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Enterprise Learning Team Spotlight: Polyglot Instructor Curtis Schlak

Curtis Schlak knows what it’s like to build software to fill a void. His first foray into development was as young kid who simply wanted to have some fun.

“I taught myself how to code when I was a kid, but that was just to play games,” Schlak laughs.

Later while in the military, Curtis tinkered in web development in his downtime. After leaving the military, Curtis worked as a business process consultant and found there were no software programs that could meet his needs. So he built one.

That was twenty years ago. Since, Curtis has worked in industries ranging from marketing to oil and gas to finance and high tech, as an individual contributor to an executive-level director, before landing in his current position as an Enterprise Learning Instructor for Hack Reactor.

Enterprise Learning is Hack Reactor’s comprehensive offering of Assessment, Onboarding, Reskilling, and Upskilling programs delivered in a corporate setting. As an organization's software engineering needs grow, it becomes vitally important to equip developers with new skills. The Enterprise Learning team partners with companies to assess train their current workforce in an effort to fill technology skills gaps.

The Enterprise Learning training model is immersive and instructor-led and tailored to a specific company’s needs, an approach Curtis believes works well in learning new coding skills.

“As a developer...normally I get to read books or I read blog posts or I watch videos online, but there's no unified story or presentation or series of projects for me to go through to actually acquire new skills. It's sort of a haphazard thing. As a developer, being able to have that kind of focused and well-developed curriculum is a real boon for me,” he said.

For managers, the idea of keeping talent in house by training current employees is appealing, rather than bringing in outside-the-walls help to bridge a technological divide. Curtis points to hiring contractors as a good indicator a manager may want to consider investing in training.

“There's a difference between development capacity and development skills and quite often, managers will go to the market place to find contractors with development skills to increase their development capacity,” Curtis said. “But those contractors barely ever leave artifacts behind or help bring forward the existing talent that's on the team. This type of engaging, enterprise learning allows the in-house teams to be able to be brought forward and achieve the same sort of skills that you would be paying top dollar for.”

Because the technology needs of every company are different, Curtis is often teaching a variety of coding languages and frameworks. It’s a challenge he embraces as a tool for not only becoming a better developer, but also in teaching how to study both the problem and the solution.

Being able to use a whole bunch of different languages is just, in my opinion, one of the real benefits of this job because I can help other people understand how a different language would approach the problem or be able to solve the problem and then be able to show them how they can do that with the language that they’re using.
— Curtis Schlak, Enterprise Learning Instructor

“The languages are there to be able to solve a problem but even more than that, you learn about how that person who designed that language would approach that problem. It helps inform all of the decisions that you make in the future. Being able to use a whole bunch of different languages is just, in my opinion, one of the real benefits of this job because I can help other people understand how a different language would approach the problem or be able to solve the problem and then be able to show them how they can do that with the language that they're using,” he said.

When asked what he sees for the future of enterprise learning, Curtis points to deeper business partnerships rather than simply targeted engagements.

“There is a life cycle to the development of software. The life cycle continues on and on and on because that's how software grows. It's easy to say, we need to learn about a specific technology. That's what we serve right now; but, we also, with some of our clients, have helped them across the entire software development life cycle. I think that that is where the next level of education is going to go. Where organizations, team leads, development team leads, vice presidents of engineering will say, ‘we really value the knowledge skills to help make our software, the actual product better. Now we're going to also help ourselves learn how to make the software development life cycle process better as well.’”

Immersive training is an investment, but a worthy one. As he trains employees in companies all around the world, Curtis has seen how this model has benefited the all-around workforce.

“This type of education, is a better use of budget for developers to be able to learn. There's always this professional development stuff where you need to keep people fresh or we need to keep people engaged on the development team. And just saying, ‘Hey, here's some money, go figure out what to do’ is not as good for me and my company as saying, ‘Hey, I can actually talk with somebody like Hack Reactor and say I want to make sure everybody on my team has these skills in my organization.’ That's the other really good thing about the code school paradigm, is that we know how to teach people.”

Have questions about Hack Reactor’s Enterprise Learning program or want to learn more about how we can tailor a program for your business? Visit us at www.hackreactor.com/enterprise.


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