Some mentorship I received from programmers, my thoughts on programming schools, what I want to do next.

I’ve always been excited at the potential intersection between education and peer-to-peer marketplaces. We have heard the problem of teacher shortages before and the sort of flight of quality teachers to higher-paying schools and the resulting unequal education distribution (the haves and the have-nots). Marketplaces seem like it could solve some problems in the education sphere. By making high-quality teachers known (higher-quality teachers would command a higher price), it gives monetary incentives for teachers to improve in their craft and it also gives access to education to a wider array of people who are not currently enrolled in school. Sure, there are still access and equity problems (high-quality lessons are affordable only to those with the means to pay), but at least marketplaces can activate high-quality teachers who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to teach. We forget… a lot of quality teachers aren’t currently teaching because they work in other professions (why they don’t choose to be teachers is interesting… perhaps it is due to some societal pressure to not be teachers… which is pretty effed up in its own regard) and so having some means to activate these teachers seems like a step in the overall right direction.

In my period of searching for a new career, I was happy to have spoken with some programmers at Kitchensurfing. They felt like my people. They were super helpful, informative, shared information and insights about their paths into programming, answered all of my questions, and were generally just nice and ego-less people. Now I realize that isn’t the programming industry as a whole (I’ve always heard of not-so-subtle sexism in the world… but I haven’t encountered it yet) but so far there are a lot of ideals I agree with. The open-source mindset is one that I feel strongly about. In poker, I benefited from open-source essays on game-theory and mathematics and it made my life richer in a monetary and non-monetary sense. I developed and understand and new-found love of these topics and I felt I grew as a person and thinker while learning. In trading, I only wished that there was a greater dissemination of ideas. If there was only a greater dissemination of sound investment advice and greater scrutiny of existing ideas (I wish people had greater understanding in regards to diversification and “technical” analysis), perhaps people could actually take their financial future into their own hands instead of succumbing to the 2/20 model of hedge funds.

My friends at Kitchensurfing introduced me to a well-regarded founder of Hungry Academy and Turing, Jeff Casimir. I had a wonderful conversation with him about his perspective on the programming industry, his experiences working for Teach for America, and his thoughts on programming as a career path. I was somewhat lost in my career path at the time (and I still am not certain) but he certainly helped me feel better about my choice to become a programmer. I didn’t necessarily feel like our incentives were misaligned; he was pitching me the benefits of programming from the perspective of a programming school owner yes, but his school’s status as a non-profit + his high-regard in the programming industry + his departure from schools whose main incentives were profit-maximization helped build trust in my mind. I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation and I really appreciated his encouragement.

As an additional benefit to our conversation, I also learned about a viable career path that I could take. I’ve always been interested in education and I feel strongly about its value and it’s interesting to see someone transition into educating programmers for the ever-growing tech field. Not only has Jeff Casimir proven that it’s a viable business model, but I also think it’s very much the future in education. It’s odd to me that in the age of technology, there doesn’t exist an institution of higher education like law school or business school for programming. It’s interesting that law school didn’t become a kind of default graduate school option until this past century. A lot of what Wikipedia describes about the early stages of law sounds a lot like programming today: 

Until the late 19th century, law schools were uncommon in the United States. Most people entered the legal profession through reading law, a form of independent study orapprenticeship, often under the supervision of an experienced attorney…

..law school attendance would remain a rare exception in the profession…

Apprenticeship would be the norm until the 1890s, when the American Bar Association (which had been formed in 1878) began pressing states to limit admission to the bar to those who had satisfactorily completed several years of post-graduate instruction.[11] In 1906, the Association of American Law Schools adopted a requirement that law school consist of a three year course of study.[12] 

Perhaps what Jeff has started in the programming world will eventually become the norm. Hopefully in years to come, programming school becomes as much as an option for liberal arts graduates as business school or law school or medical school. I can’t see why not? Programming and technology seem to be seeping into everything and it presents a very viable career option to those who pursue it.

In short, it was great seeing how Jeff combined my interests in education and entrepreneurship. The direction and encouragement he provided me was well-worth the 30 minute conversation and I feel even more invigorated and confident that programming, and all its viable career paths, perhaps is the right choice for me.

Written on August 26, 2014