After 16 years of developing Internet based software, I’m about to take a very new direction in my career. No, I won’t be MMA fighting nor am I becoming a nutritionist or an interior decorator, though all three I’ve considered at one point in time. Instead, I have an amazing opportunity to leverage all I’ve learned since I first entered the professional field of Software Engineering back in 1998. Starting in late July, I’ll be joining Iron Yard full time as a Ruby on Rails instructor here in Tampa Bay.

What led me to this

Few of the applications I have created over my career are still up and running. The many Miley Cyrus sites I built are long gone. The billing hub I helped architect and develop for IBM has since been replaced as has the encouraging support app for the New York and LA Marathon’s. Apps I created on my own (WeAreTampaBay.com, PeepNote.com and others) are also all since shutdown. All these apps effected people on a daily basis for the period of time they were in place. Most of the apps listed above resulted in thank you notes from it’s users (except the billing hub). But it’s inevitable in this fast paced industry that software will be replaced on a regular basis. We understand this as developers and we deal with it and move on. Yet still, it’s difficult to look back and see very few evidences of your life’s work still in place.

I grew up a teacher’s kid and then eventually a pastor’s kid. Both can be difficult labels to overcome as a child, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I had the blessing of seeing the lives my father touched on a daily basis. Even to this day, I bump into students of his from more than 25 years ago who still remember how my dad touched them and educated them.

Similarly, what remains to this day of my development past are the relationships and the people. I’m still in contact with at least one person from eleven of the twelve companies I’ve worked for. While at ValPak, I had the opportunity to hire several non-developers and mentor them toward becoming developers. Most are still in the industry full time. For me, it’s always been about effecting people and improving their lives. That’s why I write software and that’s why I’ve always enjoyed mentoring, teaching, and coaching.

Over the last year I’ve been pulled more and more toward the idea of training even though I didn’t realize it was happening. In fact, I’ve been involved in teaching in one way or another all my life. I tutored in college. My wife and I made the decision to homeschool 11 years ago. I’ve taught Sunday School at my church. I founded Commendable Kids in 2010 and still work on it to this day. Last year after freelancing for years, I interviewed for two positions: a well known online code school and a position on the Training team as a developer at GitHub. I honestly didn’t even realize the similarity between the two positions until recently. I ended up joining GitHub to work on some training software and while there, I clung to the training team and loved to watch them teach. The teachers on that team made a huge impression on me that I now believe moved me even further in this direction. When that software project was canceled and I was no longer needed on the training team, I had little interest in joining another part of the company. At the time, I didn’t realize why all of this was happening and what effect it was having on me.

A few months ago, a company I’d never heard of, Iron Yard, was mentioned in conversation to me three times in the span of a week. Even then, my first thought was, “I’m a developer, why would I do that?” Thankfully, my family pushed me to reconsider and be open to something outside my immediate comfort zone. As I began reading about the Iron Yard and then talking with the founders, one after another, I felt such an instant connection. It was an opportunity to use all the experience I have to help others and impact them far longer than any application could.

Eventually I visited the Iron Yard in Atlanta and I was hooked. Even the short time I spent there with the students and staff was invigorating. Teaching students in 12 weeks is a challenge for sure, but to see them working hard, struggling, but persevering and becoming better people for it is so rewarding. It reminded me of the journey I began when I was 7 and am still on today.

In the end, I accepted a full time teaching position with the Iron Yard and I could not be more excited to help bring them to Tampa Bay. I’ll be teaching Ruby on Rails and also helping do all we can to support the tech community here in the area (another passion of mine as many of you know).

I won’t say it’s going to be easy, but I’ll do my best to help the students become the best developers they can be. If I can pass along some of my skills and experiences to them, and help them realize their dream of becoming software developers, it will be beyond amazing. I’ll continue to develop Commendable Kids and other apps on the side as well, because I’ll always love writing code.

The Iron Yard is doing some amazing work and it’s only the beginning. It’s such a blessing to be on board with them and I cannot wait to get started. If you aren’t familiar with them, check out their site and feel free to ask me any questions.