Some students at the MyTechBestFriend academy have always been a little suspicious of the program and its founder, Mary Awodele.
Since its founding in 2020, a whisper network murmured that many of the materials taught by the academy were plagiarized from various other online programs, such as those from Google or Salesforce. Founded by Awodele in 2020, MyTechBestFriend (also stylized as My Tech Bestfriend or simply MTBF. The company rebranded to The Career Ingredient after the publication of this story) launched to public acclaim, especially within the Black tech community. For a minimum of $3,000, it offers to teach tech career skills, such as technical writing, and help people land tech jobs.
A lot of the students who signed up for MTBF were new in tech. Some took out loans, quit their jobs or used their savings to participate in the program. Many didn’t know that ServiceNow, Google and Salesforce offered very similar — if not identical — courses for free or at a much lower cost. Those who did know were afraid to speak out. Until now, that is.
The last straw
Last Monday afternoon, Awodele sat in a Zoom meeting with her camera off. The students attending her academy, MyTechBestFriend, were upset. Earlier that day, Awodele had suddenly removed a student from their Cohort 2 Discord chat who had asked a question, those familiar with the situation said. Others privy to goings on at MTBF say the Discord incident was not the first time Awodele had allegedly punished a student for speaking.
“We all got really scared and nervous because we could ask a question, and depending on what kind of question it is and the way she takes it, that could be the end to your acceptance,” said Mandy, a former student, recalling to TechCrunch what the day-to-day at MTBF was like. (TechCrunch granted anonymity to former students so they could speak freely about their time at MTBF. We’re using a pseudonym here.)
But after two years of what students alleged to be poor leadership and a culture of silence, they were set on making this incident the last time Awodele retaliated against a boot camp attendee. Those in the Cohort 2 Discord group recalled that after the ousting, a fellow student quickly came to the removed student’s defense. Then shortly after, another student, in frustration, shared in the Discord chat a video that Awodele had made only the day before.
It was an Instagram video, seen by TechCrunch, in which Awodele said she would no longer serve as a reference for students who didn’t tell her if they’ve obtained a job offer. Awodele, who is Black, said that people receiving job offers without telling her was worse than being called the N-word — and she used a hard “R.” The students were stunned. Chaos ensued in the Cohort 2 Discord.
The chat, home to about 700 students, was deleted around 10:30 that morning. The Discord contained the materials students needed to get through the minimum three-month program. TechCrunch spoke to a dozen people, including an instructor and several students, who said Awodele was hostile and led harassment campaigns against those who spoke out against her. Many said Awodele carefully monitored students’ social media accounts.
When reached for comment by TechCrunch, Awodele confirmed some allegations and denied others. At least three students said that they were not allowed to create external social groups with other students. Some said they were not allowed to speak online about Awodele or the boot camp without her permission. A scholarship contract seen by TechCrunch reveals that MTBF recipients had to put the hashtag #MTBFstudent in their social media bios; one person, whose sister is in the program, suggested it was so Awodele could find her students at all times.