Being an instructor at The Iron Yard is no easy task. Each of our instructors faces huge and important challenges like explaining programming languages to someone for the first time, teaching basic coding skills and helping students understand what it’s like to be a professional developer. At The Iron Yard, it even goes beyond that skills-based education as we mentor people into a completely different way of thinking that will ultimately impact everything they do—both in their careers and in their lives. That’s why our instructors are so trusted.
Today, we want to introduce you to one of those trustworthy and passionate instructors – Dominique. He teaches Java at our Atlanta campus, and more than anything he wants to help as many people gain access to technology as possible so that everyone can have a hand in helping change our world for the better. But don’t take it from us – here’s more from Dominique in his own words:
What is your educational background?
I grew up in Africa (Congo, Senegal, Niger and Ethiopia), but in the French education system all the way through high school. I then went to college for Computer Science in the south of France for 2 years and in North Carolina for another 2 years. I started working as a Java programmer in industry (travel) right after my bachelor’s degree, in 1998.
What led you to becoming a developer?
In the mid 90s, when it was time to decide what to go to college for, I chose “computers” basically by “default”. It seemed like this “computer thing” might take off soon, and so why not? Well, I fell in mad love with programming with my very first programming class and haven’t looked back since. I love problem solving (not just in programming) and I love the variety of problems that can be solved with software.
What led you to teaching programming? And Java in particular?
And why teach? I love programming and sharing that love with people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to learn about programming is the most appealing aspect of teaching at TIY. I also care about diversity, and appreciate that TIY cares about it as well, not only in racial and gender terms (which are both critical), but also in terms of personal and professional backgrounds. We have bartenders, musicians, teachers and people from other varied backgrounds join our classes. It’s illuminating how different people come up with different solutions to the same problems. One of my favorite parts of teaching is actually learning from my students.
What are you passionate about?
I’m most passionate about expanding the pool of people who can contribute to the IT industry. We can encourage companies to be better with diversity, but unless we actually increase the diversity of qualified candidates, we’re just moving the existing workforce around and we’re not addressing the root of the problem, which is that too many people are sitting on the sidelines unable to participate in any aspect of this modern economy.
We live in an amazing time where each one of us has more potential than ever to have as big a positive impact on the world as ever. But realizing that potential requires more and more fluency in technology in general, and even in programming in particular. Just like speaking a second language was a major competitive advantage in the 80’s and 90’s, and is pretty much a given today, being able to program a computer has been a competitive advantage in the last decade and will become a given in the next decade or two. I’m very excited to be able to play a small role in helping more people become fluent in this language.
What part of your job is the most rewarding? Most challenging?
Our 12-week full-time program is *intensive*. It has to be for us to be able to take our students from 0 to entry-level programmers in such a short time. The most rewarding part of the program is when I see students go from, “what in world did I get myself into,” to “wait a minute, I think I actually understand this.” Sometimes it takes a week, sometimes it takes a couple of weeks. But when that moment happens, as an instructor, I feel like the bulk of my work is done, and the student can now be in charge the rest of the way (which still requires a great amount of effort on their part).
The most frustrating is the flip side of that. When you know that a student has the potential and desire to become a programmer, but the pace of the 12-week immersive program is just such that he or she will not have the time necessary to do so in my class. That is one of the reasons why we are coming up with other course formats. Because full-time immersive programs are great, but there are potential programmers out there for whom this format won’t work.
What else should we know about you?
I love to teach, but mostly I love to learn. And teaching is a great way to learn. To meet different people and learn from the way they learn. Learn from the things they understand and the things they don’t. Learn from how they ask questions and engage, or from the way they don’t. Teaching has taught me a lot of those things, but it has also taught me a lot about myself. What I love about this job, this vocation, is that we help people go on an incredible journey, and while we do that we also get to be on a fantastic journey ourselves.