Meet The Instructor: Joel Burton

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Rithm School

Mar 27, 2018

Joel Burton has recently joined the Rithm Team as part of our instruction team, teaching and supporting students throughout the course as they take the leap into full-stack web development. Here we learn a little bit more about Joel, his role on the team and his advice to all aspiring web developers.

What is your role at Rithm School?

I’m one of the lead instructors. I help create and maintain the curriculum, lecture, support students in lab exercises, and build tools to help Rithm function.

What were you doing before you came to work here?

Most recently, I was the Vice President of Education at Hackbright Academy, an all-women immersive coding school. There, I led the education team that delivered both the Hackbright Fellowship and their evening part-time program, and was the primary author of their curriculum.

Prior to that, I worked for over a decade as a consultant engineering manager for clients, primarily focusing on Python-based application development and data optimization. During this time, I also taught dozens on week-long and two week-long courses on open source development, with thousands of students participating, in 19 countries.

Prior to that, I worked as an engineer at Apple, and as a Director of Information Systems and Security at Planned Parenthood.

Joel Burton headshot

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

Thinking about how to break down complex topics in an understandable way is a completely addictive process. I love the feedback loop of “teach, observe, evaluate, improve”, and learning from my students as much as I can about their learning processes.

Also, of course, it’s delightful to know that I’m helping bring more colleagues into this field, and particularly that bootcamps play a critical role in helping broaden the diversity of people and talent in software engineering.

What advice would you give to an aspiring web developer?

It’s easy to look around the industry and assume that to succeed, you need to have focused entirely on programming or computer science in your education or career. It’s absolutely the case that this is a rich, interesting field of study—but most software engineering requires a broad mix of skills, and our talents in writing, teaching, visualizing interactions, and storytelling are also key skills.

For a lot students who graduate from bootcamp-style programs, it’s easy to overemphasize what you learned in the program, and downplay your previous skills and careers. I’d recommend everyone think carefully about “your story”: how your complete mix of interests and backgrounds create a powerful blend that make you an excellent engineer, far more than just any specific knowledge of languages, frameworks, or algorithms would suggest.

Or, on a more direct front, I’m a voracious reader, and love to learn about new ideas from a well-written book. If you’re like me, Safari Books is an affordable way to keep up with new ideas in programming and computer science, and I couldn’t learn nearly as much without it.

What’s one interesting fact or story about you that current students would be surprised to learn?

My academic background is both a mix of Computer Science and Women’s Studies, and my first career was in health & sexuality education. I still volunteer in that field for a local nonprofit, and really enjoy having the opportunity to teach in a very different field. I think it makes me a better teacher in both areas.

Are you interested in meeting our instructors and taking in a free lecture? Check out our free events here.

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