Programming a computer can be challenging. Mr. Girard, who has worked for some of the world’s premier technology companies, makes it simple and relatable for his students. In the interview below, he talks about what got him interested in computers, the changes he’s seen in them over time, and why he teaches programming.
How did you spend your time as a kid?
I spent my time playing outside with other kids. When I was growing up in the Canadian suburbs we didn’t have cellphones or computers. I would just hang out with kids in the winter time building forts and throwing snowballs. We had simple video games, but that was about it.
Life was pretty different back then. In fact, the only way you could contact your friends was by calling their house. When I was very young my family even used a rotary phone.
What got you interested in programming?
It just kind of happened. I was always really good at Math. Programming, which uses a lot of math, came easily to me. My school allowed me to skip a grade in Computers. When I was in Grade 11 I took a Grade 12 computer class.
Back then computers were very simple. Programming languages were very basic, nothing like what we have today. At school we used a programming language called Turing which was very limited. I tried to create a game but my computer ran out of memory.
What kind of work did you do in the software industry?
At Motorola I did software development and testing. I wrote programs that simulated cell phone calls.
Our division sold hundreds of millions of dollars worth of contracts. Then Nokia came. They began to dominate the cell-phone market. Motorola couldn’t give their phones away. They had to lay off thousands of employees, including myself.
After that I moved back to Canada and worked for Blackberry for nine years.
What happened when the iPhone came out?
I can remember the day when the iphone came out. Everyone in my office looked at each other and their jaws dropped. However, the management just ignored it. Two months after the iphone came out I asked a senior executive what he thought about it; he didn’t even know what I was talking about. Then Google released its Android operating system and everything changed.
I left Blackberry and started making apps for iPhone/Android and had a lot of success. That decision also gave me the freedom to travel.
How did you end up in Thailand?
I traveled to Europe and Thailand, but I liked Thailand most of all. There is no winter here, which for a Canadian is a big plus. The people are really nice here as well.
Your students have a nickname for you. What is it?
They call me Mr. Bacon, a name they gave me because I dressed up for Halloween as a piece of bacon.
One of my students even made a poster for me. The tagline is “Keep Calm and Eat Bacon.” As you can imagine, the students at MUIDS are a lot of fun to teach.
What’s one sentence you want your students to remember?
If you take a complex problem and break it down into small steps, it’s easy to solve.
Programming is always about dividing and conquering. Every line of code is a piece of a much larger puzzle. If you can learn how to break down a giant problem into small steps, that skill will help you in anything you do.