Meet Your Instructor: Usman Mir - XR Developer, Gamer and Unity Certified Instructor
April 25 2022
Usman Mir, "Ozzy" is an XR Developer and Lead Instructor at Circuit Stream since 2018. He currently works full-time as a Vice President of XR Research at JP Morgan Chase & Co.
Ozzy specializes in Rapid Prototyping, Mobile and XR Development and has over 15 years of Unity3D and programming experience.
He has always been passionate about XR, and game development at an early age! Learn more about why Ozzy loves his work and how he can help you get just as excited about the XR and Unity.
Check the full interview below or if you prefer, read the summarized answers below.
Q: Tell me about your background and experience before you joined Circuit Stream
A: Initially, I went to the University of Calgary, where I studied electrical engineering at first but switched to software engineering later. During this period, I also did a bit of software development for mobile devices.
A few years before I joined Circuit Stream, I developed an interest in the XR side, so I did some VR and mobile AR development. I also did contract work for other educational institutions.
Suddenly after a trip to India, I got a few job offers besides Circuit Stream, and one of these offers was as a lab assistant at the University of Calgary and some other instructional roles. However, I chose to join Circuit Stream not only because what Circuit Stream does matches my interests but also because I could also see myself growing and learning along with the booming XR industry.
Q: Were you interested in the XR technology and Unity development before?
A: Yes! When I was young, I enjoyed playing games, and I wanted to make video games. At first, it was quite a hurdle trying to figure out what software to use. I tried a few game-developing softwares, but I was not getting what I wanted from them.
I came across Unity two years after it came out. I was comparing Unity with Unreal, but I ended up using Unity because it was free. I decided to pick up Unity and learn how to code there. At that time, I was probably only 14 years old. I started as a mobile developer, but there was one idea I was really obsessed with which was painting in 3D. After I began earning income, I invested my money in an HTC VIVE, so I was able to paint in VR. Later on, I started working on AR/VR projects and taught kids how to make things in Unity, and then I took contacts to teach people code and how to use Unity.
Q: Where does your teaching experience come from?
A: When I was a university student, I volunteered for the Schulich Community Robotics Program and the University of Calgary Robotics Association since I had an interest in robotics and wanted to explore more. These programs would teach university students how to do robotic stuff and then expect these students to teach kids that joined these programs voluntarily. I taught Lego Mindstorms the first year, I was the lead mentor at that time. I thought that was fun, so I went back the next year and led the class. And then in the third year, I created my own program.
Q: Since you’ve been at Circuit Stream for more than 4 years, what have you found is your personal teaching style?
A: I believe most instructors employ the Berkeley Method, where we essentially say "pencils down and relax, watch me do this" and then "pencils up, let's do it again together," that's a general idea.
Apart from that, I encourage taking short breaks. I try to take one or two minute breaks for every 20 minutes of teaching based on what's going on, so my student has time to breathe and reorient.
Another technique that I came up with also seemed to work. Sometimes I would pretend that someone asked me a question privately and I would answer that question in class, I found that would get other students more comfortable with asking questions.
Q: What would you say to people that are totally new to the industry?
A: I would suggest people who are new to the industry break things down into chunks, so they are not learning everything at once. One method they can take is to think about what kind of job they want, search for that job, and see the job requirements to be hired for that role. Break these requirements down, and start to learn the skills. They have to keep in mind that it is a long journey, and it will take time.
Q: You’ve taught hundreds of students so far? What separates great students from good ones?
A: Students often reach the goal they have set for themselves; however, I noticed if someone didn’t, it’s usually because they don’t have enough free time to do a bit of extra practice. They might only be able to dedicate three hours per week, and that is just attending the class. People do need to practice outside of class in order to be good. So I think if the student dedicates more hours besides attending classes, it separates them.
Q: What happens when someone starts falling behind and then struggles to keep up with the program? Do you have methods to help that person catch up?
A: I would suggest the student refer back to the classes, such as watching course recordings. Go back to the early lessons where things are very simple and try to build an application around these features.
Another thing I encourage students to take advantage of is attending office hours. Circuit Stream offers unlimited access to office hours every day, and there will be an instructor you can reach out to if you have any questions.
Q: I know you don’t want to play favorites but do you have a favorite example of a student success story that you've witnessed?
A: There are many success stories of my students. One of my students named Anna managed to make a mini-game, kind of like Doctor Who, where the audience could travel through time to different destinations. It was very impressive to see the work she did, considering she was so young.
Recently, one of my student groups made a game where stars were falling from the sky, and they had a leaf blower and they could shoot the stars back into the sky to make constellations, it was very creative!
Q: What do you think is the “next big thing” in our lives?
A: I am currently working on a XR research with JP Morgan & Chase as the vice president of XR.
The Metaverse is like an exciting game, and it’s a nice place for people to meet online and do whatever activities they like to do. I believe metaverse is more business-oriented than like world of warcraft but I think it is a great opportunity, and I am obsessed with the idea.
Apple glass is coming out, which will be one big thing. The other one is Elon Musk’s Neuralink; the idea is people can download information straight to their heads. I’m not sure how realistic Neuralink is, but I think if it is going like what’s planned then it will be a big thing as well.
Q: Who are you outside Circuit Stream? What do you like to do for fun and pleasure?
A: Outside of Circuit Stream, I enjoy eating sushi with my wife; that’s our favorite thing. I love watching movies etc. However, in terms of the professional side, I’m going through different interview processes with various companies such as Niantic, Meta, Shopify etc. I always talk to people in those industries to get a sense of where things are going and learn what the interview process is like to share with my students.
However, I will keep working at Circuit Stream at some capacity regardless of what role I get outside of the Circuit Stream.