How Teaching Makes Me A Better Entrepreneur

I teach anywhere from 3hrs-12hrs/week year-round in a trio of graduate certificate programs at a Toronto-based public college. The random collection of hours is the life of contract faculty. But after 10 years of it, I’ve gotten into the rhythm of each term. As much as I enjoy teaching, it does take away hours and cognitive energy from working on Sticky Brain projects. And I’m not hunting out a full-time teaching job. So, people ask me why bother with teaching at all?

Typically, I respond that it’s my ideal community service, a way to give back to the industry at a foundational level. Sometimes I joke that that helping my students succeed as industry professionals is part of my retirement plan – so they feel compelled to hire me as a consultant on their projects and businesses in 20 years (jk! NR).

When I reflect on it though, teaching forces me to constantly re-examine my worldview, and it makes me understand what I’m doing as an industry professional and an entrepreneur at a deeper level.

Re-examining my worldview

Teaching has exposed me to so many different people I wouldn’t otherwise meet in industry. Mostly because we have a diversity problem in our industry, but also because I teach at one of the most diverse post-secondary institutions in Canada.

Through teaching I’ve seen projects created by LGBTQ2+ youth I never would have thought of. I wouldn’t have provided hugs to a Turkish person, panicked about strife back home. I wouldn’t have had fun conversations with Nigerians about the amazing media and arts culture in their country. I wouldn’t be as versed on the political issues faced by Brazilians.  I wouldn’t have known how similar Chile and Canada are in so many ways. I wouldn’t have had conversations with Muslim women about their choice to wear (or not) a hijab. I wouldn’t be as aware of the added stress international students experience in trying to become a Canadian due to the extensive rules on citizenship and residency applications. And so, so much more.

I feel my global worldview is so different compared to the average white, heterosexual, CIS-gendered Canadian woman as a result of crossing paths with thousands of amazing individuals through this experience.

Understanding my job better

It turns out there is a LOT of nuance in the games, interactive media, television, and web series industries both in what they are and how we make them in Canada. I know this because of having to explain it to people completely new to the space or new to our culture!

Teaching is a mind bend. How do you teach discoverability to youth who know digital communications but haven’t really examined its power? And then teach the technical skills in a scaffolded, supported way for people nervous with technology, while giving room for those with advanced skills to push ahead. How do you teach double-entry accounting to a room of people asking “why” when the answer is literally “because that’s the way it is!”? Or even more challenging, having to explain to a room of eager, young, aspiring interactive media professionals about swotting and doxing and how they can’t let that fear negatively impact their careers.

Through teaching, I’m forced to take a step back and break down all the steps to being able to prepare a cash flow, to prepare a detailed budget, to track expenses, to understand employment taxes. It can be mentally exhausting, as some cohorts of students want to deeply understand something you don’t have the answers for.

In the end, the things I’m learning while teaching, give me a much broader understanding of people, and the world. As we explore taking Sticky Brain’s content globally, I like to think I apply this learning into what we do.

Sasha Boersma