Career Update: Teaching at UW (?!)

I'll be stepping into a classroom for the first time in 20 years to teach a course on server side programming.

Posted by Tejus Parikh on September 24, 2023

I accepted a Guest Lecturer position at the University of Washington to teach Server Side Programming, INFO441 this Autumn quarter!

One of my favorite parts of working has been in mentoring and assisting my coworkers in achieving their career goals. I’ve also taken an active role in hiring because I enjoy bringing new people into the field. Doubly so when hiring includes finding pathways for people with non-traditional backgrounds.

So when thinking about how I wanted to spend my time in this career sabbatical, I started musing about what it would be like to go one step earlier and teach?

This seed of an idea took on a life of its own during a catchup call with a former colleague. He had recently left academia for industry pursuits and in the course of that conversation he not only convinced me that this is something I could do, but also started the chain of introductions that led to this position. As fortune would have it there was an immediate opening for a instructor in server side programming, which is definitely an area of expertise. From intro email to in the classroom in a month, whew academia can move really fast.

I teach my first class this week, marking the first time in 20 years that I’ve been in a classroom. Its exciting and daunting at the same time. Thankfully there’s been a ton of supported and the UW staff I’ve encountered have been the nicest people. The course has been taught before, providing a structure and material for my own lectures.

Still I have no illusions that this is going to be a smooth experience. I’ve been virtual for nearly 3 years now and this position will require being in front of a classroom with students. I continue to have nightmares about conference room AV setups and expect that my first interaction with my students will be them witnessing me fail to project my laptop onto the big screen. (Though that’s a client-side problem and outside my stated area of expertise.)

It’s also one thing to know the material and another thing to teach it. Much of real life programming deals with edge cases and nuance, but the goal of teaching is to distill that away into the core concepts that students can use as the building blocks for new knowledge. There will have to be some balancing of “this is how it really is” vs the somewhat idealized course work. I probably should also learn VS Code. I’m not sure witnessing my VIM setup makes for the best classroom experience.

While the beginning will likely be bumpy, I hope I can adjust quickly and provide a good classroom experience for the students. I want to teach this course because I want people to be excited about server side programming and have that skillset in their toolbox.

The added bonus is that I get to be engaged, but get plenty of time to explore novel opportunities for the future. Though I do hope there’s an opportunity to teach again.

Original image is CC-licensed [original source]

Tejus Parikh

I'm a software engineer that writes occasionally about building software, software culture, and tech adjacent hobbies. If you want to get in touch, send me an email at [my_first_name]