Written by Michael Peck
As cultural awareness of software engineering continues to grow, the pool of interested students grows too. It now includes many who have no coding experience and who want to find a way into the industry.
This growing market need inspired us to launch our Beginner Coding Bootcamps, and the challenge of teaching beginners was explicitly factored into the curriculum development. We’ve put a lot of time and energy into finding the right instructors.
“It’s already enough of a challenge to find good software engineers to teach because their skills are in demand,” said Curtis Schlak, Chief Academic Officer at Galvanize. “But it’s even more difficult when you need people who also love mentoring. We look for folks who are able to engage students, manage the room, and manage a cohort.”
We look for people like Jay Wilson Jr., a beginner program instructor who deeply enjoys the connection he builds with students.
“The reason I’m in this is because of the bond we form with our students,” said Jay. “The beginner program…reminded me of how I started and how the bootcamp makes transitioning a little easier for people with no tech background.”
Real-world software engineering experience
Jay transitioned into teaching after more than a decade as a professional software engineer. We require this type of real-world experience for all of our instructors.
Typically, our beginner coding bootcamp instructors have 4-10 years of work experience under their belts, and some have up to 20. Extended time in the market is key because while the early years of a software engineering career are generally spent as an individual member of a team, in later years, engineers are managing others and have likely hired people. This allows them to provide valuable perspective to students who will soon be looking for their first software engineering jobs after they finish the program.
“These folks have hired software engineers,” said Mike Rudinsky, Vice President of Product at Galvanize. “That gives them a really interesting viewpoint on what junior software engineers – like the ones that come out of this program – should be able to do, along with what companies are looking for in new hires.”
A flexible attitude, along with perseverance
Teaching requires quite a bit of flexibility and stamina. It can be challenging to accommodate so many different types of learners. Terra Taylor, another one of our beginner program instructors, likes to share personal stories with her students to ease their fears and find common ground. One such story is about how she failed a college course and was told to switch to an easier major than computer science.
“When my students feel like they’re doubting themselves, I like to tell that story…because I’m now sitting in front of you teaching software engineering, and I’ve been a software engineer for 15 years,” she said.
Additionally, instructors like Terra need to know when to hold students accountable so they can think for themselves and be autonomous by the time they graduate. The way we structure the beginner program helps her and others accomplish this.
“Over the course of the program, we move the instructors from being very hands-on into more of a coaching role, and then into the role of acting like a senior software engineer in the real world, because that’s what’s waiting out there for these graduates,” said Rudinsky.
It takes a lot of work to get beginner students ready for their new careers, and our instructors have to prove they have the required skills, talent, and approach to get the job done before they teach their first cohort of students.
“Teaching is really hard. It can be challenging to find those who are passionate about teaching others, who won’t get frustrated, and who won’t get impatient,” said Schlak. “But we work hard to find the right instructors for our beginner students so that everyone – the students and the instructors – can reach their goals.”