A Computer Walks Into A Bar


What I’ve Learned About Life Through Teaching Adults to Code

Dance Lesson at Flatiron!

Yesterday marks the end of my eighth week as a web development instructor at the Flatiron School. I feel immensely lucky for the chance to work with such a driven group of coworkers and students “to align education with reality.” In honor of this two-month-iversary, here are a few things I’ve learned:

Being a Beginner Takes Courage

Six months ago, I enrolled at Flatiron after a year of freelancing as a theater lighting designer. As a 23-year-old New Yorker, many of my friends are still in the “transition” period; they’re either looking to become more established in their chosen fields or working subpar jobs to gain experience and open more exciting doors. Even given my relatively short stint working in theater and my young group of friends, the career shift felt like a huge one.

In contrast, many of my students left long, successful careers to learn to code full-time. I can’t imagine what that must feel like, but having seen the positive change in some of my classmates who did the same, I know that the payoff can be enormous. For me, every day is a reminder that the best things in life come from hard work and struggle.

A Positive (Or Negative) Attitude Is Contagious

Last week, Seiji, one of my students, organized “Club Euler,” essentially a student study group that meets half an hour before school to work through complex puzzles. Half an hour before school means extending an already rigorous day of 9-6 coding to begin at 8:30 in the morning. In spite of the early morning and the time commitment, most of the class chose to attend Club Euler twice last week.

I think the high interest reflects both the inherent intellectual curiosity of our students and the sense of community that Flatiron fosters. Being a student and then a coworker at Flatiron reminded me that the success of a team feels much greater than personal achievements do.

There Is Always More To Learn

In life, most careers/hobbies/activities have some limiting factor. Team sports and theater are limited by other people – you can’t play soccer or direct Hamlet without a team on board. Art and cooking are limited by supplies; once you run out of paint, you’re done painting. In a way, I feel like coding is less restrictive than many other things. Once you make the initial investment and get a computer, you have access to the limitless ability to learn and to code (sure, you need electricity for battery, but that’s easy).

When I was working in theater, a more experienced designer, Reid Thompson, gave me excellent advice: be a sponge. Working in web development makes this so easy, as code is constantly evolving. I try to learn something new every day!

The Bottom Line

All in all, I am thrilled that my first full-time job constantly demonstrates how important it is to strive for happiness–your own and that of the people around you. Can’t wait to see what new lessons the next two months have in store!