Irma Olguin, the tech CEO of Geekwise Academy, is not your typical CEO. Though she lives in California, where many business owners have taken to big cities, such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, Olguin runs her business in Fresno, California, one of the poorest cities in the United States.
She spends her workdays with pink hair, normally wearing T-shirts and jeans, and depended on recycling cans and bottles to afford the transportation fee to the University of Toledo, where she was the first person in her family to earn her degree.
Through her studies, Olguin found her passion for computer science and engineering, a field that is predominately male. Following her graduation in 2004, Olguin had several opportunities to work various tech jobs near her school but ultimately decided to return to Fresno in an attempt to boost the economy. While working with Fresno school districts in both teaching and performing computer programming work, Olguin teamed up with property lawyer Jake Sobreal in 2012. Both being Fresno natives, Olguin and Sobreal decided it was time to teach the natives of their hometown the skills they would need to boost their economy and to better provide for themselves.
In 2013, Geekwise Academy was born, a crash course learning center for coding, technology, and business skills. The academy has given people with a wide variety of backgrounds the inspiration and tools needed to jump back into the workforce. Graduates of the Geekwise Academy have included military veterans, newly released prisoners, and even make up 25% of Shift3 Technologies’ staff.
With the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, Olguin decided to defy the expectations of a potential crashing economy and use the situation to her advantage. In March of 2020, Geekwise Academy went digital where the company received double their usual clientele, despite having opened more locations two years before. Despite the pandemic, Olguin and Sobreal are still working toward opening new locations, despite uncertain real estate numbers.
Given their estimated $27 million in capital backing, $20 million in revenue, and her past of consistently defeating the odds, Olguin’s desire to grow her company, stimulate the economy, and help those desiring a better career, are looking positive. Of her company, Olguin says, “We’ve found a fundamentally different way to rebuild American cities, especially at a time when folks are looking around and saying, ‘What do we do with our economy?’ We think we have the answer to that.”