An Interview with Jose Nieto
Jose Nieto is an Android Developer and certified Professional Scrum Master who is championing ongoing learning in London’s tech communities. Having worked with Udacity to create new courses, update the contents of their Android Nanodegree and mentor thousands of scholars, he has since moved on to his own projects: exploring different technologies such as Flutter, Machine Learning/Artificial Intelligence and iOS, leading his meetup group of Lifelong Learners, and discovering new ways to enhance learning and become a thought leader and mentor in the local tech space.
So Jose, you run a group that helps tech enthusiasts network and hone their skills. How did that initiative first start?
Over the past few years, Udacity has launched various scholarships funded by different companies like Google, Bertelsmann and Facebook. During my time working at Udacity, I led the mentoring of scholars in 32 countries, including the UK. Then, I had the opportunity to meet many of them in person, particularly those in London during face-to-face sessions.
After some time, I noticed that many of them wanted to continue learning after finishing the scholarships. The natural next step was to give them the space to do it.
How or why did you first embrace self-learning?
Some years ago, I discovered Coursera and edX. Having access to so many inspiring courses opened a whole new world of possibilities. I started taking online courses and rediscovered my lost passion for learning.
I used to have that hunger, but somehow I lost it without noticing as I became older. Once I realised, I promised myself that I would never stop learning again.
So what happens during the Lifelong Learner sessions that you host?
The primary purpose of the sessions is to get help and solve blockers. Because of that, we start each session by identifying who needs help and who can help. Then we start working and studying together.
Sometimes you get help and other times you spend more time helping. The beauty of it is that you always learn something new and exciting, even when you are the one playing mentor.
That’s great! So who would you say these sessions are for?
Everyone is welcome to our sessions. Some of our community members are beginners who had never written a line of code before joining us. Others are experienced professionals learning something new.
The sessions are generally multi-disciplinary, and not focused on a particular topic. The only exception is when we have a group of scholars. When that happens, we organise specific sessions to help them in their topical challenges.
What would you say is your favourite part of hosting Lifelong Learners?
The best thing of all is to witness how others find something new that they love and manage to change careers. Being a part of their journey and feeling their honest appreciation for your help has a humongous personal value that cannot be measured.
What’s one thing about learning that you think many people fail to understand or take for granted?
I think, from a young age, we see ourselves immersed in a race to develop a set of skills that will be the core of our professional career. Once we finish our studies, we generally jump into jobs believing that any other learning that we need would come naturally as a consequence of our increasing experience.
Because of that, it is common to wrongly take learning as something that happens during a particular time of our lives. The truth is, it is something that we should never stop doing.
You recently took a personal career break! How have you found that contributed to you learning and exploring more things?
For the last few years, I have been very focused on Android Development. I felt that dedicating time to any other thing would stop me from progressing. During my break, I started to see things differently, and I began to explore different fields. This change of approach has helped me to broaden my mind and better understand where I want to go in life.
Is teaching others and/or continuing to learn something that you feel is essential to you for a future role?
I believe so. Helping others to learn and improve is one of the main things that I am looking for in my future. I also think that it would need to be something with a learning curve built-in, since a job where I know everything – or don’t need to learn anything new – would be dull and boring.
Why do you feel that learning is so essential for (and desired by!) technologists?
Many people work using technologies that did not exist a few years ago, and we will soon be working with technologies that do not exist yet.
Technology moves fast. There are always new things to learn. That is probably why those in tech are more used to constant learning. Nevertheless, I think that it is a habit that we should all embrace.
There’s a lot of pressure on people to discover their “path”, and then stick to it. What advice you give to someone who is still struggling to discover their interests?
Having a clear idea of what you want to do is crucial. When you do something that you love, it does not matter how hard it is. That extra focus makes you relentless.
For those struggling to discover their path, I would recommend exploring different things. Nowadays, there are many platforms where you can take free courses, so there is no reason not to try something new. Eventually, you will find something exciting that you may never have considered before.
Meetups are also a great way to discover new things. Joining events organised by local communities like ours is an excellent opportunity to meet people and discover new things.
What about someone who has already progressed in their career?
Things change at such a rate that it genuinely impacts everyone. You should not stop learning even if you have already progressed in your career. The time where you could stay in a job all your life without needing to learn anything new has passed. Those who make it a point to regularly embrace learning have a completely different mindset, and this ability to adapt to change helps them to progress and develop much faster.
Lifelong Learners is a meetup community that regularly comes together to talk about innovative tech, study programming, and help each member progress with their ongoing learning efforts. They host monthly study sessions at Talent Point’s London office.
The next scheduled meeting is a free-and-easy study session that will be hosted at 6:30pm on 16 May 2019.