Meet our team: Douglas, alumni and web development bootcamp manager
Douglas Berkley was one of the nine alumni from our very first batch in Tokyo back in February 2017. Three years later, he is teaching our full-time students, giving them the best Le Wagon experience every day.
Le Wagon is more than a coding bootcamp. It’s a place where people come to experience a radical transformation in their lives and careers, supported by passionate teachers & staff.
Douglas Berkley has changed dozens of lives by taking our students from coding fundamentals to actually launching their careers as developers. We sat down with Doug to talk about what he loves about teaching and what makes Le Wagon Tokyo a special place for him.
What have you been doing before joining Le Wagon?
I majored in business and after university worked for a LED manufacturing company. Once my boss realized that I could use Microsoft Excel, he burdened me with a lot of Excel spreadsheets. It may sound awful but it actually triggered my interest in programming and career change: I learned how to automate my tasks, got bored of sitting behind a computer all day and flew to teach English in South Korea. Before joining Le Wagon as a student, I knew how to sum some things up in Excel and get averages but that barely affected anything in terms of coding.
How was your experience as a student at Le Wagon Tokyo?
I always love to bring up the point that I was not the best student in the class.We had one or two guys who were really good and I kept comparing myself to them (Douglas is probably talking about Hidehiro Nagaoka, coding expert and author of the Amazon bestseller ‘I want to become a programmer’). At first, I didn't get things but, you know, slowly in the bootcamp things started to make more sense.
After graduation, I got a job in an e-commerce company, Lunaris, which was building apps on the Shopify platform.
Watch Doug pitching at the Demo Day (from 27:23), with a NECKTIE
How come you went back to Le Wagon as a teacher?
Since I enjoyed my experience at Le Wagon, I had been attending all meetups and Demo Days and occasionally working as a teaching assistant for a few batches.
The full-time job offer came when Le Wagon founders invited me for a drink to the local pub Torikizoku. I was mid-drink of a beer when they suddenly asked if I have experience of managing large groups of people.
Turned out they needed someone to help with the team. I couldn't hide my excitement because I could actually use my teaching experience and bring that into coding.
‘Why does Le Wagon sometimes hire its alumni as teaching assistants? They know how intense the bootcamp is, they master our curriculum & challenges, and have a very clear understanding of where and why students struggle.
What kind of teacher-student relationships do you have?
Because I’m the teacher in the classroom, some students treat me as an authoritative figure and assume that I know everything. But I want to show them that I'm not a genius, magically brought here. I went through the bootcamp process myself and tried my best to learn coding and secure a job afterwards. Every single day, I was watching the videos, reviewing the flashcards, checking the slides and doing all the stuff that they do. I devoted nine weeks of my life to the bootcamp and learned enough to reach the position where I am now. Every person in our classroom has the same potential to do that. People who sign up for a bootcamp are ready to work hard.
What do you like most about teaching at Le Wagon?
You build a sense of camaraderie: we're all in this together and we put in hard work to see the results of that. In the nine weeks, there's lots of highs and lows and it always ends on a high note of Demo Day.
You build precious connections with your classmates and teachers. I want to say ‘family’ but it may sound cheesy. It’s like being a part of a support team. You get all kinds of students going through the bootcamp. There’s something really cool about meeting random people that you would never talk to, who end up being amazing folks and your friends.
You have a lot of fun with every batch creating their own vibes and inside jokes. We had many French students in one batch and they were super competitive in the bar games on Fridays. We called it ‘French people versus the world’ nights.
What is your favorite part during a bootcamp?
The most exciting time for me is the Project Weeks. We spend six weeks giving students tools to be able to build stuff and finally start seeing their projects come out. It’s really hard for me to watch Demo Days because I've seen our batch practicing and doing that page so many times. I'm proud of them and I know what it feels like to finally get it done. I follow everyone’s achievements and cheer them up when they get their first programming jobs.