Choosing to attend a full-time, in-person code school is a big commitment. Students put their lives on hold for three months to fully immerse themselves in the curriculum, so before signing up for a course, we encourage all prospective students to meet with their instructors and get to know the people who will be guiding them through this journey.
At The Iron Yard, we hire seasoned developers who are equal parts mentor, development expert and passionate educator — a combination that is a tall but worthy order for students who have put everything on the line to pursue a career in tech. We believe that instructors are one of the most important ingredients in a code school student’s success.
Today, we’d like to introduce you to one of our outstanding Iron Yard instructors – Rodrick Blanton, who teaches the .NET course in Dallas. Not only is Rodrick an industry veteran, he is a passionate advocate for diversity in tech and an unrelenting champion for his students’ success.
I’ve been a developer for about 18 years now working in both small and enterprise-level companies, as both a full-time employee and as a contractor. I have mostly worked with Microsoft technologies (C#, VB.NET, SQL) but have also worked briefly in Java. I used to be more full stack and do front-end work as well, but now mostly concentrate on the back end. That’s home.
How have these experiences influenced your approach as an instructor and how would you describe your teaching style?
I think my past experiences really add to the in-class experience. I’m able to teach from many different perspectives and give my view on the positives and negatives of each. I’m not perfect and don’t mind saying it; I love to talk about both my successes and my failures. I look at it this way, I don’t know where someone may go once they leave my class so I want to give a little insight into as many of their potential career choices as I can speak to.
Do you have a favorite moment as an instructor so far?
Every time a student gets hired, I’m elated. I also enjoy seeing the light bulb come on, those ‘ah ha!’ moments. Or, when we get into a good discussion about a piece of code they are working on. I love it when a student surprises me and gives me a “lesson” on something I didn’t think they understood or something I didn’t even teach.
What advice would you give to prospective students who are thinking about code school?
Think carefully. Truly consider whether or not this is what you want to do. Understand that coding can be the most rewarding frustration you’ll ever have. The road to delivering an application is sometimes paved with lessons in patience, humility and anger management. However, when you get the job done, you’ll find yourself high-fiving people you don’t even know and walking around with a permanent Kodak smile.
Developers are career students. This is one field where the learning never stops. A code school is just the first class and The Iron Yard a great place to start.
Are there any specific issues in tech that you’re passionate about?
Definitely diversity in tech. One of the main reasons I accepted this position is because I do represent a segment of the minority and simply don’t see enough people in this field that look like me. When I talk to inner city high school men and women about career choices and their futures, tech is not a common response and coding is often not even being considered. What I’ve come to find is that, as much as they use technology (smart phones and watches, tablets, etc.) they often don’t have people in their sphere of influence that write code for these devices or the systems that make them useful. Many schools are just now starting to incorporate coding classes in their course offerings, so I love the idea of helping people to discover a new path. This field has been good to me and I want to share that with them.
What else should we know about you?
I am a college grad. I went to Prairie View A&M University (Who Ya Rootin’ For?). I went to college because I promised my father I’d try it for a year. My original life-long dream of being an Air Force pilot didn’t pan out due to physical issues. I had no idea what I was going to do with myself. I wrote my first program in DOS while in junior high but never thought I’d be a programmer. I realized college wasn’t so bad. In fact, I liked it so much I changed my major four times trying to study everything. I had one professor, Dr. Shah, who showed me how awesome programming was and I never looked back.
Also, I am/was a biker – the answer depends on the day. Either way, I’m still a Harley man. About a year and a half ago I decided to ride my motorcycle to Mexico during one of the worst storms I’ve ever seen. Not one of my smartest moments, but sooooo much fun.
On top of all that, I’m a military brat. I was raised in the Air Force and lived both stateside and in Japan. And I was in the Texas Army National Guard myself.