When Zack started with Pivotal’s STEM program many years ago, he quickly discovered that he had a knack for programming and problem solving. He soon became a peer leader, working with other students to help them troubleshoot problems and eventually teaching workshops on his own. Today, Zack runs his own small business, teaching elementary school students how to code and make games. He talks about his Pivotal experience and the fulfilling work he’s doing today. 

What was your Pivotal experience like? 

Pivotal connected me to some fantastic summer internships and workshops for STEM and work readiness, which played a large part in the kind of work I do now and in developing my interests. 

What was it like moving from being a STEM student to a peer leader? 

Looking back on it, moving from a student to a peer leader was more of a gradual transition than a specific moment. Throughout the various Pivotal STEM workshops, I would always find myself working with other students to help troubleshoot and solve problems. Eventually that culminated in volunteering to teach a Python workshop, which I remember feeling very natural. 

Being a peer leader is about being someone who actively looks for ways to contribute in addition to being someone people can go to for help. Having the opportunity to try teaching during the workshop allowed me to gain some valuable experience in a relatively low risk environment, which I think is the best way to learn from experience.  

What made you decide to start your own business? 

Starting my own business has always been a longtime goal of mine, even if the steps to get there have changed over time. I have lots of ideas, and I've always seen starting my own business as being the way to make each of them happen. Currently, I teach elementary school students how to code and make games, a business launched out of a passion for teaching I discovered a year ago. I hope to eventually work in game and app development as well. 

What are some of the challenges you faced getting to where you are? 

The biggest challenge in starting the teaching business was finding students. What eventually led to my first class was volunteering at a church that happened to have an afterschool program for the community. We did one trial class, it went well, and I've been pretty involved there since!  

What are you most proud of? 

I'm proud of how I've been able to draw on my experiences and the challenges I faced as a student and apply that to the teaching I'm doing now. Having the perspective of a student that struggled throughout school has given me a huge advantage when it comes to reaching struggling students in my own class.  

What advice would you give your younger self? 

Write down your ideas! Thoughts have an incredibly short shelf life, so writing down ideas as they come to mind is an effective way to keep track of thoughts and to see how your ideas have developed over time. Also, always be willing to try new things and pursue new opportunities! Try to push yourself out of your comfort zone habitually, and never get too comfortable always doing the same thing.