TIY Day Zero — Installation Party

When I walked into the building, after being a little lost and disorganized from my trip over I was relieved to find that the building itself, a product of 1907 Atlanta, was also in disarray. My phone works only with wifi, a choice I decided to make so save a few extra dollars for school. As a millennial this method of writing down directions and paying close attention to street signs is new to me. Spent forty-five minutes lost in downtown, always a street or two away from my destination.

My dashboard reads “10:17” as I get out of the car and head over to 115 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. from a parking garage across the street; with a slight kip in my step. I don’t like being late, even when I know I won’t be.

Walking in the first thing I noticed in the open, blue painted, entrance after passing two sets of glass pane double doors is the elevator was out of order. Instead of feeling worried about the time I was happy that I’m not the only one getting their bearings, even if that means comparing myself to an elevator. A sign with an arrow indicated a detour down the cobble (?) corridor to the right. The whole lower section of the building was under renovations or being repaired. Can’t blame a building needing some TLC with more than one-hundred years of history.

I found an alternative elevator and a nicely dressed, black man, super friendly guy waiting on the steel cage to drop to our level.

“Going to The Iron Yard?” He asked, smile and even a slight glimmer. You knew he was a happy dude.

He was a little shy, I’m a little shy too, you can always tell depending on how easy it is to make eye contact with someone. I don’t remember exactly how I responded but it was along the lines of…

“Yes! I’m pretty excited to be here! Are you taking the course too?”

Some small talk and another person to share the cage with later… we were upstairs. Now, like I said this building was built in 1907, if someone told me they replaced the wood floors at any point in this hundred year timeline I would call them a liar. That is part of the allure of suit 400, the atmosphere. Maybe that was the allure of 1907, big wide open space and simple elegance. Nothing to distract you, everything to make you appreciate how little sign of concrete there was. Almost like the engineers at the start of the 20th century knew how to build a place that could mold a person.

Regardless of the reason, The Iron Yard (TIY for short) identified the quality and invested in it.

115 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. is also home to “Creative Loafing”and a few other organizations I haven’t had a chance to familiarize myself with yet.

Adjusting, I walked down the wood ramp that lead to the entrance of TIY. They were prepared for the open house with a welcome sign and what would normally be a locked door was open and inviting. The floor layout was kind of rectangle with two long halls parallel to each other along the suit with classrooms and offices in-between or along the outside of the rectangle. If the space wasn’t closed off to be independent it was filled with tables, chairs, power outlets, couches, a kitchen prep area (can’t have an oven in a place this ancient) and games placed throughout. Posters of super heroes, trendy motivational encouragement and code were present but again never distracting. This wasn’t a place that invested in the most luxurious decoration, just nice, simple and comfortable. TIY was serious and wasn’t trying to cater to bringing people in with “bait”.

Shortly I saw my instructor TJ, a black man who is tall, articulate with his hair encompassed with a large beanie (I have no idea what they call those things) and maybe the most significant accessory was his head phones. TJ loves music, always referring his students to the app he built around cords and musical pitches. I’m not very knowledgable with music, so it was a bit harder for me to grasp how to understand the app but I completely understood how musicians and singers could implement it. Perhaps when TJ is finished playing with it I’ll ask him if I could refer my theater friends to it.

Thats part of why I am here, build and create something useful. Technology doesn’t discriminate, it is a tool for anyone who invests in it.

TJ is a very pragmatic instructor (so far). He doesn’t dive into long speeches, he is very realistic and shares with us, his students, in this realism. He is also a bit of an enigma, an identity he created I’m sure, as no one can really be sure where he’s from. He switches accents as much as he switches up how he jokes. If he gets the impression his class is adrift he reins us in with a brain game, a very practical, simple yet stressful brain teaser. Like tongue twisters for the brain.

He puts on a metronome that was somewhere between 4 and 8 counts (I know that is a significant difference, I don’t know that much about music!).

“The game is,” He starts to say,

“I will say my name, TJ, and add a number to it. The next person I point to will say their name and add three, then the next person will say their name but subtract two to the number of the person before them. This sequence will rotate. If someone gets the number wrong, the next person I point to will continue by saying their name and the number I said when we started. Also, keep pace with the metronome.”

Mental gymnastics.

“TJ. Zero” He begins

The class goes through and struggles, I struggle to make sure I pay attention, the metronome stressfully reminding everyone how we’re not keeping pace at all.

This was actually significant, it was an important game to play as an introduction to TIY.

After we finished downloading the programs and applications we were going to need for class there was an official introduction from the staff. Always important to know the ground rules. We were first spoken to by the 9 week veterans of the Front End Engineering course. TIY administrators wanted them to talk with us first about the challenges and the tribulations they had been through since starting. One significant common denominator was talk about not feeling discouraged, how you will be frustrated and how you just have to push through. How asking questions and not feeling intimidated to seek help was important.

I was thinking, “Wow! Does this happen a lot? They just spent most of the introduction to the school about not being a loner.”

There were a lot of laughs but a serious undertone that in order to succeed in this course you will have to be familiar with failure or become familiar with it and have the willpower to push through. There was an emphasis that a group that worked unanimously would succeed and achieve much more than one who had issues with an ego. I added the word ego, the administrators have to be… politically correct, so this is my interpretation.

TIY Atlanta’s lead administrator, Lindsey Owings, had a shy but firm demeanor. White, medium/longish length hair, and wearing a TIY shirt that looked almost like it was supposed to say “The Iron Maiden” also followed up with the statements from the veterans in the class before ours. I decided it was a good chance to set the tone (or try to) and I asked…

“How can you articulate to us as students how not to be intimidated by you and the instructors?”

I wanted to achieve some clarity, somehow, that we could trust them no matter what. Lindsey and another instructor responded… (I’ll get these names down in time)

“We are here to help you grow, we are also growing as instructors. Students find different ways to do things that we didn’t necessarily think about before. By communicating with us about the course and the work associated with it you also help us grow and become better instructors.”

Their goal was our success, no matter what that meant, regardless of the standard and record they were trying to achieve to represent for TIY. They are willing to inconvenience themselves if that meant the difference between our success or failure. TIY’s business model is people, us the students.

One last quote of significance from this welcome party to the school, from a veteran of the Front End Engineering class came from a girl with short cropped brunette hair, thick rimmed black glasses, a petite frame and no shoes or socks on her feet.

“You’re really learning how to think, that’s what this course is about.”

This is going to be a great three months.