This month marks the 25th anniversary of my teaching Information Technology (IT) courses for triOS College in Ontario, Canada.
Back in 1998 I was well on my way to becoming an academic bum that kept on taking university courses forever. But I had a wife and child and needed to think more responsibly. So, as my spring university semester was ending, I applied for an instructor job that my grandmother saw in a newspaper ad and thought I’d be perfect for. After an interview and demo teach, I got the job and started the following Monday… April 20, 1998.
That September, the college was purchased by triOS Corporation and eventually renamed to triOS College. Campus staff were bussed to a big venue where the CEO gave a pep talk about why we should continue to work for triOS. For IT instructors, the fact the company background was primarily corporate tech training was one compelling reason.
But the biggest reason I stuck around after the purchase was the CEO’s response to a question another instructor asked: “What is your policy on working in the industry outside of teaching?” The answer was: “I have no problem with that whatsoever. The more current industry experience you have, the better it makes us look.”
I had a lot of connections in the university computer science space and industry at the time, and I remember thinking to myself that a combination of a teaching day job and some cool extracurricular academic projects could be both fun and rewarding. It also had the potential to be sustainable in the long term. So, for the past 25 years, I’ve taken on one or two cool extracurricular projects per year for different universities and other organizations (mostly software engineering or systems/cloud architecting).
And while extracurricular projects kept my skills sharp and professional desires satisfied, there was no shortage of additional opportunities at the college beyond teaching college IT courses. Over the past 25 years, I’ve:
- Taught UNIX and programming courses to hundreds of corporate clients on-site through our corporate training division. This exposed me to dozens of different organizations, from which I made plenty of connections that would later augment my extracurricular pursuits.
- Written 26 textbooks for various publishers, including Course Technology, Thompson/Delmar, Wiley, and Cengage. Writing textbooks is not only something I excel at, but also something I love to do.
- Created an entire online learning management system (LMS) for Caldera in 2001 (long before these types of systems existed). I also designed and created the course content for the Caldera Linux course, two SCO UNIX courses, and shell scripting course it hosted.
- Organized and ran over a dozen sponsored programming competitions (hackathons and game jams) at our campus for app and game development students between 2011 and 2015. Most of these events were 48-hour (continuous) competitions between colleges in Canada or around the world.
- Ran an eBook pilot back in 2010 with Amazon Kindle DX devices to see if we could migrate completely to eBooks (this was long before eBooks were adopted by colleges, or even considered acceptable). It failed miserably but was a great learning experience.
I’ve genuinely enjoyed teaching since 1998. But it’s also nice to have some sort of validation that you’re a good instructor. Two years after I started teaching (2000), I received the Certified Technical Trainer (CTT) certification after passing both a written exam, as well as a class video submission (these videos were rigorously scrutinized and difficult to pass). Fifteen years after I started teaching (2013), I won the Excellence in Teaching award from the Ontario Association of Career Colleges (beating out all the other instructor nominations in Ontario). And just over twenty years after I started teaching (2019), I received the Outstanding Train-the-Trainer award from the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). I’ve also won numerous Instructor of the Year awards over the years from triOS College.
It’s been a wild and fun ride - cheers!