Kadeem Best is passionate about influencing his community one student at a time. He’s madly in love with programming and finds fulfilment in his creative and engaging lectures where he teaches his students how to code at three of the most prominent colleges in Toronto, including Toronto’s first community college. He attributes education as a source of opportunities that he once thought were impossible. Now he has over seven years of experience as a STEM educator and takes pride in the role he plays in the lives of his students at Humber College, Seneca College, and Centennial College in Toronto, Canada. Before becoming a lecturer, he tutored students in programming.
While growing up in Gonzales, Trinidad and Tobago as a young boy, Kadeem was captivated by the capabilities of computers. Not surprisingly, programming sparked his interest and eventually he pursued a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems to delve further into the wonders of computers. In 2012 he graduated from the University of Greenwich. As a natural problem solver, he has used the programming skills he gained to develop web applications, and design, build and maintain database systems for companies in the Caribbean and Canada over the years, creating solutions to business problems.
In our conversation, Kadeem expressed that one of the most exciting projects he’s worked on was teaching Java to twelve-year-old students. He marveled at how quickly the young STEM enthusiasts grasped the concepts. Teaching and programming give him a platform to do what’s meaningful to him. Many of his students at the university level enjoy his lectures and revere him as one of the best professors who teaches applicable and relevant programming topics.
Kadeem is dedicated to helping students learn about programming and the real world with fascinating lessons. He’s currently working on hosting a basic web development workshop in Toronto before the end of the summer, and in New York City, before the end of this year. One day he hopes to open a coding school targeting people of colour in impoverished communities in Toronto, then eventually in Trinidad and Tobago. His ultimate goal is to change how people perceive programmers.
“I want to change the perception of what it means to be a programmer. If I asked anyone to close their eyes and think of a programmer and/or development and then I asked them, ‘who did you see?’ I am almost certain, they will say, they saw a white nerdy male. I want that to change. I want the responses to be, ‘I saw someone who look like you and me,’” Kadeem determinedly stated.
To pursue a career in computer science, he believes that a great deal of reading is necessary, especially to stay up to date with the latest technology trends. Read more about him below.
When did you first become interested in programming? What sparked your interest?
If my memory serves me correctly, I believe at age eleven or twelve was the first time I used a computer. I remembered being overwhelmed with immense fascination and elation when I saw it and used it for the first time. It literally was like a Romeo and Juliet story, love at first sight, just without the unfortunate tragic ending.
I was intrigued by its vast capabilities. It allowed me to play my favorite songs, burn CDs for my peers, type school reports, and play games during my leisure time. As I began to use it more and more, I became obsessed with trying to understand its inner working intricacies and more so I became obsessed with the idea of trying to make it do all of the aforementioned tasks and much more. I would say, it was at that moment my interest in programming was developed, and my destiny was shaped.
How many programming languages do you know currently? Which one is your favourite?
The necessity of having programming skills is the talk around town these days. Is there a programming language you’d recommend learning?
What motivated you to pursue a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems?
As mentioned earlier, at a young age, I was extremely enthused to learn about Computing and technology, and I unequivocally knew this was my destined career path. At that time, the only rational option was to take Information Technology as a CXC subject, which I did. However, given the level, it was not enough and only “wet” my appetite and fueled my hunger to pursue my dream even
Luckily, after much research and guidance from my Information Technology teacher (at the time), Tamara Williams, I was pointed to the College of Science Technology and Applied Arts of Trinidad and Tobago (COSTAATT). COSTAATT had an amazing Computer Information Systems(CIS)
Attending COSTAATT was undeniably one of my best decisions to date. I had the fortunate pleasure of meeting some amazing lecturers, specifically Marva Wilson and Cathyan Townsend who have impacted my life in every possible way imaginable.
Like New York City, Toronto is known for a melting pot of cultures from around the world. What was it like to adjust to life there?
Adjusting to Toronto’s diverse culture was somewhat easy for me, mainly because tolerance was etched into my system by my guardians at an extremely young age. I was taught to always respect and welcome others, even if they viewed the world through a different lens to that of me. Thus, experiencing the plethora of different cultures, ethnicities, religious groups that Toronto offered, was beyond enthralling and immensely educational.
What was a rewarding and fulfilling experience you’ve had as an educator so far?
Education is very personal to me as it has transformed my life on so many fronts. It has awarded me with opportunities that I never thought was fathomly possible and thus as an educator, I wear it like a badge of armor and take it very seriously. I am committed at all times to give students what they signed up for, that is, QUALITY!
In my seven years as an educator, I have had so many fulfilling experiences, and it is difficult to pinpoint one specific situation. I literally pour my heart out in every lecture and lab session and try to make it as engaging and interactive as possible, with the sole intent of creating a conducive learning environment for my students.
Every class session is fulfilling. I believe that being an educator is one of the few jobs where you have been blessed with the opportunity to shape and transform communities, families, and lives one student at a time.
Is there someone in the tech world that you admire and look up to?
I believe Mark Zuckerberg is quite remarkable and admirable on many fronts, and I applaud him for his innovative mind and business acumen. He was able to take a “school project” and over time transform it into a platform that has grown to become an inseparable part of people’s lives today. However, over the years, I have always ONLY admired two persons, i.e, my grandmother and my aunt Marcia. They are by far no tech guru, however, their compassion, persevering spirits, and supportive personas have irrefutably contributed to the man who I am today, both professionally and holistically. Thus, they are my biggest role models.
In your free time when you’re not busy lecturing or working on supercool programming codes, what do you like to do?
Given my schedule, when I am not working, I am deemed as a “homebody.” I am usually either at home binge watching Game of Thrones or a new Netflix drama, watching The View on ABC, catching up with friends, family and loved ones back home in Trinidad via What’s App or listening to Soca music. Yes, I am an avid Carnival and Soca lover. #SocaToTheWorld
Chocolate or Vanilla?
Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate. I mean, who doesn’t love Chocolate?
What advice would you give to young students from the Caribbean considering a career in computer science?
Be prepared to read, read, and read. Exponentially increase your reading. Technology is ever-changing, thus, you need to keep updated with the changes and trends as they occur. Also, please be reminded, in the industry, experience matters. It is often times considered the “end all and be all!” Every tangible programming assignment and project can be considered “experience.” The more projects you have under your belt, the more marketable you will be. Challenge yourself by undertaking projects during your semester breaks!
Computer Science is not for the faint-hearted, however, once you have the zeal and hunger to learn and you have a spirit to always persevere, you will be successful in the field.
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