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Education Entrepreneurship MBA Startups Teaching Work

How I Started Teaching Part-Time: First Gig

Posted By davidedgertonjr

In my last post, I talked about how I made the decision to teach part-time at the collegiate level and all the things I went through to get my first teaching assignment.  I had a graduate degree, strength in communication and making presentations, and the desire and courage to give it a try.  I had all I needed so I went for it.

My first assignment was at a school that had a program designed to assist adult students coming back to school for different reasons to earn their bachelor degrees.   I was very excited to begin teaching and looked forward to working with the students.

The class consisted of 1 four-hour session per week for a total of four weeks.  Each session started around 5:45pm and concluded at 9:45pm.  At first, that schedule seemed pretty manageable – but by the 3rd or 4th session it started to feel like a long night – especially after working 8 or 9 hours right before coming to class.  It was an accelerated class so the pace was faster than anticipated.  I immediately had empathy for my students because I remembered working on my MBA and having to go to campus sometimes twice a week for a 4-hour session after working all day on the job.

My initial approach was to try to relate all the knowledge and experience I had in a way that the students would be able to use what I shared to learn new processes, gather new insights, and learn new ways of doing things.  I was careful to stay within the confines of the lesson plan and course outline from the syllabus to make sure I covered what was expected by the school for the course.

After my first course was completed I got my first evaluation and to my surprise, it was not what I expected at all.  While I did an okay job presenting the information and making sure the assignments were understood, the students gave me negative ratings on lack of feedback, how they felt that the conversations and lectures were only one directional, and how they felt that the class was all about me and not them learning what they needed to be successful.

I thought that I would not be asked to come back to teach, and that even though I loved the experience, maybe I wasn’t cut out to be an instructor at the level.  But then something happened that helped me tremendously – I got asked to teach the class again and I was asked to meet with the department chairperson to discuss my evaluation.  I was little nervous obviously when I met with the department chairperson but he was gracious and empathetic.  He had been teaching for over 30 years before he became the department chairperson and the words he said to me are the reason I’m still teaching today.

He said the evaluation I got is typical of first-time instructors so I should be worried about what the students said.  He said that the reason that I was selected to teach the class was because I had the background knowledge and expertise, which was one of my competitive advantages because it was hard and still is hard to find adjunct instructors in the IT and math space.  He also said that I communicated very well and I was very confident in my abilities – which were a great asset to have as a teacher.  I was waiting for the punchline and when I got it I felt a thud in my chest.

He said “Now, you have to LEARN how to TEACH and not PRESENT.”

Being a person who loves to learn, I said ‘Okay, how I do that?’  I was thinking he was going to send me to a class or ask me to get a degree in education.  He didn’t do that.  He said ‘Keep doing what you are doing but ask questions along the way to make sure your students are tracking with you.’

Ask questions?  Make sure they are tracking with me?  I thought this was great advice but I knew more was coming.

He then said ‘Start with questions instead of going directly into your material.  Then invite the students to help you teach your material and watch what happens.’

I’m thinking, “Okay, that is something I will try when I teach again.”

Then the department chairperson said that if I had any questions or concerns to come by and meet with him.  He would be open to helping me get better at teaching and learning how to interact with the students for optimal engagement and learning.  Before we parted ways he said let’s get together after the next class to see how things improve.

After the meeting, I regained my confidence to go back into the classroom and give teaching another try.  I was given tools to engage my students instead of just having a one-dimensional conversation with them.  I also had a person that was supportive of me and had a vested interest in my success as an instructor.  This experience occurred 11 years ago – and I’m still teaching today and I still love it.

What is the lesson?

  • It is okay to fail but don’t let failure define you – my first evaluation for teaching part-time was probably the worst evaluation I have ever received for anything in my life.  However, instead of letting that feedback deter me from trying again, I learned to leverage that feedback as a tool to help me get better at what I was trying to do.  How many times have we let negative feedback or comments or others’ opinions change our minds about what we want to accomplish?  You don’t need permission to be successful – but you do need to be open and listen to what your clients and customers are saying about your product or service in order to continue selling it and staying in business.
  • Find a mentor/partner to help you improve what you do – no one in this world succeeds by themselves.  Everyone has someone somewhere in their corner – either cheering them on or helping them refine what they do to become the best.  The department chairperson was the partner I needed at the time to help me become a teacher so his advice and coaching allowed me to not only do what became a passion for me but to do it with excellence.  He also challenged me to improve in ways that I bought into – he offered new ways for me to approach teaching that allowed me to get better in the classroom.  You have to have someone you trust in order to follow their advice.  Find someone that can be your partner and mentor as you try new things.  Hopefully that person has experience in the area you are trying to enter and can guide you to the results you seek.
  • You need a feedback loop to improve what you do – in the IT world we talk about being agile or using iterative processes for developing software and building solutions for our business partners within an organization.  That process works the best when you have a feedback loop in place to provide you with an evaluation of what you are doing so you can either tweak your approach, your product, or your service in order to better serve your clients and customers.  My feedback loop was the evaluation process at the end of the course so instead of being apprehensive about receiving feedback I learned to embrace feedback as opportunities to improve my product – which was my teaching ability and style.

Next time I’ll talk about what happened after I started doing what the department chairperson suggested and how I began to use my evaluations as tools to improve my performance in the classroom.



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Education MBA Startups Teaching Work

How I Started Teaching Part-Time

Posted By davidedgertonjr

I get asked questions all the time about how I got into adjunct teaching.  The next series of posts will be about my journey over the last 11 years of being an adjunct instructor and the lessons I learned that can apply to other areas of life.

I graduated with an MBA from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota back in 2005.  That was a great year for me – I got my degree, my second son Michael was born 2 months before graduation, and I had started working in a sales role at my company at the time.  Things were great but there was something missing that I was searching for that year that led me to think about a side project.

The side project came in the form of teaching.  Why teaching?  Someone told me that I was good at making presentations at work and that I was a pretty good communicator – so getting up in front of people would not be a problem.  Then my mother and aunts are all teachers so maybe this was something I could try and ask them for help if I ran into problems.

I started researching options for teaching and learned that all I needed to get started was a master’s degree – which I had recently earned.  Cool.  Then the next challenge was finding an opportunity to teach – which at first proved to be a little more difficult.  I figured that there should be a way to land a part-time teaching opportunity where I lived – considering that there are 12 colleges and universities where I live.  This should be too hard right?

Well, it was.  I started by drafting a cover letter introducing myself, my areas of expertise, and my recently acquired MBA degree.  I sent the letter to every director of human resources at every school I could find in the area I live.  Crickets.  Crickets.  Crickets.

Then I started using Google to find programs that would accept first-time teachers to see if there were opportunities to get started.  Crickets.  Crickets.  Crickets.

Each time I wouldn’t hear anything I refined my approach and tried something different.  I was going on the belief that every teaching in higher education didn’t have to have a Ph.D. to teach.  I remember having instructors that didn’t have a Ph.D. or Ed.D. Or with any ‘D’ in their terminal degree.

Then I started cold calling schools to talk to someone about possible opportunities.  Every school I talked to said that they were not hiring non-tenured faculty and that I had to consider completing a Ph.D. to be considered for a teaching position.  I knew I didn’t want to take on a terminal degree just to teach part-time.  That didn’t make sense financially to me but I knew there was something out there that I could teach that a university needed.

After all my research, cold calling, and hard work, I finally got an email from a school that needed someone to teach computer application (Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Access) and business math.  This school has a program that addressed the needs of adult learners coming back to school at night while working during the day.  Perfect!  I thought since I had an electrical engineering degree that teaching math would be a breeze – which it was.  Because I love software and had worked in IT, I thought teaching an Excel and Access class would also be a breeze – which it was.

I started teaching in 2006 for the first time after months of work trying to find an opportunity.  What is the lesson?

  • Use what you know to find an opportunity to do something new and potentially profitable – teaching for me was an extension of my communication skills, my ability to make presentations, my expertise in technology from my IT roles, and my love for mathematics and software.  By using all of those things and putting them together, I was able to find a new opportunity that I could leverage my skills to achieve and put a little money in my pocket.  That is was a winning situation.
  • Have the courage to get out there to find what you are looking for – if you believe that you want to try something and the opportunity is not readily available to you, go after it until someone says yes.  That ‘yes’ may come after hearing ‘no’ 999 times but you won’t get to the 1000th answer until you ask 1000 times.
  • Believe that you can succeed – what kept me searching and trying to land a teaching opportunity is my belief that I was going to succeed if I had the opportunity.  My belief was so strong that I wrote, emailed, and called different people at the schools until I found one school that would give me that change.  That confidence is the thing you need to fuel your approach while you go through rejection on your way to success.

Next time I’ll talk about that first teaching opportunity and what I learned from standing up in the classroom the first couple of times.  Let’s just say it was a humbling experience.

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Insights Inspiration

Make The Best You Have the Best There Is

Posted By davidedgertonjr

I was going through my Twitter feed the other day and I saw someone paraphrase the title of this post.  After processing the theme of this title it made sense to me to understand what was really going on that would make someone say these words.

The only thing I can think of is a video I saw of Chris Gardener (“Pursuit of Happiness”) explaining the definition of world class to someone.  He basically said when someone recognizes you as the best at what you do then you begin to be regarded in way more than the average person.


How do you take what you have and make it the best there is?

First, you have to believe in yourself and believe that your God-given gifts can transform your life and the lives of others into what they should be.  In order to become world class at anything, you have to believe you can become world class.  Start with the understanding that you are uniquely qualified to do something special.  Then find what that unique ability is and go do it.

Second, once you understand your gifts and what you have to offer the world, you have to study what you do and make a commitment to become better at it.  It is easy to become complacent when something you do comes easy.

You may even think you don’t have to sharpen your skills.  Let me tell you – there are several companies that have gone out of business because new innovative startups came on the scene and took market share from the incumbents.   You have to keep innovating and reinventing yourself to stay relevant but start with learning all you can about your craft.

Then you have to tell everyone what it is that you do and see if you can help someone else be successful.  If you are able to do that then the people you help will tell others.  Those people will tell others.  Then those people will tell others.  That is how you start building your reputation and personal brand in your industry – by providing value to enough people to get them talking about you.

You want to have your name associated with the solution to a problem that a lot of people have.  I am an adjunct instructor at 2 universities because I love teaching at that level and I love explaining complex IT-related topics to students.  Because of what I teach I get asked a lot of questions about computers, IT, startups, and technology in general.  I’ve done interviews for the news, I’ve been featured in magazines, and I continue to demystify complex topics in this space for my students.  I’m working on being world class in the classroom, at my job as an IT manager, and in life as a dad and husband.

What is your gift?  What is the one thing you have that everyone wants?  What is the very thing that if you don’t provide it to the world the world will continue to suffer?  That is the thing that you have to work at and put effort into so that you can produce a world class product and become a world class solution that everyone is aware.





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Entrepreneurship Reflections Teaching

The Pivot – No More Software Company

Posted By davidedgertonjr

After declaring at the beginning of the year that I was going to create a software company and working hard to get something going, I decided to pivot toward something I could do in a shorter amount of time.  My major focus was to create a product or service with software and quickly push that product out to the market this year.  While my intentions were noble and true, it became very apparent that I was going to need more resources to accomplish this feat – and I became unsure my previous approach would get me what I ultimately wanted.

Now, after going through some notes and taking a couple of courses on Lynda.com to stay sharp, I decided to try an experiment to help me determine if I really wanted to create something positive and profitable.  For the next several months I am going to blog an eBook that I had in mind – and try to market and sell that eBook.  This has less risk and could help me determine if the eBook is a viable project to help me with my startup/entrepreneurial chops as well as help me improve my writing.

The eBook is going to be on something I’ve done for the last 11 years and continue to enjoy doing – adjunct teaching.  I’m going to tell my story of how I got into adjunct teaching over 11 years ago and how that journey has led me to work for 2 major universities part-time and garnering an Excellent in Teaching Award this past year.  There are several principles to share from my approach so I hope to capture those insights into an eBook and then market the eBook to see if people will buy it.

I think the work I put into this project will serve me well as I continue to look for new ways to expand what I do as a teacher and as an entrepreneur.  So over the next posts, I’m going to start writing about what I did to contact schools, how I got my first teaching job, how I became a part of a growing teaching community, and how my award has helped me evolve as a part-time educator and expert.  Hopefully by blogging my ebook that will give me the discipline to create the content and organize it into something that creates value for someone else.  

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Education Entertainment Entrepreneurship Teaching Technology

Why I Like Blue Collar Millionaires Better Than Shark Tank

Posted By davidedgertonjr

If you ever had the idea to start a business or work in a startup, there are a couple of TV shows you have either heard of or came across when you weren’t watching Grey’s Anatomy, Empire, or the Have’s and the Have Not’s.  Those shows are Shark Tank, the Profit, and my favorite Blue Collar Millionaires.  All of these shows air on CNBC at different times and I have my DVR set to record them.

For a while, I liked Shark Tank in that the show tried to capture the experience of that budding entrepreneur or team of entrepreneurs coming into the shark tank to get an investment to help their business grow.  I was fond of the show at the beginning because I felt that it was bringing some exposure to these small business owners that needed capital to keep their businesses and dreams going.

Then there is The Profit with Marcus Lemonis.  I really like his show because the premise was that he would be invited to help a struggling business and he would invest his own money in it if he were allowed to be 100% in charge and received a piece of equity in the business.  I enjoyed how he would totally demolish certain businesses to help them have a foundation to be profitable and how he would make hard decisions in order to put the company on the right track toward success.  The main reason I love watching this show is because Marcus would explain why the business was a good investment and would teach you certain business concepts throughout the show – so you would learn about breaking even, inventory turns, assets, and cash flow while he was rehabilitating the business back to health.

Even after watching that great show, I now have my favorite show of all time on CNBC.  This show is called Blue Collar Millionaires and is currently in its second season.  The premise of this show is that the founders and CEOs of the companies featured are plain, everyday folks that found their passion and love in some peculiar places.  Most of them didn’t go to college or grad school, but they started a business with what they knew and grew that business until it was big enough to give the owner a very nice living.  Some of the companies provide services like demolition, courier services, flooring, roofing, and alligator catching.  The catch in each company and founder was that they either vertically integrated their company or found adjacencies to their company that they acquired or partnered with to grow their business into multimillion-dollar enterprises.  

I think my favorite example from the show is a guy that started a towing business.  For the first few years, he ran his tow truck business and just towed as many cars as he could.  Then he got the idea to do something with the cars that he towed that no one claimed.  He started an auction on the weekends and made more money.  Then he also bought a couple of warehouses to hold the cars he towed and didn’t sell.  He turned around and then leased the storage space in those warehouses – and made more money.  I thought the idea to expand your business into adjacent and vertical opportunities was brilliant and made these entrepreneurs seem like they were ahead of their time.

Oh well, it is time to go watch my show.  What are some of your favorite shows to watch?

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Music Technology Uncategorized

Gear Upgrades

Posted By davidedgertonjr

Everyone loves toys.  I know for guys it could be the latest TV, video game console, or electronic product.  Some will say their boat, motorcycle, and/or their grill are their favorite things.

For me, I love when I can upgrade my studio setup so I can write more music, create software, make new videos, or just have fun veggin’ out on YouTube.

Here is my new set up:

A pair of M-Audio BX5 monitors (http://bit.ly/2lppNAS) – these monitors are workhorses and with their small footprint I am able to put them on my desk.  These guys were $79 – half of their original $149 list price.  They couldn’t stay at the store.

Audio Technica AT2035 Condenser Microphone (http://bit.ly/2kUfxn8) – this microphone was a steal and has a great sound for the price.  It think you can pick one up around $149.

A Focusrite 2i4 USB Audio Interface (http://bit.ly/2kJ6x2c) – I had to get this device because my computer only has 2 USB ports available and I didn’t want to waste a port on a MIDI connection.  This device does the audio and the the MIDI for me in one unit requiring one USB connection to the computer.  Sweet.

2 Dell 27″ Monitors – these have been great since I’ve had them set up like I like.  It great to have software running and you can see all the aspects of what’s going on.

Logitech 920 HD Webcam (http://bit.ly/2ko760r) – since I’m also doing some online teaching and coaching I thought I would add a better camera to the mix of gear I had.  This camera is really sharp and crisp so I can produce high quality videos.

MacBook Pro (http://apple.co/2k4DKb5) – I’ve had my Macbook Pro now for 4 years and it continues to work well for me.  This thing is a tank.

Reason 9.2 (http://bit.ly/2k4j4Qx) – I’ve been using Reason since version 2.5 and I love this piece of software.  I do all my recording and producing with it and it meets my needs now that they have the Rack extensions where you can get 3rd party plugins to add tools to your palette.

There you go – that’s my gear list.  Am I missing anything?

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My Heroes: Garrett Morgan

Posted By davidedgertonjr

I get asked the following questions from time to time:  Why did you go into engineering and information technology as a career?  Did you have a role model or someone you looked up to that helped you make that decision?

I absolutely had some people that I looked up to that inspired me to enter the engineering and technology space.  I thought I would share a couple of them so you could be inspired as well.

One of those “mentors” was Garrett Augustus Morgan.  He was born on March 4, 1877 and passed away on July 27, 1963.  He is one of my heroes because he was an African American inventor and successful businessman – and he created some of the technology we still use today.

He loved to fix things and had a reputation for doing so.  One of his first inventions was a liquid hair straightening agent – which he successfully marketed and sold under his company.

He is credited with inventing the gas mask, which is used today by fire departments as standard equipment.  It was used by the army when it entered World War I in 1917.

He also created the predecessor to the modern-day traffic signal and patented the invention in 1922.  While it wasn’t the first traffic signal device, it was the first that had 3 positions – which evolved over time into what we see today as a red, yellow, and green light traffic signal.

I’m very appreciative of his contributions and others made by African Americans that have helped make this world a better place.  I’ll share more of my heroes over the next couple of posts.

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Diversity And Inclusion Technology

Hidden Figures – A Must See Movie

Posted By davidedgertonjr

I just got through seeing the movie Hidden Figures with my family.  I was looking forward to watching the movie and learning what I could about the amazing black women that worked with NASA during the early 1960s.   This movie was really inspiring in that it showed that people of color, specifically women of color, could do amazing things even in the face of racial oppression and unfair treatment.  I learned a lot about these wonderful women that I knew very little about.

I was reminded of how hard it was to put a man into space with the tools and technology available during that time.  When the lady stole the FORTRAN book from the library to program the IBM mainframe computer it took me back to my freshman year at North Carolina A&T State University – when I took a FORTRAN class as my first programming class in the electrical engineering curriculum.  Trust me – after learning FORTRAN I think anyone who can make sense of the syntax and can do anything successfully with it is definitely worth a high level of respect (sorry to my Java and C# friends).  And to do it with an IBM mainframe made it even more difficult and respected.

I’m glad I was able to have my six-year-old daughter Naomi see the movie.  She said she liked it a lot because she likes math – which she really does and is good at it.  Now she has been introduced to some historical women who liked math as well and helped this country succeed at one of the most difficult and dangerous tasks in its history.  Maybe one day she may decide to become an engineer or programmer.  If so I’ll be there to help guide her and maybe show her a couple of things – if she doesn’t show me a thing or two first.




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App Business Computer Entrepreneurship iOS Mac

Here We Go

Posted By davidedgertonjr

This year I’m going all out to create the software company I’ve wanted to create.  I’m diving deep into the Apple ecosystem to learn the Swift language and the IOS mobile operating system.  I’m starting my journey by creating small utility apps like calculators to get my process down for creating software and how long it takes me.  I’m looking to have some free apps and paid apps in the App Store by the end of this year.  My focus outside of keeping my day job is to understand all I can about creating and building a small tech company.  It will be bootstrapped with my own money and I will keep all the equity – for now.

Some people say that the app business is dead and/or dying a slow death.  I say I’m going to do this so I can prove to myself that it can be done.

More to come on this journey of discovery, experimentation, and hopefully profitable growth.

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Getting Started

Posted By davidedgertonjr

Wow,…2017 is here.  I can tell how fast the year is going to go by how fast January seems to pass me by.  It is going to be a great year.

There were several goals I set for myself in 2016 that I didn’t accomplish.  There are several things I wanted to get done that I didn’t get done like I wanted.  There are several big pie-in-the-sky plans I made that didn’t amount to anything.

But,…I’m still here.  I’m made it to the end of another year and I have everything I had when I started 2016 and more.  I have more love for my family and friends.  I have more appreciation for my health and strength.  I have helped others and made other lives better.

So now it is about getting started.  To me that means putting the past behind and reaching forward into the unknown future.  There are things I want to do but I’m not going to beat myself up if I don’t get them done.  I’m going to enjoy the journey and continue to appreciate the sights and landmarks in on this trip called life.



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