For anyone who’s sat through long training courses or classes, you know that how slow or fast the clock moves is all dependent on the teacher. And If you you’ve ever attended one of the Extreme Academy Live sessions, you must definitely know that Isaac de Abreu is quite a character. Today, you will be learning more about the Professor Extraordinaire himself!
What made you decide to go into the tech field and where did your career in technology start?
I’ve always loved all things technical and as far back as I can remember, I was dismantling and re-assembling all sorts of devices. I think what sealed my fate was the first time I saw a pocket calculator!
The first technology job I had was as a salesperson in an electronics store in Johannesburg where I was put into the ‘computing’ department. It was mostly about selling Atari and Commodore 64 game consoles and I was very good at it.
What was (or has been) most challenging for you in your career path?
My Dad was an immigrant to South Africa and always wanted his sons to go much further than he was able to and so he always encouraged us to try and be entrepreneurial rather than get into a career working for someone else. I guess he put the desire in me to do things my way.
My first business was a manufacturing jeweler where I paid a high cost for that ‘go it alone’ attitude, I never really had the opportunity at a young age, to learn the disciplines of business and strategy and especially the lessons of how to work in teams. Everything I did in my business was by gut instinct.
I’m still learning about the teamwork thing and to be honest, I don’t think I’m particularly good at it – but that was and remains my biggest challenge.
Have there been any key memories or events during your career that you remember, that made you think, “this is for me, I love training individuals about technology”?
The training part came a lot later if you can believe it. While in South Africa, my second business came into being when I perfected a technique of converting company logos and signatures into True Type fonts and decided I’d take it to the biggest South African newspaper to show off. The editor of the computing section was mesmerized and said he’d publish an article on the technology. When he did, my phone absolutely exploded with people & companies wanting the tech. It was then I knew…
Later, after moving to the UK and while working for the world’s second-largest luxury company (no longer an entrepreneur), I had to do quite a bit of traveling to their head offices in Geneva. One of my responsibilities was to teach Intellectual Property lawyers how to use software that had been specifically developed for them. I fell in love with training and thought that if I could train lawyers, I could train anyone! (I wish to state here and publicly that I have the utmost respect for lawyers 😊) The rest is history.
Extreme Academy is a program for everyone, whether you’re just starting in IT or have made a career out of it and have decided to learn something new. It must be challenging in teaching individuals of all skill levels, how do you manage that?
- Rule Number One – I am talking to real humans with real feelings, real emotions, and real problems and they have chosen to give me their time. Title, skill level, wealth, race, and gender are all irrelevant concepts to me. I talk and teach people, not titles or skill levels.
- Rule Number Two – Don’t treat the viewers like strangers but make them feel as if they are friends and family and valued and welcomed into my space because they are. I have invited students who come to Cambridge to reach out and say hi and I’ll happily go share a meal at Nando’s to solidify our friendship – because sharing a meal has that kind of power!
- Rule Number Three – I’m never afraid to admit my weakness or frailties because I’m not superhuman or a genius and there’s no use pretending.
- Rule Number Four – Laugh, it’s good for the soul, the mind, and the viewers. My name in Hebrew, actually means ‘laughter’ so how could I not? 😊
By following the above four rules, I never have to worry about different skill levels. I just need to ensure that I tell people what they’re going to get and then ask the geniuses around me to help others by answering questions. That makes them feel like they’re contributing (and they do) and that we value them – and we do!
What do you think makes Extreme Academy courses different from other technical courses you’ve taught?
The support from the team I work with. Rohan Abeysuriya, Claire Jones, David Weal, Ben LeSage, Paul Christian, Stuart Farmer & John Barger have been fabulous in giving me the space and freedom to have a go at making Extreme Academy Live a success. I’ve never had this type of support before – training was always seen as a necessary but unfortunate expense.
What do you see as the value in Extreme Academy?
I think that giving back to the community that feeds us is a wonderful thing. Ultimately, Academy is enabling people to learn and grow and when they are in positions to make decisions on whether to go with Extreme or the grey crowd, I hope they remember the smiles and laughs they had on Academy Live and make the call our way. We are the Sales Team whose revenue contribution is never seen but always felt.
What do you love most about teaching?
When I teach, I feel like I’m a farmer. I sow seeds in people’s lives and some of those seeds will produce engineers (or more competent ones), technicians, leaders, new businesses, and possibly even a Nobel Laureate. I might even plant the seeds for someone to go and become the world’s best teacher. I never quite know the results of my labour, but I do know that every seed sowed produces sustenance. The knowledge that I had a very small part in inspiring someone to become better, aim higher, and go further is the biggest reward of all. Those two hours on a Thursday energize me beyond anything else I do.
What’s your best recommendation/suggestion for someone just starting in the tech world?
- Immerse yourself in Linux until your dreams start with a SUDO command.
- Develop an insatiable hunger to read technical books.
- Don’t be scared to break things (especially software) fix it, break it again fix it better, quicker repeat, until you know it in your sleep.
- If you’re into networking, buy some cheap gear on eBay and build your own little networks. Learn how things work not just how they ‘supposed to work’.
Lastly, never underestimate small beginnings and NEVER write off someone who slips at the start line.
Extreme Academy is open for anyone and everyone! If you’re even just a little bit curious, the courses are free so check them out, the Extreme Academy home page has everything you need to know. Check out these other resources.