Hello Iron Yard!

I’m making a big change and am incredibly excited about it. For the first time in nine years, I am changing jobs. I am joining The Iron Yard as an instructor.

I didn’t plan on being a software developer when I was in school. It started when I was attending Dallas Seminary (2002-ish). I was the New Testament department’s Greek tutor at the time and, as an expression of my extreme geekiness, spent a lot of time writing new instructional material on Greek sentence diagramming. I remember showing the stuff I was making to my mentor and he said something along the lines of “That’s good. Make it better.”

At that point I decided that if I really wanted to create something useful, just writing instructional materials wouldn’t be enough. So I con’d two of my friends (thanks Jeremy and Kris!) into helping me create and sell an interactive Greek sentence diagramming tutorial called “Koineworks Diagramming”. We created it using Macromedia Flash and Authorware (which Adobe later bought) and sold it via CD in the DTS bookstore. That was cool.

But graduation was fast approaching and I needed some income. My wife was getting me through my Master’s degree but we made a deal that if she got me through that, I would take over the working so she could take care of the kids. Unfortunately I had a bit of a problem: I had the training to go into academics/teaching but probably not enough training to actually get a job doing it, so I needed to try something else. Since I enjoyed making that interactive tutorial, I wondered if I could teach myself programming and get a job doing that.

Starting in the spring of 2003, for about six months I dug into programming and tried to teach myself. I began with C++ but after a bit I realized that I had no clue what was going on. I talked to a friend and he recommended that I try the C# language. I started working through Sams Teach Yourself C# in 21 Days and I started making progress. By the end of that six months I was doing ASP.NET, Sql Server, and Windows Forms programming and loving it. Learning all this primarily on my own was difficult and time-consuming but I had two things going for me. First, despite the difficulty I loved the work. Second, I had some friends around to help me with things and answer my stupid questions when I got stuck. So to my friends through the Flash/Authorware and early C# days, Jeremy, Kris, Shawn, Jeff, Mark, and Brad...thank you!

In the summer I managed to land the chance to take a coding test at a local software company (TriTech) and managed not to embarrass myself. They offered me a job that day. I worked at TriTech for about nine months then went to work at RealPage. I worked there for a little over a year then moved on to a company which was at that time called MPower (rebranded “Orange Leap”) for exactly a year. Next I went to work for Match.com. A few friends of mine told me that I should stay places a little longer because otherwise it would look like I moved around too much. I stayed at Match for nine and a half years, so hopefully don’t have that problem anymore!

I really feel like I grew up as a developer at Match.com. I certainly did in terms of title (Engineer -> Senior Engineer -> Lead Engineer -> Manager -> Senior Architect) but also did in knowledge. I learned so much from the people there and I worked with many fantastic people. The first few jobs got me through my toddler years but it was Match that taught me how to be an adult. So many great times. So many great stories. But that ends today.

If you know me well, you know that I love to teach. It was during my time at Match that I learned enough and built up enough confidence to start giving back to the community. It started with a talk at The North Dallas .NET User Group on June 3rd, 2009. Afterwards I started presenting at other user groups, at online events, and at local conferences. Eventually I even wrote a book. At Match I got opportunities to flex those muscles but my job there was primarily either as a programmer or as a manager (depending on the year), not as a teacher.

As I said at the beginning of this post, it is time for me to make a big change. It is time to flip my career on its head. Instead of full-time programmer and occasional instructor, it’s time to go full-time on the instructor front. Today is my last day at Match. Monday is my first day as an instructor for The Iron Yard.

The Iron Yard is a company dedicated to technology education for people, businesses and communities. They have campuses scattered throughout the states and one in London and they are opening a campus here in Dallas. I am their first instructor here though they are looking for more. My first course is on front-end web development (HTML, CSS, JavaScript) but as my Dallas friends know, I have interests in other areas as well, so who knows what I’ll be teaching in the future!

I can’t tell you how excited I am to do this. In the years since 2003, I have learned that a career in software development can be very rewarding. I am so very thankful for these last thirteen years and I am ecstatic to help other people do what I did. I want to see people struggle with the difficulty of learning software development and in the end survive and thrive. I hope that I can help people get into this career and see them love it as much as I do. I want to help them learn, to better themselves, to earn good money, to make cool stuff, and to succeed.

Though my relationship with my new employer is still very young, I can already see a lot of this passion in them and look forward to soaking that up. I look forward to learning how to be a better teacher from them. I look forward to the instructional practice that I will get. I look forward to working with the students. And I’m also looking forward to continuing to work in the Dallas technical community. This isn’t going to soak up all my teaching energy, so guys/gals, you aren’t done with me yet! Let’s do this Dallas!

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