Nima teaches at our Vancouver campus and has been doing some amazing work in the community both with Lighthouse Labs and our partner agency Canada Learning Code. Nima assumes the role as a full-time instructor in Vancouver starting January 2019 after working with Lighthouse as a part-time instructor and mentor for the past year!
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got involved with Lighthouse Labs.
I’m a recent graduate of computer science at Simon Fraser University (SFU). I first got involved with teaching through Canada Learning Code, where I started as a mentor then moved on to become an instructor. This year, I travelled across Canada with Canada Learning Code, teaching at conferences for primary and secondary school teachers. After finishing up my co-op placements and working as an instructor I knew I wanted to teach at Lighthouse Labs. I had made a connection with a current mentor who connected me with Lighthouse Labs.
How did you originally get into coding? What was your first coding project?
I started to look at code while I was still in high school. My friend was teaching me a few different things, but at that time we were doing everything on paper! I didn’t start typing out the code for another year when I was working on my applied physics major, which required me to take a coding course. From there, I fell in love with coding and pretty much switched over to a new major from there. The best part was I didn’t lose much momentum in my coursework.
What’s one cool non-development job you’ve done?
While at university I worked as a DJ at SFU’s CJSF 90.1 FM. My show was on Tuesdays, and I got to play a lot of cool local music. One of the highlights is that I got to interview Opio from Souls of Mischief!
Where did you work before working at Lighthouse Labs?
I’ve worked previously as a mentor and instructor with Canada Learning Code. I’ve also worked for a “smart transit” startup and (as part of my eight-month co-op placement) at an environmental consulting firm. For a while, I maintained the website for the Capilano Courier, Capilano University’s student newspaper.
Why did you get into teaching? Tell us about your teaching philosophy.
My background in high school was theatre, so going into computer science didn’t really allow for “performance.” I felt pulled towards teaching because it felt very much like theatre in certain ways. This has carried on into how I teach. My aim is to make things as interactive and as entertaining as possible. At Lighthouse Labs, there are a diverse group of instructors who all have different teaching styles. There are many different facets to learning and one of them is facilitating a diverse set of conversation between people. A lot of learning is done on your own, but you need to feel like you’ve been motivated to do that. When I’m teaching, I want to help spark the motivation for students to look at things in a variety of creative ways.
What do you enjoy doing outside of teaching and coding?
I like to play guitar. I’m currently growing some plants (sunflowers and succulents) and I’m also into road cycling.
What is the most rewarding part of teaching at Lighthouse Labs?
Technology is very empowering. There are people who want to do things, such as work with causes they are passionate about. Learning to be computer literate and learning to code can help give people the power to share their passions with the world. I like seeing people take an active position in something that they want to fix; learn and get excited and use those tools for something.
What’s one thing students should know about before coming to Lighthouse Labs?
People should really be aware of how much work it is and how much time it takes! 10 a.m. - 9 p.m. is a lot to ask, but it also takes an emotional hit and it’s a lot of hard work. Beyond the difficulty of the material, I think people should be mindful of the mental stress that bootcamp takes you through.
A thing students should ask themselves is: should I keep learning on my own or should I take a bootcamp? Learning on your own is awesome, but the thing that a bootcamp gives you is the community of people who you can learn with. Your cohort can help you deal with the mental and emotional stress of putting yourself through something so difficult. Coding is a social activity and doing it on your own is a disservice to yourself if you aren’t finding others to work with.
What is your advice for aspiring developers?
Find like-minded people and get yourself out to events. That’s how you find new ideas. It’s typical to suggest working on projects, but when you’re learning to code you don’t necessarily know what a “project” is. The easiest way to figure that out is by going to events and meeting new people, where you will start to form new and exciting ideas. At the same time, it’s best not to stress yourself out with these types of projects. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just getting into coding, you should start out being as silly as possible. Don’t worry about building useful things right off the bat. Over time you can start integrating that knowledge into more “serious” things.
What has been your most memorable moment at Lighthouse Labs so far?
The first Demo Day I went to; seeing the first cohort I instructed from beginning to end graduate. A lot of my lectures were Kanye West-themed - I actually have four or five Kanye-themed lectures. The cohort was giving out thank you cards and they had all signed my card with something related to Kanye!
My favourite thing about working at Lighthouse Labs is how supportive everyone has been. Students are supportive of each other and the staff are really supportive of the students. [Former Vancouver Education Manager] Rosy and [current Vancouver Education Manager] Davey are like the nicest people! It’s a really great working environment and a really great learning environment.
What’s one thing students should know about you before coming to Lighthouse Labs?
I love learning new things! A lot of the final projects that I’ve seen end up using tools and technologies that I’ve never had the chance to use before, so it’s so much fun to learn about those things from the students.