Shaundai Person: The Benefits of Teaching Others What You Learn

Shaundai Person: The Benefits of Teaching Others What You Learn
Meg Cumby
Meg Cumby

More than a decade into a successful sales and business career, Shaundai found a passion for programming. She built up the skills she needed to make the switch to software engineering and is now a UI Engineer at SalesLoft.

Shaundai learned how to stand out as a candidate with a non-traditional background and show how her skills and experience from her previous career would be unique and valuable assets in her new role, which she shares in this excellent egghead talk.

In building her technical skills, Shaundai learned the benefit of teaching others what she learns.

I've found that I can learn a concept much faster if I just jump into teaching it to other people," says Shaundai. "I also have to learn it more deeply because I need to understand well enough to explain it to somebody else.

Shaundai wanted to learn more about TypeScript so she could volunteer for a work project to convert a large part of a codebase from JavaScript to TypeScript. She had taken TypeScript courses before and decided creating her own course would be a good way to deepen her understanding and skills while helping others at the same time.

Learning how to create an effective course

We invited Shaundai to take part in an egghead Course Club, where we bring together a group of instructors to share in a structured and curated experience to help them learn and support each other in designing an effective course.

Shaundai was excited to take part and get some guidance and accountability to design her first course. She was at first surprised the club dedicated a whole six weeks (meeting for 90 minutes per week) to designing and creating a course curriculum.

My biggest question was how could you possibly spend this much time on building an outline? I could write up an outline in a night." says Shaundai. "I didn't realize all the depth that went in there. It opened my eyes to things that I thought I really knew but didn't know.

Through the learning resources provided and the weekly club meetings and activities, Shaundai and the other participants learned how to research and discover exactly what learners are struggling with as well as how to shape their course so they can best help people overcome those struggles and effectively support their learning goals.

Shaundai says learning how to research and dig into people's problems and struggles on a topic and addressing those head-on was one of her biggest takeaways from the club.

What questions people have or when people say, 'I hate TypeScript' why are they saying that? What's the thought behind that? Finding out the why and then figuring out how to make that easier for them.

After researching and analyzing the struggles learners have, Shaundai and her fellow club participants worked on designing learning material to help people overcome them, including:

  • defining the overall goal the course would help the learner achieve and the skills and understandings that the learner would need to achieve it
  • designing exercises that will help learners test and prove what they learned
  • organizing everything together in a cohesive curriculum outline

Part of the process also included sharing knowledge publicly, including providing helpful answers to questions and struggles that came up during the research process.

Shaundai found it helpful to learn alongside a whole group of people at different levels of experience who are discussing their ideas and what they were working through, which motivated her and brought insight into her work.

It was a really good group of people — some people had already published courses, some people were completely new to it just like I was," she says. "People would volunteer their experiences or their thoughts, and we're still sharing with each other after the club is over. It's great having the support of other people who are going through the same thing as you, having some cheerleaders in your corner and some healthy accountability in all the best ways.

Shaundai herself brought an energy to the club that made it easy to have great discussions. She put the time and effort in to the work and as a result brought insightful questions and observations to share with her fellow club participants.

A complete blueprint to create her first course, deepened understanding, and solid foundation to keep building on

Shaundai says she learned so much more than she expected. The culmination of her Course Club work is a thorough plan for her course — TypeScript for JavaScript Developers — that she is now working on creating.

There's so much research that goes into it to make sure that it's what people need and you're covering all the stuff that you need to cover," says Shaundai. "You essentially get the entire course put together, minus the scripts. All the hard work is done in those six weeks.

As part of the Course Club work, Shaundai also wrote and shared an article — TypeScript: What's the Point? — in which she addresses a fundamental question that she found a lot of people, including herself, struggled with: why use Typescript instead of just using JavaScript when it's so much extra work? The article generated some good discussion from people online, and Shaundai was surprised at how effective it was to address questions like this head on.

I thought if I'm saying something like 'what's the point?' about something that I'm going to teach, people are just going to run away from it and be like, 'oh yeah, what is the point?'," she says. "But it actually intrigues people. I got a lot of buzz around it because people are like, 'I always wondered that, what is the point?'

The work she's done throughout the process of researching the struggles and issues other people have with TypeScript and how to help them overcome them has deepened her understanding of TypeScript. She's been able to answer questions from coworkers about Typescript and take on the work project she wanted to do. Working on that project and making mistakes along the way has also helped her understand even more where people might get tripped up with TypeScript, which she is applying to her course.

Shaundai says one of the more long term benefits of participating in the Course Club and learning more about what goes into teaching effectively is that it's helped her hone in on a long-term direction for her career in tech.

I want to explore teaching, I want to explore doing more conference talks," she says. "I'm leveraging all those skills that I learned in sales, like speaking and engaging with other people while I'm doing my favorite thing, which is coding and learning more about coding. So it's a great marriage between so much stuff that I'm good at and that I like. It's given me a really good direction to get to get to figure out where my place is in engineering.

It's also Shaundai's hope that through teaching others, she can help show people who want to be in tech but don't see a space for themselves that there's a place for them no matter who they are, what their background or personality.

I want you to be able to see that there is a diverse set of people who are successful in tech. Seeing somebody who looks like me, who acts like me, who's goofy, who's a parent — even if just one person sees me, and thinks 'I think of the world in a similar way as Shaundai.' If I can help that person see themselves in tech, then I've done my job.