Trying something new – now on TV!

That is a nervous smile. Very nervous.

I’ve been telling people that every day at The Iron Yard, I do something I’ve never done before.  It’s pretty much my dream work experience, constantly experimenting, learning, growing, and reaching outside my comfort zone.  Sometimes, it’s FAR outside that zone.

Calvin and I really stretched our extrovert muscles last week when we got the chance to appear on Lowcountry Live, Charleston’s morning tv talk show.  I’ve had the opportunity to do this twice before, but everytime I artfully dodged, having to appear on camera.  This time, there was no dodging.

To say I was nervous is sort of an understatement.  I’ve never been on live TV before, and the last time I was on any sort of TV was when I was interviewed for the news about a program in my high school – and it did not go well.

I’ve been eating, sleeping, and breathing talking about The Iron Yard the past few weeks (wait – I’ve been doing this for three weeks and now I have to go on TV? what?!), so I figured at least I know what to say. And with our lovely Iron Yard T-shirts, I knew what to wear. And with Calvin by my side, I knew I’d have support.

We were the first guests in the green room for the show, but it slowly filled up with people there to talk about everything from wedding planning to a home for at-risk boys.  It was a great group of people to chat with, even if I felt my feet were a bit underdressed:

Can you tell who works in software and who is a wedding planner? I was a little jealous of the bling.

When it was finally our turn, it became clear that we had nothing to worry about.  The host was incredibly friendly and when you have something as awesome as changing people’s lives through code education to talk about, the words just come tumbling out.  If you want to check out the Sally and Calvin tv debut, it’s online for your viewing pleasure:

WCIV-TV | ABC News 4 – Charleston News, Sports, Weather

TechCrunch Charleston Mini Meetup

Did I mention I was excited to be there?

Last week, The Iron Yard Academy in Charleston had the privilege of sponsoring the Tech Crunch Mini Meetup at The Alley.

I wan’t quite sure what to expect, but it turned out to be a total blast!

John Biggs, the east coast editor for Tech Crunch, was in Charleston to meet startups and there were plenty at the Alley to meet.

To name a few:

  1. Twelve South
  2. STEM Premier
  3. Sensibots
  4. Open Source Systems
  5. eatabit
  6. distilunion
  7. ShutterBug
  8. Zubie
  9. …and a ton more…!

Calvin and I hung out for three hours, talking to people running awesome startups, people who want to run awesome startups, potential students, and just awesome people.  I’m always awed at how, even as it grows larger, the technology and software community in Charleston is such a small world in some senses.

I’ve met tons of new people during this first week with The Iron Yard, but even more amazingly, I’ve had the opportunity to reconnect with people I’ve worked with before and start building new relationships.  I’ve also been surprised a few times running into people from non-tech communities and connecting our lives in even more ways. You’d be surprised how many people are into both roller derby and software.

At the same time that software in Charleston feels like a close-knit family, it is also an astonishingly welcoming group.  Every new face is met with a handshake or hug.  Everyone is excited about welcoming new people, new companies, and new ideas.

I expected to be intimidated at the Tech Crunch meet up by all the talented people who have had so much success in our field, but everyone I met was so warm and personable that I don’t feel that way at all.

By the end of the afternoon, I was walking up to everyone that seemed interesting and having exciting conversations about our projects and when I admitted that I had no idea what someone was talking about, they were all more than happy to bring me up to speed.

I’m so excited that, through The Iron Yard, I’m having the opportunity to learn from such an inspiring group of people.  I can’t wait to start giving back through classes, but also by getting involved in more exciting local groups and events. I also can’t wait to see what week two has in store for me.

Our advisory board kickoff!

Socializing at our Advisory Board Kickoff

Surrounded by leadership, wisdom, and the drive to emancipate our ideas and mission to reality, it seemed fitting that we held our Charleston Academy Advisory Board Kickoff on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.

One of the honors that comes with bringing The Iron Yard to Charleston is being part of the community. In our community we have invited companies and individuals that have vision for not only bridging the growing talent gap needed to support our thriving tech community, but to help give opportunities to passionate people with a true love for our craft and make a real difference in their lives.

Telling The Iron Yard story

To help frame the conversations for our board, we started by telling the story of The Iron Yard in order for everyone to understand where we came from, and now, where we are heading.

The Iron Yard exists to create exceptional value for people and their ideas through code education, startup accelerators and coworking spaces.

So over craft beer and bbq tacos, Eric began to tell the story of The Iron Yard, why we have landed in Charleston, and why we need partners and friends to address this growing talent gap.

Creating a strong feedback loop

Calvin talking about ideas for his class

In order for us to provide the best quality instruction, we not only need to address the fundamentals of being an engineer, but also understand the skills that great companies need in the programmers they hire.  Feedback from our advisory board will provide strong reinforcement and validation to our teaching, and it will also help our students face the job market fully equipped to provide great value.

Here is a list of the companies who are on the board:

  • Jack Russell Software
  • MUSC
  • Sparc
  • Boomtown
  • Amazon
  • Blue Ion
  • BenefitFocus
  • TalkTo
  • Fuzzco
  • GitHub

This is only the beginning….

Sally and Advisory Board members sharing ideas

Energy breeds excitement! And when that energy is in an excited state, ideas emerge.

I’m humbled to be in the company of so many amazing people and really am looking forward to each day as we continue to build something great here in Charleston.

We cannot be successful on our own and sincerely thank all of our Advisory Board members for taking this journey with us.

Also, super special thanks to Blue Ion for letting us host the event and work in their beautiful office space.

The best first day ever

Eric and Sally getting work done at Blue Ion in Downtown Charleston.

You remember that scene from Saved by the Bell where Jessie has been taking caffeine pills and freaks out? “I’m so excited! I’m so excited! I’m so scared!” That has been me for the past 48 hours, minus the substance abuse and big hair.  I’m halfway through my second day at The Iron Yard academy, and I am having all the feelings at once.  Excited, confident, scared, overwhelmed, enthusiastic, tired, hungry – you name it, I’ve felt it.

If you’ve ever started a new job before, you know the usual drill.  Fill out some forms, sit in some onboarding meetings where people talk at you, fill out more forms, find your empty desk and stare at the wall for a while, wonder when you’re going to get a computer, maybe start some online training modules.

Yesterday was nothing like that.

We started with a breakfast meeting talking marketing strategy, reviewing student applications, planning our advisory board kickoff, and discussing potential spaces for the new campus.  All before lunch.  By the end of the day, I’d kicked off a Facebook ad campaign, talked to a couple of reporters, stopped by the Apple store for a laptop, helped run a kickoff meeting introducing the Iron Yard to Charleston’s tech community, emailed potential students, toured a prospective space, taken a ride in an awesome little sports car, and eaten the best BBQ in Charleston (Home Team, obviously).

I’ve never done any of those things before, with the exception of the BBQ, but I loved every one of them.  Several hours into day two, and I’m checking off even more firsts.  I’m learning faster than I’ve ever learned on the job before and, with the support of the awesome Iron Yard team, I feel like I’m succeeding faster, too.

I’ve never worked with such an excited, dedicated, and genuine group of people before.  I’ve had some awesome co-workers in the past, and worked with some great teams, and I’m having the absolute best time building this team in Charleston.  I can’t wait to find a space, fill it with awesome students, and start changing some lives.

Wow, It’s Been (Only) One Month…?!

A month ago our Charleston Academy didn’t even exist yet, and now we are well on our way to having our first courses!

It’s amazing to think of what we have done in this short amount of time; so here’s a recap:

The Adventure Begins!

Nick, Jo, and myself started officially as Rails, iOS, and Front End Instructors, respectively and we all trekked to Greenville, our mothership and the world headquarters of The Iron Yard.

We got to meet our amazing team, Mason’s first class of the year, and generally get plugged in to our new roles as instructors.

We even went to a trampoline park, where I took a short slow motion video of Nick:


As you could probably tell from the video, Nick is definitely excited!

We rounded out our week in Greenville with good times, good instruction and a whole lot of energy for when we got back to Charleston!

Getting the Word Out

Once back in Charleston, Nick and I have been working really hard to simply get the word out about our Academy and let people know it exists.

You know you’re really doing something awesome when every single person you talk to gets just as excited as you when they hear of what we are doing.

Interviewing Students for our Classes

What is amazing to me is how fast we are getting students!  And one of the great pleasures of this job is for us to meet so many incredible people.

Both Nick and I are starting to fill our classes, so be sure to apply to make sure you can make our March 17th start date!

Closing on our new space

We are getting really pumped about the new space, and after touring many locations, we think we have a winner!  We are literally inches away from inking the deal, and we’ll keep you all updated!

We’re excited about the next month ahead of us as we forge ahead with our curriculum for the new classes.

Why I decided to join The Iron Yard

Leaving an amazing job is hard.  Period.

I was a valuable member of my team and got to help steer the direction of both the implementation and user experience of a very high profile government application.

Not only was this professionally gratifying, but I felt like I was helping a lot of people, both on the technical side and the user side.  Technically I was able to help establish standards that scale and our users would be able to accomplish their goals as efficiently and pleasantly as possible.

More importantly, I got to work with some of Charleston’s best and brightest!  I’ve leaned on them for support and have humbly contributed to their benefit.

So when the call came to leave, it wasn’t an easy decision to say the least.  Why would I leave a perfectly good job that gave me the pleasure of doing what I love everyday?

We need more engineers in Charleston

Front End Engineering teams are usually very small, and oftentimes the role falls to a backend developer or someone who’s primary focus isn’t front end development.  When there is a dedicated role for a Front End Engineer, it usually is very hard to fill it.

The Charleston tech community is growing like crazy, and in order to keep pace with our growth, we need to bridge the talent gap and bring more into our field.

I joined The Iron Yard because I feel like I will be able to help, and also am amazed at the quality of the jr. engineers that graduate.  It truly is an amazing program and will help bring in more developers.

I get to be a better developer

One of the amazing things that attracted me to The Iron Yard as an Instructor is the ‘developer-first’ mentality.  We are practicing engineers that are also amazing teachers.  Between classes we have dedicated time to enrich our craft and keep pace with some of the amazing technologies out there today.

If you’re a javascript developer today, it’s pure heaven!  I will have the time to build things and then teach others how I did it.  I can contribute more to open source and collaborate with my friends on projects.  It truely is a win-win proposition, and one that will only benefit my teachings.

If you would thoroughly know anything, teach it to others. -Tryon Edwards

 Teaching has always been a passion

I’ve always viewed myself as a learner and teacher.  I love to learn and equally love sharing that knowledge.

Every role I’ve taken in my professional career has led to me carving out a place where I get to teach in some capacity.

I even got to live on the beach and talk about caffeine in plants:


I’m a firm believer in a constructivist approach and believe that hands-on, immersive learning is a path to understanding.  It’s the best way I learn and love teaching this way.

The Decision Made Perfect Sense!

For real, taking on the role of Instructor for the Iron Yard is my personal stars aligning.  I love to teach, I love to code, and I love sharing with others.

From Instructor Nick Bucciarelli’s Blog: “Learning the right way”

This post was originally written on my personal blog.

Hey guys (and gals), I’m Nick Bucciarelli (find me on Twitter and GitHub). I write code, I teach code, and I dream code. It’s pretty much what I do day in day out!

I worked for 4 years as a Ruby on Rails developer at a small shop called Jack Russell Software. I quickly climbed the ladder from Apprentice to Senior Developer. It was the perfect place to hone the skills in programming and leadership that I will need as an instructor, guiding all of you future students-turned-experts into awesome jobs as Rails devs.

We need teachers who teach what they do!

When I first started learning web technologies like Ruby on Rails, I wish I had a program like The Iron Yard that wasn’t afraid to move with the times. Technology changes so fast, and the most popular things one year will phase out the next year.

I searched for classes that could teach me what I needed to know, but nothing was offered. I crawled the internet for every ounce of knowledge I could find, but it still wasn’t good enough. So I just had to learn by mistake after mistake, on the job.

How does this help you?

We trim the fat, teach you what you need to know and most importantly, we teach you how to learn. So if Rails isn’t in your future, you will be experienced enough to learn any technology you want.

We are solving a big problem

There is a desperate need for talent and no “GOTO” (GET IT!?) place to learn. Traditional universities have trouble keeping up with the speed of today’s tech trends. Our teaching style—hands on, real projects and practicing professional teachers (like me)—ensure that our grads are trained and job-ready.

The school is already rolling in Greenville, and I jumped at the opportunity to bring The Iron Yard to Charleston at 150mph (hint: I like fast cars).

We’re having fun in the process

There is something you should know about The Iron Yard: we have an intense focus on culture and want to bring it to all of our students! Work hard, play hard. Frequently, our co-workers will stay after hours and come in on weekends just to get their tasks done. Beer flows and beards grow. Jokes run rampant; we have a good time! It’s very rare you meet people as engrossed in their jobs and atmosphere as you will with our team. Being a good fit as an employee here is not just about what you know, but how well you will fit in! Can you put your nose to the grindstone for 12 hours a day? Could you let loose and drink a few beers? Working here sets the bar for how I expect the atmosphere to be anywhere I end up. It also sets the bar for everything I expect from my students.

To my future students

This work ain’t easy! You will be challenged with every morsel of your work ethic to finish homework assignments after grueling live-coding-to-teach sessions. The only way to apply anything that will be taught to you will be to apply it in practice. But don’t worry…I’ll be there to guide you every step of the way!

My classes will start on March 10th. Be ready.

Join our Charleston Ruby on Rails class!

Hello Charleston!

The Iron Yard Team Staff

My name is Calvin, Calvin Webster to be exact. I emphasize the ‘Webster’ because that’s what I do, I’m a Webster and work on the Web.

And I LOVE it!

I am also the newly minted Front End Engineering Instructor for The Iron Yard and I couldn’t be more excited about this role!

The Need for Great Mentors

The more I’ve reflected about what I’ve done in the past 6 years, the more I wish something like this existed when I was just starting out. The web has changed a lot since then and will continue to change a lot in the future, but many things remain the same, and one of them is the need for great mentors and teachers in the world of programming.

I literally clawed my way into this field after years of online tutorials, books, and failing over and over again. I can’t wait to help people avoid the years of pain I experienced—it’s a privilege to give this opportunity to others and help them jumpstart careers as Front End Engineers.

When I first moved to Charleston, I worked in a small 2 person (including myself) )web shop. It wasn’t quite freelancing, but also not really a place where, if you had a question, you could easily resolve it.

However, I knew Charleston was a place where a lot of other really smart and talented developers lived. That search to connect became the beginning of Barcamp Charleston, an unconference where anyone and everyone can come to share what they know and learn what they don’t, even if it’s about bacon or belly dancing.

I’ve since stepped away from the organizing aspect of Barcamp Charleston, but took away a lot of valuable experiences, primarily the fact that I want to always surround myself with awesome people that are eager to learn and share.

I’ve been really lucky to continue to work at amazing places and build amazing things, and now that I am at the Iron Yard Academy, I get to work with some pretty incredible people to share awesome skills and technologies with people that will unlock the doors to a career where the potential is unlimited…in CHARLESTON!

We are still ironing (haha) out the details of our location, but we’ll be downtown in the near future and I’ll be teaching my first class on March 3rd (and yes, you can totally apply now!).

Keep an eye on this blog as we begin our journey and for any updates to our Charleston Iron Yard Academy.