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Code Ninjas hires first VP of education


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Grant Smith

Grant Smith earned his bachelor’s degree in information systems, then found his way to teaching STEM—science, technology, engineering, math—and coding in elementary and middle schools. He helped write curriculum for codeSpark, code.org and Girl Scouts of America. He even helped write the standards for K-12 education for computer science. Now, he’s the first vice president of education at Code Ninjas, which teaches coding to kids.

“My background sounds intentional, like everything I did was to get to where I am, but none of it was,” Smith said. “When I saw Code Ninjas, I thought, this is finally what I’ve been searching for.”

Code Ninjas has more than 200 locations open across the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom. In his new role, Smith plans to focus on expanding class offerings and programs to teenagers and adults, plus offer additional content within each existing program.

“I’m just so excited. This is the largest curriculum team I’ve worked on,” Smith said.

Code Ninjas added badges to its Create program, where kids progress through foundational knowledge by making their own game. Kids must now earn one badge in a topic they choose—such as AI or self-driving cars—to progress to the next belt color. Expansion plans include more European countries, which will require careful planning to translate material and ensure the content is relevant for new audiences.

“A lot of other countries are ahead of us, so the expectations for parents and kids will be different,” Smith said. “In the U.K., coding and computer science has been around for a lot longer, and we’ll need to make sure what we develop for them is developmentally appropriate for where they’re at in their education.”


Executive Ladder

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Arby’s appointed Patrick Schwing as its new chief marketing officer.

Taco John’s promoted Brooks Speirs to vice president for franchise development.

Dave & Buster’s named Brandon Coleman III as its senior vice president and chief marketing officer.

Darin Harris

Darin Harris

Mike Kappitt joined Subway as chief operating and insights officer. Subway also named Mike Kehoe as president of its newly formed EMEA region, the result of a merger of its Europe, Middle East and Africa regions.

BrightStar Care promoted Dean Ulizio to chief strategy officer.

Lightbridge Academy hired Benjamin Blake as its new chief information officer.

Jimmy John’s named Darin Dugan chief marketing officer.

Joel Reynders joined Tijuana Flats as its vice president of culinary and executive chef.

GPS Hospitality, a large franchisee of Burger King, Popeyes and Pizza Hut, promoted Michael Lippert to president.

McDonald’s named Heidi Capozzi executive vice president and global chief people officer.

Winmark Corp. named Renae Gaudette as president of franchising and promoted Bradley Spencer and Alan Majerko.   

Global Franchise Group, franchisor of Great American Cookies and others, named Paul Damico as CEO.

Steven Cirulis joined Potbelly as its CFO and chief strategy officer.

Heidi Capozzi

Heidi Capozzi

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Starbucks veteran Josh Guenser joined MOD Pizza as its CFO.

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Pete Pascuzzi was appointed CEO of Mexican Restaurants Inc., a franchisor of Casa Olé, Monterey’s Little Mexico, Überrito Fresh Mex, Tortuga Mexican Kitchen and Crazy Jose’s.

Fast-casual restaurant chain Ori’Zaba’s named Adam Petersen as franchise sales manager.

Hungry Howie’s Pizza appointed Tonya Michael as new vice president of operations.

The Glass Guru promoted Rob Lopez to vice president of franchise business development.

Subway named Mike Kehoe as president of its newly formed EMEA region, the result of a merger of its Europe, Middle East and Africa regions.

Young Rembrandts promoted Lizi Wahl to director of operations.

Send promotions and new hire news in franchising to Callie Evergreen, cevergreen@franchisetimes.com.

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