Get With The Programming

Yacine Merzouk has had so much success as a computer programmer that he’s giving back by offering free classes in a field that will continue to grow

Computer programming is a lucrative career and an increasingly important field in this technologically savvy world. But since there aren’t many places specifically designed to teach coding, Yacine Merzouk of Zendy Labs is sharing his knowledge of the profession with others — free of charge.

In July, Merzouk started a training course in computer programming for teens and adults as a community project, and he has opened up his office in Kapaa to anyone who wishes to learn what makes computers tick. By taking his course, after just a few short months, students learn how to create their own websites, develop software and are provided with the opportunity to begin freelancing and explore career options.

“I think there will be no shortage of work,” notes Merzouk.

Students meet each Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. for a structured course that starts from the novice level and builds on skills every week. While the current workshop already is in session, people willing to put in extra practice at home can jump in any time. Alternatively, an open course class is held Fridays from 3 to 5 p.m. While this class is without specific coaching, Merzouk makes himself available for questions and assistance.

“I really take pride in staying on top of the latest technological trends,” he says.

All students learn through a program called Treehouse, which offers online tutorials that students also can access at home.

“We learn in a way that is purposeful and efficient,” Merzouk explains.

Computer programming essentially is telling a computer what to do through codes. These codes create software, websites or apps. A student learns by sampling codes for the computer to read by trying over and over again until a pattern is discovered.

“It’s really a great moment when you start coding and everything starts working on the first try,” says Merzouk. “You feel like a wizard, a magician.”

Upon graduation, students will have created a personal, three-page website portfolio where they can post examples of their work, including software or graphic designs.

“Careers in programming and computer science are much easier to attain than most people think,” says Merzouk. All you may need is a mentor like Merzouk — someone to guide you toward learning the proper order of codes.

“You can get really good, really fast,” he says.

Merzouk learned the trade by studying software development at a technology school in Montreal, Canada. He built his first website in the 1990s, called “Yacine’s Bubble,” which was akin to a blog (before the term was in existence). He spent 13 hours learning HTML (the main language of the Web) and created a full-functioning site (which is no longer up and running).

Merzouk feels lucky to have moved to Kauai for the love of his life, Michelle Rundbaken, and to be able to continue creating websites, which take, on average, about one week to design. Work is easy to come by and is in demand, as many local businesses are still setting up shop online.

“I lucked out in every step of the way after I graduated,” he says. “There’s been work if I wanted to work.”

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