By Eric Wise
From an early age, I knew that technology was for me. I got in early with the Apple IIe at school, and at home, my parents got us a Commodore 64 computer. My first experience with programming was writing scripts to play classical piano songs using the software we had for that computer. I quickly became hooked on the idea of “teaching” the computer to do things.
Fast-forward 20 or so years, and there I was, a software architect, leading teams and creating solutions that pushed millions of daily transactions. Fluent in dozens of frameworks, languages, and tools, I possessed a skill set that commanded high dollars, and I could work anywhere in the world.
But I found myself increasingly unfulfilled. With some introspection, I realized that my favorite part of my role was people. I enjoyed training and mentoring teams. I also enjoyed working with business users, which often involved guiding them through the role and impact technology could play in their processes. It was around that time when I decided to leave my position as a software architect and move into a long-term instructional role. Along the way, I’ve recruited, trained, and mentored dozens of instructors and brought them through the same transition.
I share my story about becoming an educator with the hope that other technical professionals will consider if teaching is for them. Here are my top four reasons to consider becoming a boot camp instructor.
1. Being a Force Multiplier
I discovered clean code early on in my career. I took pride in writing testable, reusable code using the principles laid out by the gang of four, Uncle Bob Martin, and others. Yet, as I worked in more companies with more people, I found a distressing lack of knowledge about these techniques, which resulted in bugs, long hours, technical debt, and a general slowdown of the evolution and capabilities of the companies and teams.
Reflecting on this period of my career today, I am not all that surprised since I had not received any knowledge of these techniques in my academic journey. But as an instructor, I now have the opportunity to impact many more teams and companies by developing students who understand professional techniques and who can apply them immediately on the job.
2. Code is Temporary
In the long run, much of the code we write is temporary. Systems will be retired, requirements will change, and new languages and frameworks get introduced. There were times in my career when I knew that the work I was doing wasn’t all that important or that someone could throw it away. Some people don’t mind; after all, there is a nice paycheck involved, but I was always motivated for my work to have more meaning and impact.
The great thing about teaching is that the knowledge I transfer to people and the careers I can change have a deep and lasting meaning that I couldn’t achieve in my IT career. When I turned a young man without a degree who was delivering pizzas into a software developer making more than $70,000 per year, it not only gave him a pathway towards fully utilizing his potential as a knowledge worker, but it opened the door financially for him to achieve goals like starting a family, owning a home, and traveling.
3. Work-Life Balance
Altruism is not the only reason to become an educator. One of the selfish reasons I made this transition is the work-life balance. When I was at the top of my IT career, it meant that I was always on call. Systems go down; processes fail; errors happen. When the call comes in at 1 am, we have to rise to the occasion. There are times when we have to put in 30-plus hours of work in two days.
This type of time commitment doesn’t happen in education. You have a class schedule, it’s predictable, it’s repeatable, and there are very few things that can’t wait until the morning. When you put in overtime as an educator, it’s because one of your students needs extra help and you’re happy to stay later to help them succeed. As a father of three, I prefer this type of schedule because it means that I can be more deliberate about spending time with my family and pursuing my own interests.
4. Improve Career Prospects
One of the most frequent questions I hear from potential instructors is whether or not they’ll be able to return to the field and maintain their employability. My answer is always an emphatic yes.
First of all, we teach the latest and greatest frameworks, and techniques and these skills are always in demand. Second, managing a classroom also requires leadership and soft skills that are highly compatible with technical leadership positions, which also happen to be well compensated. Lastly, most of your students will go to work for companies in the region. They know you, they love you, and that’s a powerful network to tap if and when you go back to the field.
I can assure you that as a good instructor, when your alumni find out you’re available, you’ll get a flood of unsolicited interview requests!
If you’re a technology professional considering a transition to teaching, I hope these points help you with your decision. For me, the decision proved to be a good one on both personal and professional levels. I still keep in contact with many people in my alumni network, and it’s deeply fulfilling to see their careers continue to grow.
Eric Wise is director of enterprise solutions at Trilogy Education focusing on expanding our corporate training programs that help companies acquire, reskill, or upskill talent. In his role, Eric leads efforts to expand program areas such as data literacy and is heavily involved in instructor recruitment and thought leadership.