Be Real and Be Honest: Tips from a Proud KU Coding Boot Camp Instructor
By Jolie Meyer
In early 2017, shortly after my wife of twenty years and I had separated, I received an unsolicited invitation to apply for a position as an instructor. I had struggled with how I was going to put my life back together and survive while navigating this world alone for the first time. When we are in need and are open to the opportunities that lie before us, the universe presents us with exactly what we need, when we need it.
I was a non-traditional college student, returning to college in my thirties with four children after a career in retail management. After 11 years with the same company, I could project out the rest of my life, and I realized that I would never be able to provide for my family the life I felt they deserved. I thought back to what I always wanted to do, and at the top of the list was to work with computers, so we sold our home and moved into a single wide trailer. I worked overnights so I could attend school during the day and care for my children. Two years later, I earned my degree and the skills I needed to enter into the technology field.
Since graduating from the University of Nebraska at Kearney, I had been working in web application development for 5 years and had honed my craft, working my way up from a web developer, then engineer and finally a senior software engineer as well as leading several development teams. After working with every major social media platform, I was in the process of establishing a new business division within my organization, so free time was not a luxury that I could afford. Yet, when I got the call from KU Boot Camps I was intrigued. I naturally felt honored at being recognized for my ability, but more than that, I believed I was being presented with the chance to share my knowledge and experience with others, much like I had learned earlier in the classroom. I did my research and decided that of all the boot camps available, I could be proud and stand behind KU Boot Camps.
Being an instructor has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. As an instructor, I have made numerous connections with people within our host university, members of the tech field in our community, and the many students I have had the privilege of standing in front of. Each one of the students that comes through our program is hungry for something. Many of them have very similar life experiences to mine and are looking to change their lives for the better. I am honored that I get to be a part of that transformational experience.
That is not to say that there are not challenges. When you step in front of that class full of students, you are the subject matter expert. The students are looking to you to guide them through the hodgepodge of terms and concepts that for many are completely foreign and require them to think in new ways that may be uncomfortable. You will need to be sure of your skills and your abilities, and yet be a real person first and foremost. It is the human aspect that makes for a great instructor and a rewarding educational experience. To me, writing software is fun, solving difficult problems is rewarding, and life isn’t worth living if you aren’t having a good time. Never be afraid to let your personality come through. Instead of fearing mistakes, relish in them; your students will love you for your honesty and realness.
I believe that technology is the most democratic industry that exists on the planet today. No matter where you are from, what you look like, or how much money you have, it is the individuals skills that matter and little else. As a woman working in technology and a member of the LGBTQ community, I am proud that I can stand up and be an example for other women and minorities that we can, in fact, make a difference. We can be successful on our own merits, and we can make our imprint on the world.