Goodbye IPMC, hello SMSGH
Yesterday, I left my job at IPMC as a Database Technology instructor. I will be joining a top African start-up (according to Forbes Africa), SMSGH, as a developer. I loved teaching database design, development, and administration but I love building software more. I'm a programmer, so shouldn't I probably be writing code? Having said that, I see myself returning to the classroom as a lecturer later in my career, that is, if I don't crack a multi-million-dollar doughnut too soon.
I had been there since June last year (11 months) and leaving was not easy at all. Having been there for that long, I'd become very attached to my job and particularly my students, both mentally and emotionally. I taught a total of six classes, split into morning and evening batches. I had a very cordial relationship with all members of staff, as well. When I announced my decision of leaving to the administrator, she probably thought I was joking. But I wasn't. Let me share my experience nurturing database technology professionals with you in the following sections.
What it was like being an instructor
I like to believe that my students liked me and how I taught them. Although I was supposed to teach Database, there were several instances where we talked over topics completely unrelated to computers. I observed that students learn better when they are having fun and acknowledge the practicality of the lesson. So my teaching sessions mostly start with a discussion that is indirectly related to the topic we're going to treat, in order to garner more interest in the matter. Like every teacher knows, a friendly atmosphere, short jokes, and funny quotes also help improve the process of teaching and learning.
I never snubbed any question because I believe none was ever stupid or senselessly asked, like it's frequently preached in the programming world. If you think a particular question is badly asked, then it may be a lack of understanding on your part or inadequate knowledge of the questioner in that area. As an instructor, it's then your responsibility to explicate the subject matter so that the questioner will by him/herself rephrase the question. You just don't tell the student, "That's a stupid question; go on the Internet and learn how to ask sensible questions!"
Well, among my students were lecturers, bankers, MBAs, models, etc. so I couldn't just snub their questions, could I? Yes, I could. But I didn't. Because to them I was just a fellow but not someone of greater class than they were. Oh, did I mention I had a lot of beautiful women in my class too? OMG! Teaching them felt like strolling in a green garden full of red roses. (Huh?) They shied away from the programming courses because "it's too difficult; it's for those who are good in maths"; hardware and networking courses because "it's men's job to do those kinda stuff"; graphic and web design because "it doesn't pay well." So they wound up choosing Database.
Despite the class being immensely composed of women, I like to think my average student would beat out most students offering the same course in other training institutions in the country. For example, one pompous developer tried to argue "data types" with one of my girls—he went home with a sore spot on his jaw. Some of my top students even managed to understand difficult concepts and techniques involved in designing, developing and administering databases, which would rather take several years of practical experience to grasp.
Finding the words to say goodbye
Even though I had informed my students several weeks earlier, the general impression in class, on our last day of meeting, was that of unpleasant surprise and disappointment. I also felt bad primarily because they had such an exceptional attitude towards the course that made me want to nurture them to the best of my ability. They were so much concerned about the personality of their next instructor but I believe I curbed all those negative preconceptions they were having.
I called in the instructor to give some kind of orientation but the brief session turned out to be a "DOs and DON'Ts" thingy. Many people don't appreciate being surrounded by rules and formal procedures, especially when you are dealing with students of their nature, so I think the guy blew it right there. I also noticed during my period as an instructor that students learn better when they see the instructor as a confrère rather than a superior. An instructor would have to let their class show by practically demonstrating their abilities but not in words or attitude.
Because I hate long and sorrowful goodbyes, I tried to compensate the sad mood around my leaving by forcibly treating a topic. After the lesson (which ended sooner than I'd expected), the frail-hearted students tried to cry but I also tried to make it sound like I was not even leaving yet. I awkwardly said: "I'll be passing through on Monday, but not as your instructor," knowing fully well that was a complete lie. They knew that was the last time they were seeing me since I will be permanently relocating. And so we buried the plans we had made, quietly walked out of class, and went straight home. But there is something I took with me—a box of memories. Oh, did I tell you they bought me an Emporio Armani AR-0513? Well, I just did.
Being alone again, naturally
Before I started teaching there, I was a lone lonely loner in a fortress of solitude. Yes, I would wake up in the morning tapping on the keyboard and go to bed dreaming in code. I guess that's what I know how to do best. But there are those grade of programmers (Intel engineers, Google developers, etc.) who have already paid their dues, and so worry less about code but are always looking at the bigger picture. Needless to say, I'm not one of them, yet. My current stage is all about mastering complexity and writing lots of code.
And then these beautiful people came in and turned my whole world around. I began to use my phone more, spent more time on social media sites, etc. I'm sure some of my students were coming to class with a top priority to "have fun." In spite of the fact that sometimes the "fun" we had in class escalated beyond my control, I do believe it was the right thing I was doing in order to make students of their kind enjoy a technical subject like Databases. I'm most grateful to Puja Kashyap for giving me such a fine opportunity to teach at the center. I won't forget that.
So as I'm sitting here in my chair typing these words, I'm thinking of what I'm going to miss. But when I look at the brighter side, I see that I'm going to have a chance to "change the world." (Pffft, that is, if I believe in fairy-tales.) All the same, I'm sure I will be having a lot of fun working for a start-up, and also gain an enormous amount of experience by helping solve difficult real-world problems. So perhaps I made the right decision. After all, it's better to die a hero, than to live long enough to see yourself become a villain.