Having started at the Port Authority in 1995 and worked his way up to Deputy Director during his 26 year tenure, Willem Jacobs now oversees all of the cargo operations for Cayman. But alongside this, Willem has recently rediscovered coding through the Cayman Code Academy (CCA). We sat down with Willem to discuss his recent pivot, what prompted him to find out more about CCA, and how he’s finding the course.
CEC: Before you started the course, did you have any previous experience of coding?
WJ: Yes, when I started at the port I was the only IT person there because I had some experience with coding. I was involved with bigger project management and creating an entire terminal operating system software. It wasn’t something you could buy off the shelf back then, so it had to be custom made. I was involved with the coding, implementing, testing, and debugging.
In 2002 we went live with the system, and we are still largely running it. But throughout the years I moved outside of the IT day-to-day and more into upper management.
CEC: With this kind of coding background, what made you think of getting back into coding, and looking for the Cayman Code Academy?
WJ: Well, throughout the years I've been missing coding and since I was last involved things have changed tremendously in the industry. I like to be challenged and think logically which is why I enjoy coding, but I realised I was missing a lot of the skillsets. Plus, I wanted something to do when I’m not working anymore because I don’t want to be sitting around doing nothing all day long. So, I decided to go back to something I really enjoy and get back into coding.
I looked online and found the Cayman Code Academy. I’m fortunate that I didn’t need financial support, scholarships, or grants so I decided to contact Code Fellows directly and sign up.
CEC: How have you found the fact they are online classes? Is this a different learning experience than what you’re used to?
WJ: I’m actually taking nighttime classes, and when I’m in Seattle for 3-4 months there’s a 2-hour time difference so my class time is actually around 8:30pm - 11:30pm as well as all day on Saturdays. I like the fact that it's online because I’m doing them alongside my full-time work. All of the resources are there which includes videos, and a calendar system so anything I need is there.
The only thing that is missing for me is that being old school you lack a little bit of the hands-on interaction and face-to-face you get when you’re in a classroom set up. Traditionally you have people with you and you can talk to them and get input from them. That’s the only part lacking, but other than that I am really enjoying the flexibility of taking the classes online.
CEC: What do you think is the most important skill you’ve learnt from the course so far?
WJ: That the entire development cycle has changed from when I was first doing this back in the late 90s. It’s a lot more structured and I’ve learned about the different tools that weren’t available back then. We didn’t have GitHub and things like that so I’m learning the different languages and ways that software and servers work now compared to the way it was done previously.
CEC: How important do you feel it is to be offering coding in the Cayman Islands with CCA?
WJ: It’s a small population in Cayman and you need to diversify yourself and make yourself marketable in different fields. Coders and tech people in any area are always going to be needed and coding can be applied in so many different areas. I would love to see more of the younger population of the island coding and taking advantage of the opportunity for themselves.
As someone who has seen programming from the 90s to now, I can say that the tools and skillsets might change but the basic concept and thought process doesn’t. I’m using a different coding language now, but it’s the same logic and thinking process. The way you solve the problem is still the same.
CEC: With that in mind, what advice would you give to future students or anyone you know who may be interested in taking this course?
WJ: It is time consuming. It will take a lot of your time and resources so you do need to be dedicated to studying, trialing, and testing. But it is the way of the future. It’s a good way for you to get a very good education to get into any type of program or career path. It shows different languages and tools, so you’re not limited.
A big thank you to Willem Jacobs for sharing his experience of the Cayman Code Academy. If you are looking for a career in tech and want to take the proven curriculum of Code Fellows in an internationally recognised coding school, click the button below.