An athlete and coach, the first type of employment Pavel Zeman sought was in the field of education. He taught physical and technology education classes, as well as computer science. Sadly, he struggled with the education system itself. "Unfortunately, here in our country, children aren’t taught to think independently or be creative. Rather, they just receive tasks over and over again and are trained to become like sheep," he says sadly, describing the teaching approach that convinced him to change fields. He still helps students in his new career, though. Bootcamp trained him to become a programmer and now he’s a junior mentor at Green Fox Academy, where he helps others break into IT.
Computers have been a part of his life since he was a child. His father, a cybernetics engineer, helped spark his interest in them. "He's always worked with computers and, when I was a kid, he used to show me really cool things that could be done in MS-DOS," he recalls with a laugh. "Then I discovered computer games as a teenager. As a competitive athlete, I fell in love with them and I realized that I just couldn't live without a computer."
This passion led the Valašské Meziříčí native to the Department of Informatics and Computers at the University of Ostrava Faculty of Science. "I loved working with computers. I enjoyed making videos and games, and I even tried programming," he says. "But my university studies included a lot of subjects that weren’t appealing. In my opinion, they were useless and not even related to programming. They were more about theory than practice. In my freshman year, electrophysics just crushed me and I decided to drop out of university."
Following that decision, Pavel needed to figure out what to do next. A professional volleyball career with an Extraliga club in Ostrava wouldn’t be enough to make a living, nor would working as a sports coach. "But I decided that I could head in that direction. Studying coaching seemed pointless since the license and knowledge I already had were enough to do the same job," he says. "That's why I decided to enroll at the Faculty of Education, where I majored in PE. I thought it would lead to a broader scope of employment and I’d be able to find some kind of fulfilling work.”
After earning his bachelor's degree, he threw himself into work and began teaching PE, computer science and technical education at an elementary school. "Combining these subjects wasn’t a problem, because I find all three to be practical and I have a good relationship with them," he explains. "They’re not so much about memorizing a lot of text or terminology. Students develop motor skills and cognitive thinking while learning to work with modern technologies in these types of lessons.”
While teaching computer science, Pavel tried to instill the basics of computer literacy during class. "We focused on internet safety, working with text and images, and we also used logic games to practice basic algorithmic reasoning," he recalls. "I also participated regularly in student tech workshops, during which they could try out modern robotic mechanisms, virtual reality, etc."
The longer Pavel worked in the Czech education system, the more fed up he became with it. "Children aren’t taught to think independently or be creative. Rather, they just receive tasks over and over again and are trained to become like sheep,” he says, sadly. “For example, talented and gifted pupils are often cut off, if not also insulted, by teachers just for solving something in a way that wasn’t in line with the assignment instructions," he says. "In my opinion, pupils should primarily be taught to solve problems and find ways to achieve goals, instead of just being asked to produce specific results."
Pavel’s superiors were not sympathetic to his unique approach. "When I tried to be an encouraging mentor rather than just someone who hands out assignments and tests, I was reprimanded by management. It felt as though we were still stuck in the old, socialist Czechoslovakia, where grades were all that mattered," he says. He goes on to point out that this style of teaching often traumatizes children. “In today's complicated times, which are already heavily impacted by the pandemic, these drills can cause psychological problems for kids. Sooner or later, it will take a toll on them. Instead of constantly goofing around, they should also focus on figuring out who they are as individuals and what interests them."
"When discussing IT education options with a friend, he recommended the Green Fox Academy bootcamp, which he himself had previously graduated from."
After three years of teaching in elementary school, Pavel decided it was time for a change. "During the pandemic, I had a lot of time to think about my career. I’ve always been drawn to IT. My dad's an IT guy and I'm a gamer at heart, so I started thinking about what I could do next," he says. "When discussing IT education options with a friend, he recommended the Green Fox Academy bootcamp, which he himself had previously graduated from."
As a graduate of the Junior Developer Course, Pavel is well qualified to evaluate it. "I enjoyed the motivating approach used by mentors, the strong emphasis on real practice, and the course length itself, which was only 4.5 months. Of course, they were very intense, those few months, " he says, with a laugh. "We’re talking 8 hours every day, Monday to Friday. During that time, I managed to gain a tremendous number of new skills and knowledge. On top of that, we were still able to share a few jokes, and it was a great training atmosphere, which also helped the learning process a lot."
"Do it. If you aren’t happy with your career, it's not worth wasting time on. You only live once"
Surprisingly, Pavel won’t be leaving bootcamp after graduation. "Green Fox Academy guarantees their graduates a job after completing the course, and they really came through, by giving me a job themselves,” he says. “They were looking for someone to fill the position of junior mentor and, as a former teacher, I was very happy to accept their offer,” he confides. "What I love about my new job is the modern teaching approach, where we teach people to think independently and find new solutions on their own. We don't force them to memorize everything. Instead, we focus on practice, which graduates will then use to the fullest extent in their future professions."
He's gradually adjusting to his new role. "For now, I'm still getting my bearings and learning my role as a mentor. I'm preparing materials and watching new videos," he says. Beyond that, however, he’s also already taken an interest in his new mentees. "I know exactly what they are going through and I can help them immediately," Pavel says. "Being a mentor gives me a really good feeling in that I can pass on something I’ve already learned myself. I personally enjoy mentoring and would like to continue developing in this role. How far this work will take me or what offers will come in the future, only time will tell.”
One of the roles of a mentor is to help people on their journey into the world of IT. Pavel has good advice for anyone considering a career change. "Do it. If you aren’t happy with your career, it's not worth wasting time on. You only live once," he says. "Water costs 15 CZK in a shop, 30 CZK in a restaurant, and 50 CZK on a plane. It’s the same product in each location, but with a different applied value. If you feel that you’re not valued enough, you’re probably just in the wrong place."