After working as a tech entrepreneur in Montreal for 15 years, Dominic Tremblay wanted to get back into coding. He used Lighthouse Labs’ coding bootcamp to update his skills, and in the process realized he wanted to share his knowledge and expertise with others. Now Dominic is the Lead Instructor at Lighthouse Labs’ Montreal campus and loves encouraging and inspiring his students! Dominic tells us about the demand for tech skills in Montreal, and how Lighthouse Labs helps students meet employers!
What’s your background and experience before Lighthouse Labs?
I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science and a Master’s Degree in Marketing and Communications. I was an entrepreneur for over 15 years before Lighthouse Labs. After my computer science degree, I started a company out of my parents’ basement with two friends, called Visicom Media. The first few years were really exciting, but also very challenging. At the time, I had this incredible feeling that we were building the future. I like to think that we were pretty successful. The company kept growing, up to a point where we had 25 to 30 employees. After many years of building the company, I felt I had accomplished what I wanted to do and no longer had the same feeling of excitement. So I decided to do something else.
I went back to what I had loved in the first place: development. But at Visicom Media I was managing products and developers rather than coding, so I was a bit out of practice. It was really important to me to get up to date, so I decided to take a coding bootcamp. I was part of the first Lighthouse Labs cohort in Montreal. I had a great experience, and after the bootcamp, Lighthouse Labs asked me to do some workshops. I really enjoyed sharing my experience and knowledge with the attendees. It allowed me to relive the excitement I had when I started my own company – plus I discovered I had some innate coaching skills! I found a new path and decided that I wanted to teach. I became a mentor and then an instructor at Lighthouse Labs! It's been pretty awesome!
How did you become aware of the bootcamp model and what did you think of it at first?
I heard about coding bootcamps through various sources on the Internet. At the time, I was looking for good resources about keeping up to date in terms of coding.
I heard about the Lighthouse Labs bootcamp in Montreal in a Facebook group announcing an info session. I had the chance to talk to Jeremy, the CEO. He is really a nice guy and he is passionate about education.
My first impression of bootcamps at the time was: "Wow, this is amazing. Students can accomplish what I did in 3 years of study in only 12 weeks!" Although there are benefits to a computer science degree, a lot of what you learn never gets applied on the job. One of the main benefits of a coding bootcamp is that students acquire skills relevant to the job market that they can apply right away. It's very hands-on. Coding bootcamps are also a good opportunity for anyone who wants to change careers in a short time.
What made you excited to work at Lighthouse Labs in Montreal?
Lots of things! First, I really liked the culture at Lighthouse Labs. It’s very open. Everyone feels valued and welcomed. Lighthouse Labs is very supportive not only of students, but also of all the staff.
Also, the coding bootcamp in Montreal was just starting when I joined LighthouseLabs. I liked the challenge of helping the Montreal campus grow and establish itself much like our other campuses in Toronto and Vancouver.
Finally, the experience with the students excited me. They are mostly highly committed individuals who are changing careers. It’s a big moment in their lives and they bring their enthusiasm, excitement, and hopes along. We go through the journey with them and we see them grow and succeed. When we see them happy in their new job after bootcamp, we know we have done a good job. That's the best reward!
Did you have teaching experience prior to teaching at the bootcamp?
Early on in my career I taught at a private school, right before I launched my startup. I also taught coding to kids with Kids Code Jeunesse. Additionally, my mother was a French teacher and, in a way, she did transmit some of her experience to me. Thank you, mom!
What have you found is your personal teaching style?
I like to explain a complex topic in the simplest manner possible. I think how you explain something makes a big difference. I am a big advocate of a step-by-step approach. Sometimes, we can overlook things that seem so simple and we introduce bugs along the way. Validating our every step is a good practice.
I consider failing to be part of the process. In today's society, we often feel the need to show that we are successful without showing what it takes to get there. Often, students might feel this pressure to succeed right from the start. However, I let them know that if you don't fail first, you cannot be successful. Failing is part of the process. We are problem solvers. It will never work out from the get-go.
I also like to teach best practices and new ways to do things. Sometimes, I will explain the same problem with two different approaches where one will use a bit more advanced techniques just to encourage students to give it a try.
Finally, I like to do a lot of positive reinforcement. Going through a bootcamp is not always easy. Students often underestimate their abilities. So I encourage them to reflect on how much they learned, how much they accomplished in such a short amount of time, and how amazing their work is!
Is the Montreal curriculum similar or different to the curriculum taught in other cities?
In Montreal, we are using the same curriculum as other cities. I think that ensures a consistent learning experience for all our students. The teaching staff has regular meetings with Khurram Virani, our Chief Education Officer where we discuss topics related to education, including our curriculum. Lighthouse Labs values everyone’s opinions. Our suggestions and contributions are always welcome. We updated our curriculum earlier in 2019, and it now has a much stronger focus on fundamentals, computer science, SQL, and relational databases. A few of our projects have been updated as well. For example, we have a brand new React project that uses the latest features of React, such as hooks.
How many instructors, TAs and/or mentors do you have in Montreal? Is there an ideal student:teacher ratio?
Besides myself, we have three other instructors, and at least 15 mentors in rotation. I feel lucky to work alongside such talented individuals who share the common goal of helping students succeed. We currently have an 8:1 mentor/student ratio, which I believe to be one of the best ratios out there.
Tell us about the ideal student for the bootcamp. Do you think that there’s a certain type of student who does well in the class?
I think students need resilience and commitment. Students all have different backgrounds when joining the bootcamp. Not everyone has a technical background. So, independent from the background, resilience can get you very far. That's what I learned as an entrepreneur, and that's also true for life in general, not just the bootcamp.
How do you help students with career preparation, job hunting, and networking?
The amount of support we give to students is one of the strengths of Lighthouse Labs. Career Services is a cornerstone strategy in supporting our students. Career Services is not an afterthought; it's an integral part of our curriculum. Students attend several workshops with Alain Wong, our Career Service Manager, to prepare them for job hunting. Students take part in activities with prospective employers, so they can meet them even before the end of the bootcamp. Finally, our employer-only demo day allows students to showcase their final projects at the end of the program and network with employers. The majority of our students get a job through the Career Services that we provide.
What’s the tech scene like in Montreal and what sort of companies are hiring bootcamp grads? What’s the demand like for people with coding skills?
Montreal has a growing tech scene that is considered the second biggest in Canada. As such, there are many opportunities to work in the industry for both smaller agencies, and bigger established companies. To give you some examples, our grads have ended up working as developers in companies specializing in e-commerce (Shopify), fashion (SSENSE, Frank & Oak), travel (Flighthub, Plusgrade), music (LANDR), logistics (Merinio), marketing (SweetIQ), advertising (Cloudraker), quality control (Global Vision), project management and analytics (Tempo, Jogogo), education (GradeSlam, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) and many more. Demand is high for people with coding skills in the city, and we are seeing more and more people who are interested in our course offerings.
For our readers who are beginners, what resources or meetups do you recommend for aspiring bootcampers in Montreal?
Some Facebook Groups and Meetups worth mentioning:
Montreal in Tech has a good calendar of the tech events happening in Montreal
Is there anything else you’d like to add about your role or about the Montreal campus?
Being a good instructor is also being a good coach. In addition to technical aspects, I think a lot of students need some guidance. Changing a career is a big step and that brings a lot of uncertainties. As an entrepreneur, I have dealt with lots of changes and stressful situations over the years. I know what they’re going through.
I think this is something that is shared by all the staff at the Montreal campus. Everyone is there to assist students regardless of the situation. Students know they can reach out at any time and we're all there to help. We try to provide students the best learning experience possible.