October 2, 2017

Paralleled growth - my journey with iXperience.

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Written by Brandon Taleisnik -iXperience '14 & '17, University of Michigan '17

There was something magical about that first year of iX; everything that happened was a first for everyone – both the students and staff alike. At the time there was only one course (web development) and all 20 students became a close-knit family within days of arriving. We had only two instructors: Salman, the head teacher, and Rafi, the teacher’s assistant. They crafted a brilliant 4-week action-based learning curriculum that balanced formal lecturing with interactive demos, one-on-one attention, as well as integrating several personal projects to put our learnings into practice. The IX house was just a residential home that was converted into the IX workspace which consisted of a coffee machine, a classroom with a 25 person capacity, a small lounge area with beanbags, a breakout meeting room, and kitchen.

I was worried coming back to iXperience for a second time that the intimate “IX Family” culture would’ve been diluted, or that the quality of instruction would’ve deteriorated as the company scaled their offerings from one to nine courses. How stupid of me to worry... of course it was still epic! Many of the same attributes I originally loved about the program and about Cape Town still persisted the second time around.

I have always been passionate about the current education system—not because I love it, but because I hate it. I think the predominantly lecture-dependant university teaching style is too antiquated and disconnected to our high-tech, rapidly evolving workplace that expects new graduates to immediately possess the hard skills needed to add value to companies. The evidence of why I feel so passionately about what iXperience is doing is because prior to iX, I had never felt so intrinsically motivated to learn and so invigorated to wake up every morning with the energy to grind out 10-12 hour days for a course that had no grades, tests, or incentive to work hard. iXperience masterfully bridges this gap between the more theory-based knowledge gained in a formal education setting and practical real-world skills.

This time around I took the iOS course and despite coming into it with prior expectations from my experience in the web development course, I still shocked myself with the results. I didn’t think I was capable of learning that much in four weeks, and when the course ended and I looked at what I had accomplished, I couldn’t believe I did all of this myself.

For my final project, I built an app that makes the process of paying the bill at restaurants more efficient and enjoyable. My app first scans and analyzes restaurant bills using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) machine learning algorithms to identify the prices and items. You can then add all the guests at your table simply by taking a picture of them, tap each item to assign it to the appropriate person who ordered the item, then add a tip. Lastly, the app uses peer-to-peer payment methods so that the person with the app can send payment requests to all their guests to collect the appropriate amount of money, and then only that one person needs to put the whole bill on their card. Instead of putting down seven different cards for one bill, adding complexity and time for both the guests and restaurant staff, the whole process can quickly be dealt with in less than a minute, hassle free.

From start to finish I built this in 10 days. Here is a demo I recorded the day before my final presentation.

Although the tangible hard-skills that you learn at iX are great, the true value is gaining the confidence that with enough determination, you can truly learn anything. Nobody likes to be bad at something, so it’s often discouraging to look at experts in the field and think you’ll never have the talent to do what they can do. At first I saw iOS development as a daunting endeavor that I would never be able to excel in, but once you see what’s possible in just four weeks of focused learning, you unlock the superpower to learn anything you put your mind to.

That’s what iXperience is all about. Everyone is more talented than they realize, and if you can unlock your potential and gain the confidence to realize what you’re truly capable of, your future quickly becomes a whole lot brighter.

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