Andros Slowley admits that a job in software engineering was inconceivable as a kid. Raised in Brooklyn, New York by Jamaican parents, iOS app development –a relatively new industry– was not remotely part of the conversation. Instead, Andros pursued mechanical engineering, turning his education into a lucrative job at an aerospace company that required him to travel the world and build jet engines for both commercial and military planes.
"If I told my mom I was gonna go to school for software engineering, she would have no idea what that was,” Andros recalled. "It was never something in Jamaican culture, and even when I was building my own app, people would be like "Wait, what are you building?"
Andros loved the traveling aspect of his work so much that he started his own company for a travel app called Copassinjers. While the company didn't work, “the software engineering part of it did!"
While the company didn’t work out, “the software engineering part of it did!”
Over the next 3 years, Andros taught himself coding and engineering, and eventually went on to develop his own app before joining the ranks of Meta. Through CodePath, he also serves as a teacher and mentor for college students who are interested in tech. He wants to inspire his students to chart their own paths just as he did.
How did you first become interested in computer science?
I didn't study computer science in school. I actually studied mechanical engineering and worked for an aerospace company that builds jet engines. In order to test [the jet engines], I traveled all over the country and to a couple of other countries. That experience opened my eyes to explore the world, so I wanted to start my own travel company, and in order to do so, I had to build an app. That's how I ended up teaching myself how to code. While the company didn't work out, the software engineering part of it did!
As a self-taught engineer, how would you describe your relationship with coding?
I would say it's the first major decision I made for myself. Throughout life, you're always told what you're gonna do and what options are on the table, which I broke away from to go do. It was really empowering, and it unlocked this level of confidence I didn't even know was there.
It was really empowering and it unlocked this level of self-confidence I didn’t even know was there.
Was software engineering a viable career option for you growing up? How did you pivot to teaching?
I didn't know anything about software engineering growing up. If I told my mom I was going to school for software engineering, she would have no idea what that was. It was never something in Jamaican culture, and even when I was building my own app, people would be like, “Wait, what are you building?” It’s not brick and mortar; it's not something I can just show you the progress.
Because of that lack of knowledge within the community I grew up in, I figured I wanted to give back to students who are interested in learning more about software engineering and IOS. I wanted to introduce more people to it.
What were some hurdles you ran into because you were self-taught?
I think working solo, you miss important parts of how software engineering works and that the team aspect of coding is critical to making ideas real– which is something that CodePath uniquely offers.
You have to expose your work to people and have them critique it. I, unfortunately, didn't learn that until I started working. Your entire work is there and in front of people! Having people review my work publicly was something I needed to learn.
How did you get involved with CodePath?
I signed up to volunteer at the end of 2021, and while that didn’t work out at the time, my name was still in their database. A year later, [CodePath] reached out, asking if I would be interested in actually teaching some classes. When this opportunity opened up, it just felt like a great fit.
As an instructor at CodePath, have you learned anything new about IOS due to teaching these students?
I had to go out and learn more in order to meet students where they were at in their learning.
I'm learning how to navigate the different feelings and emotions that come with software engineering. They might feel intimidated about the field or nervous or unsure of themselves.
How does being self-taught influence your teaching at CodePath?
I think it allows me to know which aspects are most difficult to pick up on your own. I think the areas that I struggled with, I find some parallel with what students also struggle with. There are some hidden gems that are hard to find and navigate; much of it is teaching them how to find information, which is all I do.
“Much of it is teaching them how to find the information, which is all I do.”
What are some common challenges you help your students face?
Building an IOS app involves so many different pieces, and a lot of times, you are working on a smaller piece of it and don't really see how it adds up.
It's like if I gave you a brick to build the house, but you never see it coming together. So what I tend to do in a situation like that is I take some of their favorite tasks and show them how that small piece is being used in a social app that they like, such as Spotify or Instagram. Showing them how small information grows into something beautiful.
If you could converse with yourself as a college student, what would you tell yourself?
I would tell myself that true success in life is being best friends with one's mind.
The mind is the most important part of any dream or goal, and you should make friends with your mind. As an ally with your mind, you can never be defeated in the fights of life, but to be an enemy of oneself is an impossible fight to win.
Just be confident in who you are; there is no one in this world accomplishing something you can't accomplish.
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