An Unlikely Developer
Often when you think of the term ‘developer’ you conjure up all sorts of images about what that kind of person might look like whilst coding up a storm at their computer. You might even wander into their imaginary past as a child who was coding in C++ before they even said ‘da da’ and of course they would be male and like Neo from the Matrix…
The truth is that I am unlike all of those things — I didn’t know how to write a single line of code until I was 27 and I look nothing like Neo; I don’t even own a full-body leather jacket or shades.
I am a Scotsman, a father and I studied musical performance at University. I was so passionate about music that there was no room for anything else in my life at that time. I went to 5 parties in 5 years at University! Amazing social life right?
I am however a full-time mobile developer and I learned to code with all of the responsibilities of life; sole provider for my family of 5, two jobs and all the commitments you could want.
This is my story — it’s meant to encourage you if you want to be a developer but just can’t see yourself being good enough yet, or don’t think you’ll fit the ‘profile’.
I was a deeply passionate and committed Pianist studying at Strathclyde University. Music was my life and I practiced literally 3–5 hours per day outside of coursework and more at weekends. I was doing really well however I sustained a smallish injury to my left hand before starting the course. It’s effects weren’t immediately obvious, however things started to get difficult quickly into my 3rd year. I decided not to talk to anyone about it as my identity was at stake amongst my peers; they knew who I was, they knew I was pretty good and focussed and changing career or not doing music simply wasn’t part of the equation.
I graduated and immediately went into teaching both in schools and privately. Having such a thirst for daily practice and learning meant that reducing my focus on performance meant I had to find something to devote myself to and there seemed to be merit in learning a lot about teaching and giving my energy towards helping others grow in their musical journey.
Amazingly, and somewhat ironically, I found that most teachers didn’t like learning very much and had settled into their jobs and I found myself after a few years wanting to fill that void I had created with music and then almost not playing at all due to my injury and the frustration that brought. You can imagine what it’s like to literally cut that part of your life out and not being able to ever go back, on any instrument. Needless to say I was in need of something more.
I decided to leave schools and teaching and move on into something more creative; another change of field. I got into photography and then made it my full-time occupation with a somewhat successful photography career. It was during this time that I had to make a website and my interest in design, logo design, web design etc increased dramatically.
It became so interesting that I couldn’t stop myself looking into it. I really didn’t want to put my ever-supportive wife through another career change, but with this she was super understanding; it was as if I had found that thing that was worth pursuing for the rest of my life.
After a christmas break I made the decision to go for it; to get into mobile/web development and start learning to code. My plan was to do this alongside my photography and private tuition that I was doing and work it around my family life with the 3 children.
I went out and bought a new Mac that day. It was a big commitment and I told myself (and others) ‘I am a developer now’. I literally didn’t know what an html tag was at the time!
Little by little though I managed to accumulate enough skills to get some work locally for small companies making websites and eventually landed myself a full-time position as a mobile developer.
The reality is that today programmers come in all shapes and sizes and a lot of them seem to get into it later on in life. I wish I had known when I was starting out that so many developers used to be musicians and don’t have computer science degrees rather than comparing myself to what I thought was the stereotype at the time!
If you are working on becoming a developer, then bring all of your experiences and what you’ve done in the past with you.
For me it was music, daily practice of things I need to work on, constant improvement that being a musician brought that helped me learn enough to get a job in the career that I now absolutely love! I didn’t become a spotty teenager either; I think I’m still pulling off the ‘Tweed Programmer’ look.