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This week I began a six week stint as a teacher at DevBootCamp Chicago. I’ve long been interested in the topic of how we can make it possible for more people to enter the field of software development. I got a chance to meet a DBC graduate, Tyler Shipe, when he came to Gaslight Coffee a few months back. I was very impressed by Tyler and what he had to say about the DBC program. I already knew Dave Hoover and a good number of teachers, so the next time I was in Chicago I arranged to visit. This got me even more intrigued, and after talking with my family and business partners I asked Dave if he would be interested in having me come teach for a few weeks over the summer. And here I am.

My first week has interesting, fun, overwhelming, and exciting. The DBC program is split into 3-week chunks called Phases, and I’m teaching Phase 2. At Phase 2, the students have had 3 weeks of command line ruby programming experience and we throw them into the deep end of web development using. They’re learning sinatra, HTTP, and how the web works all at once. It’s a crazy amount to throw at students all at once and the students are understandably a bit overwhelmed. But I’ve been very impressed with how well they are keeping up and getting the challenge assignments done each day.

A typical DBC day consists of an hour-long lecture each morning and most of the rest of the day is spent working on “challenges”, or little programming assignments. The pace is really intense. I often find myself wondering if I would be able to make through the program as a student. The challenges are almost always done in pairs, and the Friday challenges are larger assignments done in teams of 4. This gives DBC a vibe that’s much more like a real development team than a classroom setting. There’s a constant buzz of activity as students work with and teach one another. This is further enhanced by having multiple “cohorts” of students in different Phases at the same time. This means that Phase 3 students are helping Phase 2 students. There’s also any number of recent graduates that are coming and spending time as TAs while they commence their job search. Seeing the students work together is definitely the highlight of my time here so far.

I’m about to get in my car and make the trek back to Cincinnati for the weekend. Next week I’ll talk more about some of the unique practices of DBC that focus on software developers as people. That aspect of the program might be what I’m most excited about.

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What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Following the rules.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Sadly, I say the word “like” way, way too often. When I’m excited, I’ll yell out “kerpow” and do a fake ninja kick.

What is your most treasured possession?

Probably the giant washer on my keychain that my dad, who is an industrial mechanic, gave me when I went to college. Fingers crossed that I don’t jinx myself and lose it now.

What is your motto?

Everything is invented.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

No clue. Hopefully, it hasn’t happened yet.

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Where would you like to live?

If I could live anywhere in the US it would probably be Chicago. My wife and I met when we were both living there and we’ve always loved the city. Unfortunately jobs took us away and have conspired to keep us from living there. If it was anywhere in the world, I think it would be Amsterdam. I just love the feel of the whole city. It’s a very human scale, with the little streets running next to the canals and the beautiful architecture of the row houses. It’s a wonderful, walkable city with a great culture.

What is the quality you most admire in a man?

I think I have two main qualities that I admire:

  1. Is something along the lines of initiative or taking ownership of your own happiness. I admire when people recognize that they’re not happy and do things to change their situation.

  2. Empathy. I think the ability to take another person’s perspective is so important. The ability to understand that not everyone has your beliefs, has your talents, or advantages in life is one of the things that allows someone to be a great human.

What is the quality you most admire in a woman?

I hope not to have different qualities that I admire in someone based on their gender. These qualities are universal.

What is it that you most dislike?

Cruelty and willful ignorance.

What do you value most in your friends?

I live pretty far away from some of by best friends. I think the thing that I value the most is just the friendship that we can have even when we only rarely see each other. When we can get together after not seeing each other for years and just pick up right where we left off it seems.