Problems Solved: What Josh Dodd Emphasizes as a Coding Boot Camp TA

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When Josh Dodd and his wife moved from Colorado to Georgia, trading the mountains for oaks and Spanish moss may have posed a challenge, but it didn’t constitute a problem. Certainly not for Josh, who viewed the change of scenery as an opportunity to try something he had always wanted to do: coding. So he enrolled in the Georgia Tech Coding Boot Camp in Savannah.

“I always wanted to get into this field, but I never had the time,” Josh said. “But this was a time in my life where I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it again.” So he took the chance.

Flash forward a year and Josh is flexing his shiny new coding skills—and at the front of the classroom no less, as a teaching assistant for the same program he just completed.

Working through challenges

Josh’s boot camp experience wasn’t easy—but the challenging work is precisely what made it so great. Prior to moving to Savannah, Josh had dabbled in Python. Now he wanted to take that experience further.

Over the course of the six-month part-time Georgia Tech program, Josh dove into the rigorous curriculum of full-flex web development. To succeed, he had to dedicate hundreds of extra hours to wrestle with each problem. Thanks to his own grit and his support system, he made it through.

“The experiences I had with my instructor, CJ, and TA, Hannah, were great. They really helped me out,” Josh said.

Six months after moving to Savannah, Josh emerged with a new full-stack certificate, grateful for the experience. “It’s not easy. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way,” he said. “It’s really rewarding.”

Certificate in hand, Josh was ready to take the challenge to the next level.

Figuring out his next move

When it came time to thoughtfully pursue a career befitting his new skills, Josh felt a little hemmed in by geography. “Savannah is a smaller town than Atlanta or other cities,” he said. “The market is more geared towards customer service, with fewer coding opportunities.”

But Josh was ready to move confidently into a coding role. So when his student success manager, Joanna McKay, got in touch about a TA role, Josh was intrigued. Thinking back on his experience teaching and coaching in Boulder, he realized it would be a great fit.

“I really love to work with others, not just specifically teaching but also having to manage expectations and outcomes, so I have a pretty natural fit to be a teacher,” Josh said. “I also wanted to continue learning. I think it’s great to go back through the curriculum and relearn concepts.”

So to Joanna’s offer, Josh said yes.

Giving back to students

Josh began as a substitute TA for the online Savannah cohort.

“I was hesitant to do something online as opposed to in-person because I thought it would be harder to teach,” he said. “But their projects ended up being way better than my cohort’s projects.”

This success didn’t come without some struggle, though. With one week left in the program, Josh found out one of his students was lagging behind—and had yet to turn in five homework assignments.

“The student and I had this relationship where he leaned heavily on me,” said Josh. “I called him up and gave him the stern fatherly speech. He was worried he wouldn’t graduate, but he worked really hard the final week.”

Though Josh of course knew the answers to the assignments, he was determined to help the student work through the problems himself.

“I want my students to learn how to be better problem solvers,” Josh said. “And by the end, this student really pulled through to get everything done in the very last hour. I was really proud to see him do this, and his profile truly looks awesome now.”

Becoming a problem solver

Now Josh is working as a TA for Savannah’s latest in-person cohort—an assignment he prefers. “It’s a little bit easier to show somebody something in-person in the most basic sense possible,” Josh said. “It’s easier to read their feelings, get at what they need, and connect in person.”

But his approach to TAing has remained largely the same whether he’s teaching online or in-person.

“I’m definitely very hands-off,” Josh said. “Coming from my own experiences as a student, I felt like I would sometimes give up too quickly and ask for answers. In retrospect, I wanted to be able to get to the solution on my own. So now I try to give students crumbs so that they learn how to be problem solvers.”

Becoming a problem solver is the biggest thing that Josh has learned—and continues to learn.

“Obviously I want the students to learn the curriculum. But the soft skills I learned have made a difference in how I approach personal problems,” Josh said.

“Beforehand if there were issues with, say, an outlet in my house, I would have called a professional,” said Josh. “Now because of the boot camp, I won’t stop trying to figure out how to do things on my own.”

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