At Lighthouse Labs, we believe that having incredible teachers is an invaluable part of our students' success. We are lucky to have amazing teachers who are top craftsmen in their field. Like our students, they are gritty, passionate, and from a wide variety of backgrounds. Unlike our students, they have been working as professional developers for over 10 years and are ready to pay that experience forward. We want to take the time to get to know these teachers a little better.
This week we talked to another amazing instructor: Leigh Halliday. Leigh leads our Part-Time Web Fundamentals course at Lighthouse Labs in Toronto. When he is not teaching at Lighthouse, you may find him writing software at theScore or sipping Yerba Mate in Colombia. We sat down with Leigh to learn a little bit about him:
Where did you work before or where do you work outside of teaching at Lighthouse Labs?
A: My fulltime/day job is at theScore, where I've been for just over a month now. I work primarily on the "core" team, which consists of processing large amounts of sports related data that is served up to our mobile apps (and website) through an API. I have also recently started contributing articles to the Codeship tech blog. These articles are mostly about Ruby, Rails, and related topics.
What's one cool non-development job you've done?
I was a skateboarding instructor for a full summer at Muskoka Woods Sports Resort. It was a great experience but I don't think my ankles appreciated it much; they spent a fair bit of time swollen and purple!
What do you enjoy doing outside of teaching and coding?
I enjoy travelling and have spent some time living in both Ecuador and Colombia, where my amazing wife Marian is from. I enjoy drinking Yerba Mate, riding my mountain bike (although I don't get to do it enough living in the city), camping, and going for drives in our Jeep. My dream is to have an outdoor pizza oven... my mouth is watering just thinking about it!
Why did you get into teaching?
This came about a bit randomly! I was participating in training from Lighthouse at my previous job, and I mentioned that my wife was going to be taking the part time course in Toronto. That's when Khurram (one of the Lighthouse Labs co-founders) said that they were actually looking for an instructor and he asked if I would be interested. After checking with Marian to see if she'd mind me as her teacher, I said sure!
Tell us about your teaching philosophy.
I think every teacher might say this, but I do my best to explain things as clearly as I can. Especially for beginners without prior programming experience, it can be a bit daunting to get into code for the first time. Because of this I try to not take anything for granted and do my best to explain exactly what is happening and why. I also try to include Llamas in as many examples as possible because I think they're a hilarious animal.
What do you love most about teaching at Lighthouse Labs?
I like seeing the small victories. Having something work for the first time or seeing a lightbulb go on when a student understands a concept. I also enjoy that the classes are small and collaborative. Students aren't afraid to ask questions and interact with me while I'm going over the material.
Why did you first get started with coding?
It was a bit of a mistake to be honest. I had decided to take a Computer Networking course at college, and it just so happened that it shared the first semester with the programming program. This was my first experience programming and it turned out that I liked it much more than networking! I ended up switching to "the other side" and haven't done much networking since.
What was your first coding project?
It didn't really go anywhere but I remember working on a little project to help me organize all of my many burned CDs in a database so I would know which pictures/songs were on which ones.
What open source or side projects are you working on right now?
I'm trying to spend time writing articles (mostly tutorials) on my personal blog www.leighhalliday.com Check it out!
What is your advice for aspiring developers?
It can be overwhelming when starting out because there are so many technologies that you don't know about, and to be honest, 10 years into the game it really isn't much different for me either! Don't get stressed out about it and instead just focus on building something you enjoy. It's better to learn one thing well than 5 things poorly. It's also never bad to focus on the fundamentals of programming; those will stay with you for your entire career as the latest and hottest frameworks come and go.
What's one thing students should know about you before taking the PT course at Lighthouse Labs?
The part-time program, in my opinion, is great for 3 things:
1) To help you in your current job when you work with or interact with programmers or when different parts of your role touch technology, even when it isn't the main focus of your job.
2) To help you decide if you might enjoy doing programming as a career. If you've never programmed before, what better way to know than to try it.
3) To give you an understanding of how the web actually works. Next time you fill out information online or admire how a site is designed, you'll have knowledge about what's actually happening behind the scene.