few companies out there that were franchises and decided to focus on the Code Ninjas brand.
Tell us how the program works at Code Ninjas.
Code Ninjas offers a unique service to students, between the ages of 8 and 15, of drop-in and summer programs for kids to learn about computer programming, coding, math, and logic and teamwork through gaming. By participating in our classes, workshops, and camps, children experience and master new technologies—giving them a phenomenal foundation of skills. In addition to learning about coding, our students make lasting friendships and build self-esteem and self-confidence through critical thinking skills, logic, mathematics, and collaboration.
What makes your coding classes different?
What if we could harness a piece of that day to allow for students to use their creativity to learn to code by doing exactly what they are doing already… gaming? That is what drives the passion around our student population—how do you create your own app? The only way to do it, is to learn our three languages we teach, start storyboarding and developing the app, and then learn how to take it to market.
Most courses that families find in the Charlotte area for kids at this age are pretty much driven by either block coding or are very short-term classes that last a few weeks. In order to develop that black-belt goal of developing and taking to market their own app, students have to learn three real languages that can take 3 to 4 years to complete. This time creates a community full of students who create long-lasting friendships built around a passion. Our parents also partake in that community and contribute with their experiences and excitement around seeing the successes of their children.
What are some ways that you’ve become involved with the Charlotte community?
Inspiring our students and staff around different subject areas provides added motivation for them to achieve their goals of working through our curriculum and provides added benefit to our parents’ investments in their children’s futures. We do not charge for these events and they are open to our active members of our community.
Speakers have included an FBI agent, the Chief Operating Officer of Saber Interactive, a game development company, and Richie Parker, who overcame being born without arms to become a chassis and body component designer for Hendrick Motorsports.
You’ve also done some pretty interesting field trips. Tell us about that.
Field trips have been another personal goal at Code Ninjas Charlotte by which we have looked towards ways to excite, encourage, and develop our young students. We were pleased to work with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at Charlotte-Douglas Airport in Charlotte, NC, to create a field trip with the Canine Teams, the Explosives Teams, and the Airport Fire Department. In addition, we held a second field trip at Concord-Padgett Regional Airport to meet with TSA, the Civil Air Patrol, and a tour of the Airport Control Tower.
What are some local causes that you’ve supported?
Code Ninjas believes in giving back to our community that we belong to. We have collected candy around Halloween time to send to our troops. We have supported a Code Ninjas family with their efforts to support Dream On 3 with the mission to make dreams come true for children with chronic illnesses, intellectual and developmental disabilities, or life-altering conditions by creating experiences of joy and magic through the world of sports. South Charlotte Chapter Jack and Jill approached us to provide opportunities for their young children to learn more about coding and we are excited to support them a second time in 2020. And we were truly excited to support Patriot’s Path, a non-profit organization that supports veterans, transitioning service members, and military spouses in finding meaningful employment opportunities through continued networking and support.
By giving back to the community we work, live, and play in, we continue to develop strong relationships that continue to drive our personal passion to give back to the community we grew up in.
You have exciting plans for the future, as you grow your business. Can you tell discuss your upcoming initiatives?
Currently, we are looking to work with several corporations around the Charlotte area to provide opportunities to those students who have the drive and passion but don’t have the means to partake in our program. We look forward to working with our professional community to drive the conversation about the needs that our future workforce will have and fulfill the need for skill sets that our children have to have as they work towards their own professional futures. We have to close the income gap and increase the economic mobility not just of the adults in our community, but also of the next generation of leaders within our community.
What are your thoughts on girls and STEM?
One of my personal goals is to really drive a conversation around young girls joining the program so we can continue to close the disparity of education for boys and girls. If we do not drive more young women into these STEM programs, we will continue to see an increase in the wage gap between males and females in the future. Creating relationships within the communities with the Girl Scout Troops and Girls Who Code programs in addition to working alongside non-profits such as the Dottie Rose Foundation and Smart Girls HQ, we can #affectchange for our young girls across the Queen City.
What are some of your favorite things about living and working in the Queen City?
One of my family’s favorite hobbies is to cook. We live to eat and do not eat to live! We also travel to try new places. Coming from the DC area where different types of restaurants are plentiful, we were pleased to find that Charlotte has some amazing restaurants as well! Food is always a great conversation to have with our students, our staff, and our parents.
Charlotte is an incredible community. It has all of the charm of a small city with a lot of the benefits of a large one. Living in the Queen City community for 3 years now, we have bonded with amazing people—both personally and professionally—who have either lived here all their lives or have moved here from another place. The sports, the weather, the people, the arts and music scenes, the food, the events, the culture—what is there not to like!
For more information, visit the Code Ninja website.
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