James “J.D.” Isaacks is proof life doesn’t have to follow a certain trajectory.
In fact, the recent San Jacinto College alumnus took a reverse route: he worked in computer programming before getting schooled in the industry. Isaacks already owned two application development companies before he stepped into the College’s admissions office.
While a San Jacinto College student, he began offering virtual internships to his peers through his company Rogue Dev Studios (RDS), LLC. In 2018, he earned his associate degree in computer science.
Despite this non-traditional timeline, one thing is certain about Isaacks: his passion for sharing his industry experience. Now both a virtual internship provider and South Campus computer information technology (CIT) adjunct faculty member, he introduces budding programmers and developers to higher-level concepts that make bachelor’s degree courses seem like review.
“I strive to make a classroom environment that feels more like an indie (independent) development company than a college classroom,” he said.
While Isaacks studied at the College, Pamela Betts, computer science/CIT professor, saw his extensive experience in the gaming industry, technical tests, alphas, and betas.
Betts’ idea: What about creating virtual internships through RDS for other students? Students could connect with industry in the classroom to accelerate their learning. For someone who gamed more for the technical thrill of breaking the programs and reporting bugs than for entertainment, Isaacks was up for the challenge.
Now that he teaches at the College, the virtual internships run in other CIT instructors’ classrooms. Taking on actual clients, the interns follow RDS’s code standards and operating procedures. The experience builds teamwork, pacing, project management, and other soft skills.
For one ongoing project, students helped create a tax reporting software framework for the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission. Real-world experience like this is something students can take with them beyond their virtual internships as they enter their professional careers.
Through virtual internships, Isaacks encourages students to make the leap from sitting in a classroom to tackling projects.
“Do something -- almost anything -- but do something. Our industry is about two things really: what you can show and how you interact,” he said. “A person with soft skills and projects to show can get a good job with an associate degree.”