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Welcome Neil Bizzell – Director of Education

How did you first get involved in becoming a coding instructor for The Developer Academy?

I am the Leader of the local CAS community and one of my co-leaders (who has now left) worked as the lead instructor for Ben, he introduced me and I started working on the curriculum design as a contractor. 

As things developed I took on more work and became more involved. I now work as Director of Education.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of being a computer programming instructor for you?

It is seeing the students progress and develop understanding. Learning to code can be a frustrating process , it is really satisfying to see the look on a students face when the code finally works

What’s the most common challenges programming students face and how do you help them tackle them?

Finding time to learn new skills around a job is probably the hardest part.  It can be really hard for students to keep going on a course especially if they feel they are working on their own. With the group session support the students have set times every week where they can come, talk with others going through the same process and get expert help. 

Some students have also struggled with understanding the coding challenges so part of my initial role has been to review all of our curriculum materials and update them. We have gathered feedback from the students and instructors and used this to improve the courses so that the focus is on solving the programming problems. We have also gathered information from local employers on what the key skills for them are when looking for new employees in the development field. We will be constantly reviewing our materials and projects to ensure they work for our students and are relevant to the needs of local employers.

How important do you think the flexibility of the training is for students? (being able to learn at their own pace, focusing on the topics/areas they’re most interested in)

Programming and digital in general is a very wide field. there is a massive range of different skills required in the industry and everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. Providing the same training to everyone and producing an identical skill set in everyone doesn’t take into account the range of opportunities of personal skills of our students. With a flexible approach the students can tailor their learning around their interests and career aspirations. This is a key feature to our training that is not possible on a fixed bootcamp style program.

What would you say to anyone who’s interested in learning to code but doesn’t consider themselves to be ‘techy’?

Programming is an inherently creative process, developers come from a wide range of backgrounds. The traditional image if a programmer may apply to some but it is not an essential prerequisite. We have and are training people from a wide range of different backgrounds, there is not a fixed ‘techy’ type that we or employers are looking for, just a desire to learn.

While you’re helping to support coding students, do you also find you’re learning or developing your own learning? 

As an educational professional I am always learning myself. Teaching is a really great way of consolidating my own knowledge and where students are working on their own projects it is a really good opportunity to apply that learning in different contexts.

What’s your background in IT/tech and what career path did you take?

After leaving school I trained as a science teacher. I spent two years teaching physics and general science in secondary schools (London and Sheffield). During this time I retrained as an infrastructure engineer (Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator) and left teaching to work as an IT consultant.

As an IT consultant I worked for a range of big companies and organisations including HSBC, Sun Microsystems, BT and the NHS. During this time I progressed from infrastructure roles to process and project management, I also did a little programming in some of my roles.

I returned to teaching,  now teaching Computer Science, in 2010.  Alongside my role as Director of Education for the Developer Academy I continue to teach part time at King Edward VII School.  In addition to my day job(s) I am the leader of the CAS Local community, a member of the Local BCS Branch Committee and an Officer with the ACF.

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