How Teaching Reignited My Passion For Programming


teaching at General Assembly

During the winter of 2014, I started questioning myself about my long term goals. I had been developing for some time, and I love coding very much. It actually involves a lot of thinking prior to taking any action. Plus, coding requires a combination of Cartesian mind with good instinct; two qualities you’d rarely put together. The closest analogy to this would be a chess game: there is no way you can predict every outcome, and you still have to make a move given time and resource constraints.

Planning my future

So here I was, wondering if I’d still love my work 10 years from now. This question is obviously next to impossible to answer accurately, given the unpredictable nature of the future. Furthermore, as a developer, you are always in a mindset to be thinking about the “worst case scenario.” Hence, in true developer fashion, I may rephrase my question to: what am I going to do in 10 years, once I’m sick of writing code? After a few hours of reasoning, I had the beginnings of a list. Among them, I would mention the first one: leaving everything behind and sailing the seas around the world. Of course, that’s when my 7 months pregnant wife, Ameni, comes in, pulls my left ear, yelling at me that I’d be better off helping her with our son, Matisse, that seems to be eating some delicious blue, violet and orange pencils.

Following on from this first idea, I came up with, some would say, more clever projects: moving to project management, writing about tech and startups, networking and creating my own recruitment company, funding a development agency…and eventually I came to the idea of “teaching some stuff you know really well.”

Taking Action

Bingo. That was it. The most appealing of all my ideas, and even the most natural to me: I’d be teaching what it took me days, months, and years to learn and master. Every light was green. I would find the infallible motivation to produce great content within the eyes of my students, and the job would be paid too (unlike some of the other ideas I had). It was now clear to me that teaching was a key element of my career pivot. Moreover, it would be the panacea of my technical knowledge. What better way to challenge your understanding than explaining it to others?

Confident that teaching was a pillar within my future, I needed to start building upon this fresh approach ASAP. My existing teaching experiences were light in some respects, but not non-existent. I had indeed been leading workshops and passing on knowledge to some former clients. But here was the catch: I’d just moved to Sydney, and I had some high quality expectations for how I wanted to instruct and present to future students. Consequently, I’d kicked off my research of instructing opportunities with few of my own personal requirements and goals: start as teaching assistant and then lead a part-time course as an instructor.

Teaching at General Assembly

As it happens, General Assembly was the perfect match for me on this journey. These guys have set up amazing course production teams that basically do all the heavy lifting, and guide and assist you as much as you ask them to. After a few successful interviews with the producer first and then an experienced instructor, I would be a TA for the 10-week, Front-End Web Development course in Sydney. And, it was great. The teacher was amazing, knowledgeable, and friendly. The content of the course is perfect to pick up quickly, and useful within industry standard materials. The students are super motivated and keep up despite the challenging learning curve (lots of students are real beginners).

I was sold. I knew I’d pursue this newfound instructing direction. And I did. I’ve quickly started teaching one-day classes. Then, I taught a full-stack class, spread across 4 evening classes. And, eventually I’ve started instructing as a main instructor for GA’s FEWD course. Plus, I am mentoring my TA for the course, who was actually a past student of mine. I couldn’t feel any prouder or more satisfied.

Instructing has become a complementary, part-time gig for me. I’m not done with programming, and I don’t think I’ll be done for the next five years, but instructing has renewed my love for all things programming.

Explore how you can empower people to pursue the work they love.

Learn More About Becoming an Instructor

This post was originally published on Alex Girard’s blog, GrabCode. Alex is the lead developer for Practice Ignition by day and FEWD instructor for General Assembly by night. Learn more about him on LinkedIn