Zip Code Wilmington is growing in more ways than one – a bigger and better space, more classes and even new instructors.

Enter Dolio Durant. 

Durant joined the Zip Code crew in August as a technical instructor. He is an expert software engineer with more than 18 years’ experience, an avid world traveler, part-time rock star, and automotive enthusiast turned instructor.

Let’s have a little Q&A session with Durant, to learn more about him, his interests and what he plans to bring to Zip Code Wilmington’s students. 


Where did you grow up and how did it impact you?

D.D: I grew up in Pensacola, a small town in the panhandle of Florida, with a population of about 50,000 people. Coming from such a small town kept me grounded, but the biggest impact was my grandmother, who was a librarian. I spent a lot of time at the library digesting information and finding new things to learn. That thirst for knowledge shaped me.

I became interested in the sciences, building things and making machines. I thought I’d be an architect, but eventually moved into mechanical engineering.

Was it your interest in building things led you to MIT?

D.D: Yes. Honestly, I didn’t know much about MIT when I initially visited the school. I heard that’s where students made lots of robots so I knew that’s where I wanted to be. That was my first choice school but I applied to Harvard as a back up since it was in close proximity.

Although I arrived at MIT with a concentration on mechanical engineering, that changed with the advent of technology. More opportunities for software development started to pop up everywhere. This was the late 90’s    so it was the beginning of this huge tech boom.

I graduated with a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering in 1998.

After graduating, what did you do with your degree?

D.D: I did a little bit of everything. I worked in software development for various industries, including healthcare, e-commerce, government, money markets and higher education.

I learned early on that consultants were afforded the luxury of telecommuting. I could be working in Philadelphia while on a beach in Fiji or on a boat in Amsterdam. So I did just that. I would take on clients and travel the world. As long as I had wi-fi and my computer, I would work from anywhere.

So, you own the company Sleuth Media. Is it a software developing company?  

D.D: Not exactly. Sleuth Media is a media arts company, which acts as a publishing entity for music.

I’m in a band called Gangstagrass, which is a blend of blue grass and hip-hop. I started touring with the band in 2012 and have so far released three official albums. Our latest album debuted at #5 on the Top Billboard charts for bluegrass.

The band’s music has been on MTV, and we’ve worked on movies and even created the theme song to the FX network television show, Justified.

I’ve done lots of traveling with the band –– another benefit of my telecommuting lifestyle. Just last year I traveled to more than nine countries for music including Scotland, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Belgium, Norway, and Cuba.

So what led you back to the Philadelphia area and, more specifically, Zip Code Wilmington?

D.D: Well, I’m a part of Zip Code Wilmington because I believe in the mission, but I also believe in Tariq Hook, the director of education. He and I met about 10 years ago. We both worked for different development firms but we would run into each other at various tech conferences. We were easy to spot because there weren’t many African-American men represented in the tech spaces. Eventually, we got to know one another and worked together on a few projects to diversify the field –– especially since there was so much growth in tech that the unemployment rate was negative.

We were a part of a grassroots movement at Temple University that taught youth to code. It was moving because we were able to work with teenagers and show them ways that could contribute to the tech field by being more than consumers but producers. That program, called MESA [Mathematics, Engineering & Science Achievement], was spearheaded and run by the brilliant Dr. Jamie Bracey, the Director of STEM Education, Outreach & Research at Temple University.

Now that you are back in an instructor role, what do you think you bring to Zip Code Wilmington students? 

D.D: Now that I’ve been an instructor through various capacities I know that I have a knack for breaking down complex concepts in digestible pieces.

After years of accumulating all this knowledge, you start to feel a duty to pass it down –– that’s why I’m here. I want help novice coders learn best practices early in their careers.  

The rewarding part of teaching is when you’re working with a student that’s having a hard time and finally understands a concept. It’s like a light bulb goes on and you can see their mind moving to break down problems.

Since you’re new to Zip Code, what surprised you the most about joining the team?

D.D: Well, I knew that Tariq was energetic and charismatic, but so is the rest of the team. The office is a lot warmer than you’d expect from a stereotypically cold and calculating industry.

The best part of the organization is that it’s set up so that everyone has the desire for others to be successful. Students are the billboards for Zip Code’s success so the mentality is for them to do well because we don’t succeed if they don’t.