Wednesday, December 01, 2010

I take the train home from work each day, and usually there are plenty of seats.  One day, a little over a month ago, the train was crazy crowded due to all the people heading to one of the Giants playoff games.  Another woman and I ended up crammed in a section of the train car normally reserved for small pieces of luggage.  

Turns out she teaches computer science at a local community college.  Turns out I've been programming for 30 years and have a few opinions.  We had a lovely chat and before we got to my stop she explained that sometimes she brings "people from industry" into the classroom to give the students a real-world perspective.  She asked if I'd be interested in doing that sometime.

Given that I had been at my new job for about a month, I was well overdue for asking for some time off, especially for a worthy cause like imprinting my real-world perspective onto naive eager minds.

The students in question were in the middle of writing their first sizable computer program as a team and were presenting their designs to the class.  My job was to listen to the presentation and then give feedback.  I was a little concerned that I'd hear their speech and have nothing to say, so I did most of the assignment myself ahead of time so that I could make a list of gotchas and tricky bits.  

All in all, it went pretty well.  I had plenty of things to say, both positive and negative.  I did my best to couch my negative advice constructively and I usually prefaced it with something like "that's how I would have coded it too, but one of my coworkers is a stickler for details, so he would have told me blah blah less-crappy-here and blah blah more-smartness-there."  I was good-cop-programmer and bad-cop-programmer all rolled into one!

Afterwards, the instructor opened up the floor so that the students could ask me questions.  I was pretty sure that students in a beginning computer science class would be completely uninterested in the ancient programmer who did not work for a cool company like Google or Facebook.  Turns out that I was completely wrong.  They peppered me with questions about programming techniques and technologies for about 30 minutes.  

Frankly, I can't believe it all went so well.  I can, however, request that you all call me "Professor" now.


The 4th Sister said...

Oh I am sure Hank will fall for that one....LOL

tinyhands said...

Sorry, but I stopped reading after the first sentence because I had the song "My Baby Takes The Morning Train" stuck in my head and needed a coathanger to get it out.

Mike said...

4th Sis, sadly you are correct.

Louie, that was the whole goal of this post. I'm up 1-0 now.

Mike Duffy said...

Any particularly interesting or insightful questions from the audience? Any comments on the younger generation?

Sue said...

which community college was it?

Mike said...

Mike, being a community college, it wasn't entirely the younger generation. A couple of the students were at least as old as me. The questions they asked were pretty good questions about how software is developed in corporate America.

Sue, Foothill.