The third year of Etnetera Mobile Academy has successfully kicked off and mentors and participants have already completed two full-day workshops. This year's Academy is marked by fundamental changes compared to previous years. One is transforming the mobile development course from our offices to computer screens, and the other is adding Android faculty for Kotlin lovers. Experienced developer Radek Bien, among others, joined the mentor ranks this year. In the interview, he tells us how he likes teaching, what he thinks is the biggest fuck-up so far, and what a Mobile Academy graduate will be able to do.
Radek, this year is your first mentoring participation in the Mobile Academy, as previously there was no Android faculty. How do you feel after two days of teaching?
I was very nervous before the first workshop and if you asked me if I would participate in another Academy, I would say probably no (laughs). I was quite worried about whether I would be able to transfer the knowledge well. However, we are in a slightly different situation than a regular school - students volunteer and are grateful for any information. Thanks to the introductory call at the beginning aimed at getting to know each other, we managed to break down the teacher-student barrier before the first workshop. We prefer to call ourselves mentors and I would call it passing on experience rather than teaching. So with each workshop the worries go away.
What were you most afraid of at the beginning and were your fears confirmed? And what, on the other hand, is great about the Mobile Academy?
I was worried about the students' expectations and whether we could meet them - whether we would get the speed right, whether we could explain everything well and so on. In the end, those fears didn't come true and everything is going great. I also consider myself an introvert and I definitely don't feel like being in my element when it comes to presenting myself, which may be a bit obvious at times, but I am very happy that I can push my imaginary boundary a little bit further.
The other mentors on your team are first-timers, too. How do you do it? Do you rotate, do you have different topics?
Each workshop is divided according to topics and we take turns in these. At least three of us are in each workshop. One always presents their topic and another co-presents and helps keep track of time and audience reaction. The third mentor seemingly rests but is actually always on the alert to help the presenter. Students often ask questions so that mentors can rush to the rescue with answers. Well, sometimes a slightly different wording from each of the mentors is quite useful and can help. In addition, other mentors can individually help students with their problems.
It's not just about the mentors, of course, but also about the students. What do they have to do and is it just study Saturdays?
Students must also do their homework, which builds on the knowledge gained in class and students work on it independently. They then hand it in by the deadline and in the meantime we are available to them and they can ask us questions. But we are trying to get them to work with each other - and they actually do! We then check the homework and everyone gets feedback on their code. But it's not just about grading, it's also about advice on how it could be improved and so on. Based on the feedback, the students then improve their apps.
Do you remember a fuck-up you had to deal with in class?
I probably wouldn't call it a total fuck-up, but when we were preparing the first workshop, we planned the topics for 7 hours and 55 minutes and we were happy to fit it nicely into the planned 8 hours... But we forgot to add a lunch break and other breaks… In the end, however, we adjusted the programme on the fly so that we could get everything essential done, so it turned out well.
What will an Android faculty graduate know at the end of the course? What will their knowledge look like?
The ideal graduate of the Academy will be able to join and be a valid member of the development team after completing the course. This is expressed very generally and we don't expect them to be able to create a large-scale mobile app from start to finish. But alongside a senior developer, they will gradually mature to be able to do so. It is important for students to at least partially try all aspects of development, to be able to design and create UI, implement interaction and navigation in the app, connect the app to the server API and display the processed data on the UI layer.
They will also have an overview of the trends and architectures currently used in development. Even if they jump into an existing project, they should be able to quickly get up to speed and get involved in the development.