The Orlando economy has surged over the past couple of years, even earning a spot in the top three for Forbes’ 2016 best cities for jobs list, and 2017 is looking just as bright for the city’s vibrant tech sector.
With enrollment open for spring Front-End, Back-End and Mobile courses in Orlando, today, we want to introduce you to our outstanding campus team. We sat down with Susanna Miller the Orlando Campus Director and our instructors Brian Gates, Jason Skipper and Ben Gohlke to learn more about their backgrounds, advice they have for aspiring developers and what’s got them most excited about the Orlando tech community:
What’s your professional background and how long have you been with The Iron Yard?
Susanna: My professional background is in business – I have an MBA from the Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College. Prior to joining The Iron Yard, I worked as the Operations and Asset Manager for a nonprofit low-income housing developer. I have been with The Iron Yard since Oct. 2014 – almost two and half years!
Brian: It’s the same old story: I was in graduate school for engineering until I accepted what a disaster I was in a wet lab. Then a few years teaching high school math, back to grad school, then into biotech where I did a little to help a Department of Energy lab understand its uranium-breathing bacteria, which led naturally into software development. I freelanced for a while until I joined The Iron Yard in September 2014, first as a teaching assistant, then as a Ruby instructor and now, front-end instructor.
Ben: I’ve been with The Iron Yard for just over 2 years and I’ve been a developer since 2008. Over the course of my career, I’ve worked for huge corporations and the Department of Defense, as well as small, family-owned businesses. While iOS and Swift/Obj-C are my first loves, I’ve also built apps using Java, C#, and started my career in tech support building fairly extensive maintenance scripts for customer servers using Bash. It also turns out that have a great passion for teaching and mentorship, something I learned at The Iron Yard. I’m about to graduate my 5th cohort of students in a few days!
Jason: I got my B.S. from University of Florida in Computer Science (circa 1999) and was lucky enough to be part of the first class to graduate using Java as the core language. I returned to school a few years ago and got an M.S. in Industrial Engineering (think coding optimization and business stuff). Since then, I’ve been a developer for companies ranging from giant corporations to fledgling startups. I’m in the middle of my 2nd cohort and I’ve been with the Iron Yard for about 6 months.
What has been your favorite moment at The Iron Yard to date?
Susanna: I love all of our internal graduations when we talk about memories from the cohort. It’s such an amazing experience to hear the journey each student has made from being almost a blank slate, coding-wise, to building fantastic final projects.
Ben: My favorite so far has to be my first cohort’s Demo Day – I only had a basic understanding of what to expect. My students totally dazzled the attendees with their presentations and their app demos in the “science fair” portion on campus. As I walked around the booths I saw people lined up in front of each student, waiting to talk to them. It just seemed so amazing that 12 weeks prior, these people had no major experience with programming, and now they were junior iOS developers and on their way to a new career.
What excites you about the Orlando Tech Community?
Brian: I’m excited about how many things are going on! There are at least three events every week that I would like to go to. The Iron Yard’s grads are very involved in the community, and either lead or have started half a dozen different groups in town, and are active participants in several others.
Ben: The Orlando tech scene may be small compared to places like Silicon Valley or New York, but there can be advantages in that smaller size. The community is tighter-knit and therefore I think there is a stronger sense of camaraderie among the developers, entrepreneurs and tech enthusiasts than there otherwise might be. I was in fact introduced to The Iron Yard by way of a personal connection/recommendation from a friend in the tech community, so being involved in the local tech scene can be quite beneficial to your career.
What advice do you have for people who are considering code school?
Brian: First of all, spend some time on your own finding out whether developing software is something you really enjoy. Take some of the mini courses available on The Iron Yard’s website. If you’re interested in front-end, work through some of the problems at freecodecamp.com. Once you know software development is something you enjoy doing, and not just something you think you’d enjoy doing, find graduates of the programs you’re interested in and find out about their experiences during the program and afterwards.
Jason: Put time in before you start the course. I view our bootcamps like an “exponential accelerator.” Put in a couple months before you start and you will likely finish six months ahead of somebody who starts ‘from zero.’
What are your goals for the Orlando campus for 2017?
Susanna: To grow the community around The Iron Yard. We’ve got great relationships with companies here locally, but still have opportunities to widen our reach with developers in the area, as well as with larger organizations.
Want to learn more about The Iron Yard in Orlando? Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or sign up for a free crash course to try your hand at coding!