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The Spartan Warrior Who Can Code!

Alex is the Driver of Le Wagon Shenzhen. With his industry knowledge and years of China experience, he’s focused on helping students better understand China’s digital ecosystem and build awesome products. Whether it's learning Chinese, building a digital product, or competing in a race, Alex's philosophy is simple: "Consistency Matters."

What was your story before you joined Le Wagon bootcamp?

Oh boy. Basically,
  • Graduated from Virginia Tech in 2014 with a degree in Economics and International Studies
  • Moved to China shortly after to study Chinese
  • Lived in Guilin for 3 years studying Chinese and motorcycling around northern Guangxi province. 
  • Moved to Shanghai in 2017 and starting working for a Digital Product Agency called Wiredcraft.
  • Then Le Wagon!
    My recent life in a nutshell.

What were the reasons that drove you to China? 

In the beginning, I was mostly focused on learning Chinese. After graduating from university, I thought that by learning Chinese and better understanding Chinese culture, I would have an easier time finding a job back in the US.

Do you have any secrets of speaking amazing Chinese?

Leave the big city! I spent three years in Guangxi, Guilin where there was only 300 foreigners in a city of 1 million.
I wrote a Linkedin article about my language learning philosophy which you can read here: Learning Chinese is Hard. But Here's How YOU Can Become Fluent. 

Basically, you need to do three things consistently

  1. Receive formal instruction. Generally 4 - 8 hours per week with an experienced mandarin instructor.
  2. Self-study. Review notecards, review material, preview future material. 
  3. Use it in real life. This is the most important! Talk to your Chinese friends, colleagues, strangers on the street.
If you are missing one of these three, you’re not going to be successful. Simple as that.

It’s interesting because I’ve learned these same basic concepts can be applied to learning coding as well

You have always been a fitness advocator, were you like this when you were young? 

Yeah, I had always played sports growing up. 

From an early age, I mainly played competitive ice hockey. At the time, it defined who I was. I was at the local rink every night during the week and traveled throughout the country for tournaments most weekends. During my 3rd year of high school, my hockey team made it to the national championships and came in 2nd. A lot of players from that tournament play in the NHL now. 

So fitness has always been a part of my life.

How does it feel to wake up at 5 am every morning? How and when did you start this routine?

Sometimes it’s great! Other times it can be a struggle. I started in 2017 when I stopped going to the gym and started exercising outdoors. The reason why I woke up so early was just because it was cooler in the morning and I was too busy to work out at night. 

It’s funny because in the beginning, I ended up only finding retired men to work out with. Not many young people wake up at that hour. So I ended up becoming good friends with many of them. One of those guys eventually introduced me to FitFam, a free, volunteer-led fitness organization which does group workouts across the city. Since then I‘ve been working out with FitFam every week. 

My retired friend comes along too.

It’s unbelievable that you won the Spartan! What motivated you to do it and what did you learn from participating in this hardcore competition?

I’m in disbelief too! I didn’t expect to finish in the top 5, let alone win the race. But everything just came together on race day and allowed me to perform well.

In the end, I think the most important factor for me winning the race was consistency. After doing FitFam workouts 3 - 4 times a week for over a year, I just had better fitness than most of the other runners. 

An important lesson I learned from this experience is that consistency > intensity.  It’s actually the same philosophy for really anything you do in life, whether it's language learning, coding, and fitness. 

It’s not important how well you perform. 
It’s not important how long you work on a given day.

What’s most important is that you show up.
Greg Nance, CEO of Dyad, ultra marathon runner, certified badass: “It’s ok to suck, not ok to skip.”

Why did you decide to learn to code?

Similar to learning Chinese, I felt that learning how to code would help me professionally

Prior to Le Wagon, I worked as a Business Developer (sales). My main value proposition was that I was good at communicating with people. But, I realized that wasn’t a sustainable career path in the long run. I needed to pair my soft skills with a hard skill. 

So I decided that I would invest my time and energy into digital product development.

How did you choose to learn with Le Wagon?

A colleague had done the program before and recommended it. After doing some research, I found that it was the only English language, on-site option available in Shanghai. So I applied. Only later did I find out that it was the #1 coding bootcamp in the world.

 What have you been doing after the bootcamp?

Right after camp, I worked for a startup company called Move Shanghai. They are an online platform which allows users to instantly access over 200+ fitness venues in Shanghai. Along with a team of two other Le Wagon alumni, we built their WeChat Mini Program and really pushed their tech to the next level. 

After I left MoveSH in the spring of 2019, I started doing freelance development and digital consulting for international companies and agencies in Shanghai.

Now I’m the Driver of Le Wagon Shenzhen!

Why did you choose to become the driver of Le Wagon Shenzhen? Why Shenzhen?

After my bootcamp ended in the summer of 2018, I worked with Le Wagon as a Teaching Assistant, Workshop Lead, and eventually a Lecturer. 

Because I remained involved, I had the opportunity to visit Shenzhen during the last batch in the spring of 2019. I was blown away by how advanced Shenzhen’s tech culture was and how much interest there was in the community for a program like Le Wagon.

It seemed like there was a lot of room to grow and expand in interesting ways, so when I heard Le Wagon was looking for someone to Drive the program, I immediately jumped on it. 

Any tips for anyone who might wanna join Le Wagon?

Le Wagon definitely isn’t for everyone.

It takes a lot of commitment, hard work, and patience to get through the program. So if you’ve already committed to doing the program, I recommend putting aside everything else for nine-weeks.

Le Wagon’s slogan“Change your life, learn to code.” isn’t bullshit. If you put the time and effort into the program, the returns you get are enormous. I’ve seen it happen with many of alumni and experienced it myself.
If you’re interested in the program, reach out to one of us. It’s worth a call.

Interested in learning to code? Alex will teach you which programing language should you learn first in the coming article, stay tuned!

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