To be an effective trainer and educator, you must first be an effective learner. From there, you need to recognize the patterns of learning you experience. Beyond the notion of ‘how you learn best’ and into the raw emotion you feel as a learner. Once you get a hang of that, you start to truly understand the context of those you educate. A context that goes beyond simply understanding material and into an area of empathy that allows you to connect and communicate.
When discussing effectively training people, you will hear me talk a great deal about the ‘human condition’. Tackling concepts such as imposter syndrome, comparison, and pride. As you gradually strengthen individuals and build them up, you enable exploration and discovery-based learning. But in order to attain that level of education, you must first demonstrate confidence, empathy, and humility.
I’ve said before, “In order to be an effective educator, you have to be an excellent learner”. But what does it mean to be ‘good at learning’? I was a horrible High-School student and only a decent College Student. It was not until I was in a desperate situation that I really needed to focus on learning. I was getting laid off in 6-months time, and I had a baby on the way. I did not feel my skills were portable to another company at the time, and I felt like the only option I had was to career reset into programming.
Through much pain, I came out on the other side. I learned an awful lot about programming, but also learned a lot about myself. In talking to others about my experience, in a very raw and open way, I discovered that my experience was not unique. I started noticing patterns about learning technology, the feelings of inadequacy, wanting to give up and walk away from my dreams. I was working two jobs then, Software Development at the Nerdery, as well as teaching college at night with Sanford Brown as an adjunct instructor. Honest interaction with my fellow nerds gave me insight and I was able to bring that into the classrooms I taught in.
When it came time to start Prime Digital Academy, it gave me an opportunity to unleash every lesson I learned about what its like to learn development. More specifically, learning development for the mind that does not grasp the concepts instantly, which is 99% of the Software Engineers out there.
“Furious Learning” is a collection of concepts, mental models, and self reflection techniques that have helped hundreds of my students in the past. It is absolutely how I approach learning personally.
PRIME DIGITAL ACADEMY
My lame joke that I told during staff introductions, is that I was the first employee, simply because Mark (our President) is the owner, and I got my paperwork in 10 minutes before Fred (Director of Student Experience). Prime is a sister company of ‘The Nerdery’ and for the first 6-months, worked out of the Nerdery offices in Bloomington, MN. The day I moved all my stuff to my new desk, got my computer set up, I remember looking at a blank cursor, blinking on the screen. I knew that there was a huge set of problems ahead of me, but was not entirely sure where to start. There is not a ‘playbook’ for creating immersive bootcamp programs. I was not sure what else to do, so I found a sticky note, and wrote ‘Help People’ on it. It was stuck onto my monitor for the duration of Prime’s creation.
Flash forward 3 years. We now have over 400 alumni, working at over 200 companies here in the Twin Cities (St.Paul and Minneapolis, MN). 97% of those who attend Prime, graduate, which illustrates the staffs commitment to those who decide to study with us and are accepted. Our average graduate who is now working, makes 157% of what they made before Prime. Depending on the day of the week you talk to me, our placements are somewhere between 85-90%.
Which are impressive stats to the guy staring at a blinking cursor all those years ago. But I think the things that have shocked me most about our impact, are the letters and reviews we get after people graduate. There is something about hearing ‘Every good thing that happens in my life from here on in, is a result of the things that happened here at Prime”, that really rocks you at your core. I am so happy that we were able to help people become what has always been inside.
I am now the Principle Director of Programs, which means that I support our current programs, while also planning ahead for the future of Prime. Exploring concepts such as helping other companies meet their training goals, while also fine tuning our own Programs through engagement with our Hiring Network. I head back into the classroom as often as I am needed and love every minute of it.
Prime is, and has been an amazing experience. I couldn’t have imagined at the time what ‘help people’ would mean, and I am not sure if you told me in advance what it would mean that I would actually believe you. I am so thankful to be a part of the Prime community and I can’t wait to see what Prime becomes in the years ahead.
GRAND CANYON UNIVERSITY
I will keep the details light here. I served as the Head of Education for Non-Degreed Technology Programs for GCU for 8 months. This was enough time to develop the instructional model and lead one cohort across the finish line and join the software development industry.
Ultimately, I decided to leave after everything was launched, to pursue my interest of writing my first book while simultaneously reconnecting with the craft of Software Development deeper than I have in the past 4 years.