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April 4, 2022

A Seat at the Table: Teaching Classes at Bitwise Industries

Do you remember your first day of school? Whether you were a child entering elementary school for the first time, or a freshman in high school wondering how the next few years will shape your educational career—there is something nerve-racking about entering into unfamiliar territory. But when we recall those first days, we often remember the teachers, instructors, and professors who led our classes. Ask any celebrity, politician, or leader who has had the biggest impact on them in their lives, and many will cite a teacher.

The heart of our Bitwise Classes are our students, but just as important are the many instructors who teach each class. They shape the learning environment, creating space for students to explore new topics and projects. From Websites to Beginners, with students who have never created a line of code before, to our many apprentices who garner new projects and direction from apprentice leads, every Bitwise Class instructor provides the opportunity to learn, apply, and grow to every student in our classes. To put it simply, they intentionally open up a seat at the table for students—any student—to join our community and the technology industry.

Our students come from a variety of backgrounds, but the majority are part of marginalized groups traditionally left out of the technology industry, including individuals who come from stories of poverty. The Bitwise Industries mission from the beginning has been to uplift these folks, and intentionally create space, training, and opportunities for them to achieve their goals in technology and beyond. Part of that mission includes making sure our students see themselves in our instructors—creating a shared experience which proves that there is indeed a space for them in the tech industry.

Whereas many traditional educational environments require instructors to hold certain credentials, or go through extensive interview processes, the approach to finding Bitwise instructors is a little different. Many of our instructors are actually former students themselves, who found their own lives transformed through Bitwise Classes.

“I heard about Bitwise through a family friend in 2019,” said Neptali “Nepts” Montez (she/her), Websites for Beginners instructor. “I signed up that same day and started the course the following Monday—it was the best impulsive decision I’ve ever made.” Nepts’ first class was Websites for Beginners, the traditional start for many students since it’s open to folks who have no prior coding experience. From her first time in the Bitwise buildings, Nepts felt a sense of belonging like never before. “Everyone was incredibly nice and super welcoming,” Nepts recalled.

“Walking into my first class as a student and speaking to the instructor, I immediately knew this is where I wanted to be.”

– Neptali “Nepts” Montez (she/her), Websites for Beginners Instructor

A similar experience happened with Raquel “Rocky” Garcia (she/her), who found herself in a Bitwise Class after a quick Google search. Rocky is one of those individuals who came from a story of poverty—on her own by age eighteen, working as many hours at a retail job just to make ends meet. A seat at the table in a Bitwise Class was the first step that changed her life. “They lived up to the ‘fast, no fluff’ motto on the website, and everyone looked just as intimidated as I was,” Rocky recalled. “But my instructor, Eric Broadwater, and teaching assistant, Terry Solis, made us feel welcomed the entire time. I was hooked on that feeling of belonging.”

Both Nepts and Rocky began a Bitwise Apprenticeship after their classes, and soon were asked if they would be interested in teaching a Bitwise Class. “During my WordPress apprenticeship there were a lot of opportunities, and one of them happened to be teaching a Websites for Beginners class,” Nepts explained. “I was super excited for the opportunity and, of course, pursued it!” 

Neptali “Nepts” Montez, (she/her), Websites for Beginners Instructor

Raquel “Rocky” Garcia, (she/her), Instructor Support

For Mehdi Aitbrahim (he/him), React and Javascript instructor, becoming an instructor came after he joined the Bitwise team as a software developer. When Jacque Solano, Instructor Support Specialist and former instructor herself, sent a request to the team for React instructors, he applied for it. “I wanted to challenge my knowledge,” Mehdi explained. “Even though there are so many topics to explain in such a short time together, it is still an incredible experience.”

Bitwise Classes are not your traditional tech bootcamp, and neither are our instructors. Each one approaches their Bitwise Class differently, and brings a variety of projects, teaching styles, and philosophies to each class. “I believe every class is different therefore I go with the flow of the class.” Nepts said. “I stay mindful of the students and the pace of the class as a whole. Some classes move faster than others, while other classes ask for more examples and ask more questions.” Each class has a standard curriculum for instructors to follow, but there is plenty of liberty and creative freedom to tap into when actually teaching that curriculum to students. “When identifying resources, I look for visual examples,” Rocky explained. “I use gamified tutorials, and if they don’t exist, I’ll just try to create my own.”

Jacque utilizes her personal journey with Bitwise in her teaching style, focusing on patience and support with each student. “I want to provide the confidence and skills to lead students in their development journeys,” she said. “This drives me to give 110% of myself to guide students in their new journey, and lend a hand when obstacles appear.”

Jacque Solano, (she/her), Instructor Support Specialist

Bitwise Classes are open to everyone and anyone, meaning our instructors get to teach a wide variety of students in every class they lead. “It’s a mix of different students every round,” Rocky shared. “Some come in knowing they want to be a developer. Some have never seen code before. Regardless of their experience, most are just looking for somewhere to belong.”

“Students want to be here, they genuinely want to learn how to code,” Nepts explained. “They are looking for an opportunity that could potentially change their life for the better.” Seeing the deeper impact of each Bitwise Class allows our instructors to see how their classroom is creating an environment for students to truly thrive. “The best moments are when a student is having trouble with code, they share their screen, and as a class we start debugging the code,” Nepts said. “As an instructor, it is beautiful to see the class come together to support another student.” 

Stepping into the role of instructor can be an intimidating one, to say the least. Standing at the front of a class, staring out into rows of new faces of students can give even the most experienced teacher an immediate dose of Imposter Syndrome, loosely defined as doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud.

“I was a nervous wreck during my first class, I struggled a bit, but it was overall so fulfilling in the end. I got so hooked, I continued to teach a class in each round for the next three years.”

– Jacque Solano, (she/her), Instructor Support Specialist

Those nerves were familiar to Rocky, who felt them every minute in front of her first class. “I was self-conscious, scared, and uncomfortable,” she remarked. “But on presentation day [at the conclusion of the six-week class], I saw what the students accomplished—and I just felt so proud of them.”

Although our instructors are tasked with teaching, they often end up learning something new themselves. “Students teach me all the time!” Jacque exclaimed. “If it isn’t new material, corrections, views on development, or thoughts on process, it’s their will to overcome hurdles in their journey—it’s resiliency.”

“By teaching, I relearn stuff I thought I already knew.” Mehdi shared. Perhaps one of the often overlooked benefits of teaching is one’s ability to be a life-long learner, even if they are leading the classroom. “Students teach me more about the content than I learned in my experience as a developer,” Rocky explained. “They always bring a fresh perspective and a different way of looking at the code so I was able to learn concepts from every angle.” Students also leave our instructors with lessons that impact them inside the classroom and out. “They teach me that if you give authenticity, you get authenticity,” explained Nepts. “Students have taught me to listen twice as much as I speak, and that the smallest things make the biggest difference. I’ve grown a lot since becoming an instructor—professionally and personally.”

When a Bitwise Class ends, all instructors hope that students walk away with new skills they can use to continue their journeys in tech, whether that be advancing to a new class or exploring potential career opportunities. Beyond that, our instructors hope students understand the learning process doesn’t end when a class does—that it is a lifelong journey that will benefit them in the long run.

“I want students to leave my classes knowing that success is always a process. Mistakes are meant to be made, but it is important to see them as learning opportunities and keep moving forward.”

– Neptali “Nepts” Montez (she/her), Websites for Beginners Instructor

For brand new developers, failure and mistakes can be intimidating obstacles in the tech industry, but our instructors encourage students to lean into that fear and know that every project they tackle will teach them something new. “You’re going to have to build way more projects than what’s taught in my classes,” Rocky laughed. “I was a year into my first development job before I started feeling confident enough to build features independently, and that’s okay!”

Jacque Solano, (she/her), Instructor Support Specialist

Neptali “Nepts” Montez, (she/her), Websites for Beginners Instructor

And because at the end of the day, Bitwise is about humans, our instructors hope students leave each class with a little more wisdom about themselves and the world around them. “I want students to know they can do anything so long as they have patience and are willing to get through the obstacles,” Jacque said. “I want them to have grace for themselves, especially when learning something new.” 

Bitwise Classes are more than a starting point for an individual’s technology journey. For many, it’s a place where they feel a sense of belonging for the first time—not only is there a seat at the table for them, but also someone who actively pulls that chair back for them and invites them in. Our Instructors are at the forefront of this effort, and take that calling to heart. “When I took that first step and took a Bitwise Class myself, my life took a turn for the better,” Nepts recalled. “I want to teach others those skills that could potentially transform their life, too.” Similarly, Rocky’s motivation to teach came from her experience as a student. “Ultimately, I chose to teach because I was so grateful for the opportunities I was afforded after taking the classes,” Rocky said. “I learned a lot in my first years working as a developer and I wanted to provide the students after me the best possible path to success.”

For every accomplished software developer or project manager in our field is an instructor who took the time to teach them the skills they needed to succeed. For every tech breakthrough or advancement is a teacher who took the time to help debug a line of code for a student. For every CEO of a billion-dollar tech company is an instructor who believed in them. Our Bitwise instructors are those people for our community. They help uplift the future of our tech workforce with the skills they need to strive for success and the personal growth to believe in themselves. And perhaps when those students are given an opportunity to become teachers themselves, they’ll wholeheartedly create a space at their own tables, inviting the next generation of students in to sit down.

Leah Sadoian is a Content Writer for Bitwise Industries, and primarily writes marketing material, website content, and narratives for Bitwise Stories. In her free time, she enjoys a cold IPA, Law and Order SVU reruns, and spending time with her cat, Marge.