Meet the Teacher: Jacques Le Normand

Jacques is the latest addition to the Decode team. He is our lead instructor and instructional designer.

We sat down with Jacques to learn a bit more about his background, how he became a teacher, and get some free life lessons.

Tell us a little bit about yourself?

Currently, I am the Lead Instructor and Instructional Designer at Decode. I have a Bachelors and a Masters in Computer Science, an MBA, and have worked for companies such as Jane Street in New York City and Google in Mountain View California.

How did you get into programming?

I developed a passion for programming at a very young age. My dad was a computer enthusiast and he introduced me to programming when I was a child. We had something called the Radio Shack Colour Computer in the early 90’s - The coco 2. It was a very interesting system because you could play games on it, but you could also just write your own programs using a language called Basic. My dad showed me a few cool things. I remember him showing me how to write a For Loop, which blew my mind.

coco

Eventually he started buying me these books full of code, that I would copy line by line. At the end, you would run your program and you would see a cool animation, like fireworks for example. It was super rewarding when you hit that play button and see the fruits of your labour.

How did you start your career as a Software Developer?

That’s actually an interesting story because I was finishing my masters in computer science, and I was actually building a new programming language. When I was done with the project and it came time to publish it, I realized that I needed to make a decision between going into Computer Science Research or going to work in the industry. I realized that I was much more excited about programming rather than research so I decided to take an internship as a Software Developer at Jane Street in NYC.

I moved around a little, finally ending up at Google in Mountain View. While the perks were awesome, I decided to come back to Montreal and pursue an MBA, which ultimately led to my first teaching jobs at two local CEGEPS.

What is your favourite thing to teach?

What I really enjoy is taking something super basic, but super counter-intuitive and having students try to guess the solution - then having them debate. I don’t necessarily enjoy any particular topic, but more the interactions and discussions around programming principles.

What kind of teacher are you?

Expect a lot of dad jokes mixed in with a lot of discussions. I feel that I am very encouraging. I don’t necessarily tell students which way to go, but I will guide them.

As someone with a CS background, what is your take on Bootcamp vs. CS degree?

That’s a really big and emotional topic. My perspective is that many people who do CS cannot necessarily code afterwards. Computer Science does not equal programming. CS equals mathematics, algorithms, and critical thinking. What we do at Decode is much more restrained to programming through project based learning. This is not necessarily the experience you get in a University.

If I want to become a Web Developer do I get a CS Degree?

So if you want to specifically learn to code and to build things, Computer Science is a very circuitist way to achieve that goal. You’ll learn a bunch of stuff, but most of that will not be related to building things. Universities are no there to form Web Developers but more to train researchers.

So for people who love Mathematics, and who love theory, CS is a great program. I really enjoyed it. But for people who just want to build stuff or get a job as Web Developer then a Bootcamp is a great option.

Outside of teaching, what do you do?

I have been a swing dance enthusiast for many years, I’m a gym rat, and I like to play video games (although I’m trying not to spend too much time on that).

jacques-dancing

Do you have any personal projects you’re working on?

Oh yes. One of my passions is building educational games to teach people new languages (specifically Japanese). My latest project in that domain is called Lingo Racer → lingoracer.com. I have a few other ideas in the pipeline, but time is always an issue.

Do you speak Japanese?

I can carry on a conversation pretty well :)

Mac or PC?

I’m a PC guy. Had a Mac for a year, didn’t like it. Not only PC, but if I have the choice Linux is preferred.

Any advice for someone wanting to start with programming?

Personally, I’m very much into visual arts, interactivity, and seeing things on screen. My suggestion is to look into something like Processing. It’s a programming language system which lets you draw on the screen. It’s very visual, and fun to make. There are a ton of tutorials online. Although it’s not really useful for Web Development, it will teach you the thought process behind programming. It would really help you when you jump into other programming languages.

Any final comments?

Programming seems intimidating, and it seems like there is so much to learn. But at the end of the day, we all do basically the same thing, and you just need to start. It doesn’t matter what you choose in the beginning, as long as it motivates you.

If you have any further questions for Jacques, he welcomes you to contact him --> [email protected].