Matthew Maxwell is a new mentor in the Front End Web Development Apprenticeship at Bloc. His mentor profile picture jumped off the page, and we knew we had to find out more about this animated mentor! We talked to Matthew about his "hawkward" pic, how he got involved with Bloc and what makes the "apprenticeship" different!
Why did you started mentoring with Bloc?
Actually, a friend who was a student in the UX course at Bloc and told me they were looking for front end mentors. I’d worked with him previously and he had a lot of faith in my skill set.
He sent me the link and said, “You should check this out, I really like the school and they’re looking for mentors, I think you’d be a good fit.” The fact that I could mentor in my free time and have a fulltime job really appealed to me. I’ve always been interested in teaching people- coworkers ask me front end questions and I find myself explaining things in great detail and really enjoying that.
I think what appealed to me most is that you see students who don’t have the skill set but are really passionate to learn more. I’ve always been a fan of learning so seeing that inspires me to be better. Mentoring at Bloc gives me an opportunity to not only teach but also learn, and I love that.
How many students do you mentor?
I have four students right now in the front-end course.
What’s the time commitment like?
Bloc asks the mentors to dedicate at least three meetings per week for the 12-week course. We’re only supposed to guarantee 30-minute meetings but they tend to be flexible. Mine are about 45 minutes to an hour.
Tell us about the marvelous photo on your Bloc mentor profile!
There’s a purpose behind that photo. There’s an event that happens called Startup Weekend, where people pitch ideas, build a team and try to build your product and you try to pitch the judges. It’s a really nice networking thing.
It was really cool; I went back in October 2013 and my team actually won second place. At the time when I went I had just recently been out of a job and I was just looking for something. So I was able to network with a whole bunch of people and because of that I was able to get some jobs to help me stabilize until I could get a salary job. I happened to be in a position for the next startup weekend where I was able to sponsor. Part of the sponsorship package was that you get your photo on the website, and I was like, dude, I gotta get an awesome picture. When I had gone in October, I was really kind of intimidated. I didn’t know anyone; so my first day, I had to force myself out of my shell and meet new people.
I was thinking, maybe if I take a ridiculous photo I will give people something to talk about that’s not intimidating. Even if it’s just at my expense, it will get them talking and networking and building cool things before they know it, right? So I wore that outfit the first day.. It was kind of embarrassing but it actually worked. People actually laughed and they were talking to each other about how ridiculous this guy was. I’ve always wanted an awkward family photo so it was two-in-one for me.
What’s your “day job” now?
I just recently started woking for a company called eLead One- a customer relationship management tool for car dealerships. I do full stack development, front and back end.
How does Bloc manage you as a mentor?
It’s kind of laid back right now, but I touch base with the “guidance counselor” regularly, just talk about how I feel I’m doing and how the students think I’m doing. They actually interview the students every couple of weeks to just make sure we’re doing a good job, and to make sure the students are happy and feel like they’re being set up for success.
How are you logistically communicating with your students? Do you use Google hangouts?
For the communication back and forth, there’s actually a messaging system inside of Bloc. Personally, I don’t know if every mentor does this, but I give my students my Google talk to chat real-time if they need to. But when we actually meet we’ve been using something called Screenhero, which allows students to share their screen with me. And it’s really cool because I can see what’s on their screen ad it actually gives me a cursor on their desktops. So as I move my cursor, it’ll actually move a cursor on their screen and then I can type directly into it, so I can just take control. If they get stuck on something I can take control of their screen and help them through it.
What makes Bloc an “apprenticeship” as opposed to an online class?
The thing that really makes it an apprenticeship is the one-on-one time you get with the mentor. I’ll go through the checkpoint with each student and I’ll actually write code with you or review your code. If someone isn’t working on best practices, I’ll explain industry standards.
In online courses I’ve taken, there’s more than 12 students in a class and you don’t really get that one on one time.
Are your students assigned a certain curriculum that they have to get through during the week, when you’re not mentoring them?
Students do have a curriculum, and they have to get through different “checkpoints.” Generally, I tell my students to work through the checkpoints on their own, then they can ask me questions. Then when we get in the mentor meetings, I can walk them through those questions. I’m even open to working through some of the checkpoints on the call if there’s something they’re stuck on. Aside from the checkpoints, what’s really cool about Bloc is that there are a set of challenges, and students actually get to pick which challenges they want. So whether you want to make an analytics dashboard or a music player, you can pick which one you want to work on.