Experience IT: developing the software talent pool

Well, it’s been too long since I blogged regularly. That’s because of a large teaching project I was working on over the summer: Experience IT.

The goal was ambitious: Teach more than 40 aspiring developers the skills they would need to succeed in entry level jobs as .net web developers with companies that are growing in Detroit. My role was to develop the curriculum and act as one of the instructors for an 8 week intensive learning experience.

We gave the students an introduction to HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, JQuery, C#, ASP.NET MVC, Entity Framework, and SQL. I did say it was an intensive learning experience.

Experience It

The first day, 44 people showed up, ready to learn. It was a diverse group. The ages ranged from early 20’s, to mid 50’s. It was almost 50% women. There were different ethnic groups represented as well. Even more challenging was that the experiences the students brought into the class was very different as well. Some of the people had done quite a bit of UX work on web applications; they new HTML and CSS, and even a little JavaScript. Others had never done any development work at all. 011

Our first major challenge was to teach such a diverse group. We had to keep the more experienced students engaged while not leaving the least experienced lost. We did that by splitting up into smaller groups quite often. Thankfully I had a team of instructors that really knew the technology stack and the material. They also had a wealth of industry experience and could relate everything we were teaching to the real world tasks developers do everyday.01

The students spent the final two weeks building group projects of their own choosing that demonstrated what they’d learned. All of us enjoyed these two weeks the most. The students had to plan out their projects and scope them appropriately. They needed to assign work to each of the team members. They had to make use of the ALM tools we use everyday: source control, scrum boards, deployments and bug tracking.

Overall, I think the experience was almost as intense for the instructors as it was for the students. We really enjoyed the energy of the last two weeks. All the teams stretched themselves beyond the scope of what we taught. They were using the introductory knowledge we taught and adding to it by doing their own research, and figuring out new libraries and techniques. As instructors, we were busy helping them learn and expand their horizons.

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After the class ended, the students started working on their job searches. Several have already landed positions. A lot more are going through second interviews with many of the growing companies in Detroit this month. I hope to hear  that many more have started new careers in the coming weeks.

I’m very pleased with the outcomes so far. I can’t wait for the next eager group to get started. The other instructors and I are making a few tweaks to the curriculum so that we can do even better. One change I do want to make is to have students spend some of their time reading and explaining code. I think that would be a great way to improve their skill at joining larger projects.

I’ve been lucky enough to have been very successful in this career. This has been a great opportunity to help others find their own success. I can’t wait to see how far they can go on this journey.

Created: 9/8/2014 7:44:45 PM

Current Projects

I create content for .NET Core. My work appears in the .NET Core documentation site. I'm primarily responsible for the section that will help you learn C#.

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