When it comes to higher education, taking a non-traditional path or choosing a new format can still be a scary choice for many people. Specifically, our code bootcamp format can seem too good to be true – spend three months learning in an intense, immersive environment, and come out on the other side ready to interview for a job as a software developer?
As a long-time programmer and computer science purist, Luke Segars was still skeptical of code bootcamps when he started looking into entering the technology education space a few months ago. Today, he’s our Front-End Engineering instructor in Charlotte. Here’s his story.
Luke graduated from Clemson University with a degree in Computer Science in 2009. He’d been into programming since high school, and realized over time that he not only enjoyed the world of coding, but he also enjoyed the challenge of communicating a complex skill set and new way of thinking to other people. “I taught coding and tutored some kids while I was in college, and decided to pursue computer science education during grad school at UC Berkeley,” he said. After finishing his master’s degree, he went to work for Google for three years as a product manager. “Interestingly, I found that there are a lot of parallels between instruction and product management,” he said.
Though he loved his job with Google, Luke couldn’t help but continue to be drawn to education. He knew he wanted to be intentional about choosing a career that would have a broad impact on people’s lives and on a broken education system. When he started looking into non-traditional options in education, he kept coming back to the idea of a code bootcamp. “I was a little skeptical, to be honest, of bootcamps,” he said. “As someone who’s gone through traditional Computer Science, and gone to school for years and years, I was curious more than anything but a little surprised to find out that someone could actually learn and develop these skills that had taken me years in only a couple of months.” He started interviewing students who had graduated from several different bootcamps to learn about both their experiences and their confidence.
“Pretty much across the board, everyone said they’d gotten a lot out of code school, and they’d developed things that I was honestly surprised to hear they could develop and had really good experiences. So, I came to be a believer in bootcamps as an option to make a positive change for a lot of people in a way that the current next best option is adequate but not perfectly designed to do.”
As part of his research, Luke came across a good bit of feedback about The Iron Yard. But what made him decide to apply to be an instructor? “The biggest thing for me was actually understanding the motivations of the people who are driving the ship,” he said. “There are a lot of ways you can do education incorrectly, and it’s really hard to know the difference. But I found that people are really in it for the right reasons here. They are passionate about what they are teaching and passionate about teaching itself, which is a pretty hard combination to find in my experience.”
Luke will officially begin teaching his first cohort at our new Charlotte campus location next week. How is he feeling about getting back into the classroom? “To be able to look at someone and see them putting in hard work and help them get from point A to point B is going to be awesome,” he said. “There’s something special about getting to know the name of every person I’ll be working with. That’s something I wasn’t expecting to miss as much as I did when I was at Google, but I actually am really excited to get back to.”
Though most of his professional career had been spent in California, Luke’s roots were always planted in the Carolinas. So, when the opportunity to help build the Charlotte campus opened, he jumped at the chance to be part of our growing team. “Starting a school is something that has always been on my professional bucket list, and in many ways, I look at this opportunity as introducing a fresh concept to education in a new place,” he said. “We’ve got the support of a strong organization and the Charlotte community has already embraced us. I think Charlotte is ready for a tech infusion – it’s already rich with talent and opportunity.”
In addition to programming and teaching, Luke loves inventing things. He enjoys finding solutions to problems and pushing himself to do something he’s never done before. Whether it’s inventing a piece of hardware, building a shelf, or practicing martial arts, Luke is constantly on the hunt for the next challenge. If there’s a class being offered in the area – you’ll probably find him there. But at the end of the day, his passion for the classroom is at the top of the list. “I can’t believe I get to be part of building this community of people who care about building solutions to the problems of the 21st century,” he said.