James Sapara joined our Vancouver Education team back in early 2016, and has blessed us with his passion for building + an endless supply of cat shirts. James can most often found fiddling with the 3D printer, serenading his chubby-cheeked adorable son Kasper, or acting as Ron Livingston's unofficial doppelgänger. Take a read and learn more about James in our latest Teacher Feature!
Tell us about your teaching philosophy.
"Code is Free". In the safety of your own computer terminal you can run whatever code you want. Break stuff, poke at gems and generally run amuck as you please. My lectures are half planned "gee, why didn't that work" and the rest are real "Wow, wasn't expecting that! Let's figure out what happened".
Why did you get into teaching?
I have taught on and off at various points through my career. When the opportunity presented itself (actually, I presented myself as an opportunity?!?) it just fell into place. I knew some of the founders with LHL when they first started (Picatic was a table over) and that kept LHL in the back of my mind for nearly two years.
How did you get in to coding?
I believe it was on an IBM 8088 PS/1 when I was around 7 years old. They had books in the library with BASIC code you could type in and make some games. The version of BASIC they used was for Commodore 64 so it needed to be tweaked. Lucky for me, the manuals that came with the big IBM computer had the BASIC syntax documented. So I got to work translating many games at the time. Naturally, I started to modify the games to suite the amusements of a 7 year old...
Your first coding project?
My first paid software project was an app for the Palm Pilot IIIxe to do inventory counting. It was what got me interested in "mobile" apps around 2000. The project was a challenge at the time, because the client wanted wireless syncing but the IIIxe only supported Infrared sync at the time.
What do you love most about teaching at Lighthouse Labs?
The atmosphere is so conductive to what we do. Students, mentors and staff are always charged up and ready to take on the next challenge.
Where did you work before teaching at Lighthouse Labs?
Before Lighthouse Labs, I was the CTO at Picatic.com. I have worked a few startups before then, and tried the agency world for a few years as well.
What's one cool non-development job you've done?
While I was studying computer science, I had a summer job at an engraving shop. The job itself was literally boring 98% of the time. The other 2% was engraving crazy stuff people brought in, like: urns, toy tractors and priceless crystal dinner ware.
Was it cool? Not until I started engraving trophies for my friends for random things: First Place in doing dishes, Most likable D&D character to die, Last place parking medalions where my favorite though. The confused look on peoples faces at the mall when you give it to them. Priceless.
What do you enjoy doing outside of teaching and coding?
I have a lot of 3d printers and random electronics projects on the go. But when I do find some time to get out of the house, it's walks in the forest, reading a book on the beach and just hanging out with my wife and wee boy Kasper.
What is the most rewarding part about teaching at Lighthouse Labs?
Seeing a cohort you have gotten to know over eight weeks graduate. I imagine it is a lot like seeing your kids off to university, except with a lot less bills for university?
What open source or side projects are you working on right now?
I have been slowly working on a tool to upload lecture examples to gist from the command line. Mostly a selfish tool that hopefully helps get lecture notes to students faster here at LHL.
What is your advice for aspiring developers?
Always make time to play with code and interesting new projects you see. I often see junior developers bring a lot of ego into their job. The best in this profession can set that ego aside, ask questions and learn that the team and project come before your personal ego.
What has been your most memorable moment at Lighthouse Labs so far?
Probably the most recent one in memory is just the down to earth and honest conversation I had some some alumni about life, the universe and startup. Also, that time I beat Landon at Big Buck Hunter.
What's one thing students should know about you before coming to Lighthouse Labs?
Get your prep work done early so you can get the free code review. Based on that review, you can concentrate on improving the areas that will help you the most.