Teacher Spotlight: Amit Bijlani

Teacher's Spotlight

Teachers are the cornerstone of education which is why we value our expert teachers so highly. We have an army of educators on staff and we know you’ve seen their smiling faces on the web, but now it’s time you get to know a little bit more about them and what they believe in. This new segment is called Teacher Spotlight and our first teacher is Amit Bijlani.

The Interview:

  • When did you first get interested in programming and what inspired you to keep learning?

As a kid I spent an entire summer playing a game called Test Drive on a PC which turned into an infatuation. It seemed like magic, I had no idea how any of it worked but I was hooked. It wasn’t until years later in high school that I took a programming class and hated it. Programming appealed to my logical and pragmatic self but it was a love and hate relationship. Inspite of that, I opted for Computer Science in college where I met an amazing professor who not only taught us but showed us by example what code can accomplish. He gave us impossible assignments that challenged and motivated us. This instilled wonder and excitement which I have carried throughout my career. I love that I can solve problems and come up with creative solutions. I find it funny how some people get married to a specific technology or language. My goal always is to come up with an elegant solution to a problem regardless of the underlying technology which is my biggest motivation to keep learning.

  • When did your relationship with Apple begin, and have you always been a Mac user?

I was always a Windows user so I didn’t understand what the fuss was all about. My first Apple device was an iPod classic but it wasn’t until my first Macbook Pro did I appreciate Apple. When the first iPhone SDK was launched I was running my own startup creating consumer apps. We were trying to build a mobile app for feature phones which was a monstrous undertaking in a time where apps were distributed by carriers or independently. So when the iPhone came out we wanted to jump in it right away. Given that I was running my own bootstrapped startup I didn’t want to spend money on a Mac so I built a Hackintosh which basically taking a Windows PC and installing OSX on it. We built and launched several apps using a Hackintosh but I would not recommend that anymore. It was a fragile setup and there’s nothing like buying and developing on the real thing.

  • What do you of think of the iPhone 5? Would Steve Jobs be proud?

It’s thinner, lighter and it’s better. Is it a huge improvement over the previous iPhone? Probably not. When the first iPhone came out, it was revolutionary but we cannot expect that every year. Now there are evolutionary changes which is logical. Steve would be happy to know that Apple’s commitment to quality, style and attention to detail have only gotten better. There was some software oversight with the Maps app but software is easier to update than hardware.

  • When you’re stuck in rut while programming, what do you do to reinvigorate yourself and get ready to code some more?

The first thing is to walk away from the screen. The reason I say screen because even your iPhone is still a screen and it’s so easy to go from desktop to tablet or phone. Screens everywhere, you are always connected and always feeding yourself with information.

Amit's Doodle

It’s important to decompress and just let yourself be. Which is why exercise helps, I do yoga and crossfit, or in nature hiking or kayaking. And finally, to flex my creative muscles I draw and write.

  • The iPhone vs. Droid debate. Stupid or warranted?

There will always be debates about technologies which are healthy. If the mobile world was dominated by just one platform it would be so boring. It keeps both Apple and Google on their toes. Microsoft is the perfect example, even though they had a mobile OS predating iOS and Android, they became complacent. Which forced them to re-invent their mobile OS so that they could be competitive once again.

  • The vast majority of schools today don’t promote programming awareness in their curriculum. Do you think they should?

Absolutely, we are in an era where PCs are not only ubiquitous but each one of us has more than one. And most of us use these devices for school or work. If you understand the basics of programming then you can make a device work for your rather than depending on someone else. Programming also has side benefits like logical thinking and deductive reasoning. Programming is no longer exclusive to engineers or developer it is a basic life skill.

  • What makes you most excited about Treehouse?

Firstly, it’s the best place to work and I get to work with some of the most smartest people in the industry. I’ve always loved learning and challenging myself which lead me to teaching. Once I started teaching and saw people’s eyes light up when they understood a concept, it was a defining moment for me. I get to teach and change lives, all while working at an awesome startup. It’s a dream job. Moreover, we get emails everyday from our members telling us their stories on how they are now able to change careers, get jobs or just improve their skill set. Knowing that my work results in such a positive impact and changes lives is rewarding beyond my wildest dreams.

  • Tell us something about yourself you don’t think anyone would ever assume…

I’ve been developing software professionally for a little over 14 years. About 8 years ago I had a mid-career crisis, at the time I was cooking a lot, experimenting with food and of course watching a lot of Food network. Because I loved food and was tired of sitting in front of a computer all day, I naturally thought about changing careers and becoming a chef. Thankfully, I read Anthony Bourdain’s book Kitchen Confidential and had my family and friends talk me out of it. And am I glad they did because I love developing apps more than ever and I can still cook as a hobby. That led me to my most important discovery – a work-life balance.

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