The teacher becomes the student: Erik’s story

“I was trying to teach myself to code to make my life easier.”

Now a full-time web developer with Practice, Erik was first drawn to coding with the hope of gaining the knowledge he needed to build an application for his business. “I was a martial arts instructor full-time for the past 10 years or so of my life,” he said. “There was no web application or anything that did what I needed it to. I was spending two to three hours a day doing paperwork.”

Erik’s first introduction to The Iron Yard came roughly a year and half before he set foot in an Iron Yard classroom. “A friend of mine was attending tech meetups around the time the Orlando Campus was getting started. That’s how I first heard about The Iron Yard,” he continued. “I had been doing some tutorials and online courses, maybe an hour a day. It wasn’t anything serious, but it was enough to make me realize I liked it and was interested in it.”

Injuries aren’t uncommon in martial arts, and it was after being sidelined from instruction by the latest in a long list of injuries, that Erik decided to turn his full attention toward coding. “My knees and ankles hurt every day. I love teaching, but I knew I needed to figure out something else,” he said. “Then I realized, ‘I love this coding thing.’ I would stay up till three or four in the morning coding, trying to solve this problem that I would have, and then be exhausted when I would go to work.”

Erik enrolled in the May 2015 Back-End Engineering with Ruby on Rails course at The Iron Yard’s Orlando Campus. Though he (like most students) struggled with the course work, the role reversal from teacher to student was a welcome change.

image1“I loved it. I loved the experience of knowing nothing,” Erik said. “Coming from a career field where I was the one who everybody looked to for answers, I’d forgotten what it was like know nothing again, to start fresh and be inquisitive about things and not feel responsible for having all the answers. It was strange at first, and I lamented it for a bit, but then I realized what a great opportunity it was to be able to start over on something new. I said ‘this is awesome. I haven’t had this experience in so long.”

For his final project, Erik built the app that compelled him to join The Iron Yard in the first place (, but it was his desire to keep learning and growing that propelled him down the path that led to his current job at Practice. “I wanted to find a job in a location where I could continue to grow, and my wife got a job offer up here in Philadelphia. So I started looking for work here as well.”

Though it would be easy to think that Erik traded in physical work for mental work, he’s adamant that keeping physically active is a key part of staying sharp. “Focusing on your physical health while you are doing something like The Iron Yard, is incredibly important. If you’re not taking care of yourself physically, you’re not going to be at your best mentally.”

You can keep up with Erik’s journey by checking out his website or following him on Twitter @erik_jenks.

Interested in starting fresh and exploring the world of code? Check out upcoming free crash courses at a campus near you:

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