Kristian Hamilton — Frontend developer

Kristian is a frontend developer and has been coaching at codebar since November 2015. After coaching for several months he starting helping as an organiser with the West London chapter, and then moved to Berlin where he took on the role as organiser there.

You can find Kristian on the internet at:

@Khamiltonuk

What did you want to be growing up?

Erm as a super young child, a Police Office, but my grandma was aggressively against that aspiration and still mocks me to this day.

When did your interest in tech start?

Early, I think. I don’t have many memories of being in nursery but I do remember eating clay, eating fruit and being mesmerised by a computer. There was a computer. I must have been 4 years old, and without much supervision I would use it to play games, a huge cathode ray monitor, deeper than it was wide, it’s a very distinct childhood memory.

I remember being given a computer at a young age, it was a ‘hand me down’ from a friend in my guitar class, it wasn’t connected to the internet but I would spend hours drawing pictures in the pre-installed art software. I lost contact with the person who kindly gifted me a computer. But years later I bumped into him again, and told him of my gratitude for giving me his old computer. Turns out I wasn’t the only person he had given an old computer to and the recipient subsequently ended up working in tech.

I have always liked making stuff, when I was younger. I was a creative child, there was always an abundance of creative resources in my house, typewriter, sewing threads, crochet needles and paints. When I got a series of old computers gifted to me, it was amazing. Making Games, making music, making art, throughout my childhood and adolescence computers have always been a tool for making, the only limitation was my mind with exceptions of the constraints of software, memory and no internet at home till college. My friends would have ideas and I would simply make it happen, someone wanted to record a rap album, video editing, a website I would get the equipment, the software and patch something together.

I made my first website aged 15 or maybe 16. I used to hang out a lot in internet cafe’s as a child, and the owner showed me a game that he made, and hosted it on a website. I asked the simple question, “How do I get a website?”, he explained hosting, domain names and ftp uploads, and I was off. Creativity was unleashed, I would update my site almost daily, dragging and dropping html files onto servers.

Arm in a cast at a recent codebar hosted by ecosia

How did you make the transition to being a developer??

I did an art foundation at art school, I specialised in fine art but quickly swapped to visual communication after I got disgruntled with oil paints. I went on to be the only person in my year to submit a website as my final piece. When picking degree course, I did this in isolation, I didn’t have any friends making websites, games or anything like that so I just read about courses at universities all over the country. I knew I could draw but didn’t want to do illustration and I feared a computer science course would not be a place I could be able to be artistic. So I choose a degree in Graphic design & Web Design, which seemed like an appropriate middle ground.

After finishing university I kinda knew I wanted to make websites so I bought a big book about php, which I never read. I simply applied for internships, said I could make websites, broke almost everything on my first day, so much so that my mentor had to stay late to correct the mess I made. There wasn’t enough chairs in the office so I sat on a metal folding chair, I have only really seen these chairs in wrestling, the chairs that people would use to inflict pain on others, now this was my seat for 7 hours a day.

What was your first development job?

My internship paid enough for me to cover my transport and a small lunch each day, via expense claims. I would submit receipts and be reimbursed. but if I ate too well I couldn’t afford to travel and if I travelled too well I couldn’t afford to eat. So I did what any sensible person did, traveled to work without paying by fair dodging and would travel back to my university city each weekend to party and hand in my mum’s shopping receipts on Monday as expense claims.

What is your favourite thing about being a developer?

I like tinkering away and delivering above and beyond expectation.

My favourite think about being a developer is impressing my team, honestly there is nothing better the exceeding the expectations of the people that depend on you. Technically delivering something impressive, something visually delightful.

I have been fortunate enough to work for some well known companies, customer feedback is cool, when you work on a product people know and enjoy, that is enjoyable and rewarding.

I like tinkering away and delivering above and beyond expectationWhat is the coolest project you have worked on and why?

By far my current project, thankfully I have worked on cool stuff throughout my career, but my currently project is the most complicated site I have ever worked on and for that reason I enjoy it.

How did you get involved with codebar?

I owe a lot of what I know to meetups in London, from very early on in my career I went to meetups. My first was called croydon creatives, I lived near Stratford, it was an hour away from home it was just some developers who would meet in a pub once a month, talk about browsers, web tooling and life. I felt it was important to spend time with people who liked doing what I liked. To this day I can happily enjoy a meetup or conference just to hear developers talk.

Looking at my codebar profile I can see that I signed up on Friday, 30 October 2015 at 13:24. I have no recollection of who introduced me to the concept, probably a talk at a meetup. I first went as a coach and enjoyed it, so kept attending. I identify strongly with the students. One night Margo from West London codebar asked if anyone wanted to help organise and so I did.

Why do you keep coming back to codebar?

My mum loves athletics, World championships, European championship, the olympics, anyone jumping into sand would get her attention. Growing up my mum was an athletics coach, she specialised in throwing events. Discus, javelin, hammer and shot-put. I spent much of my childhood watching her coach people, in turn much of my childhood was spent being coached by her. Twice a week whatever the weather she would help people refine their hammer throw or their discus spin. She would coach anyone, it could be your first day; never seen a javelin but she would treat each person with patience and compassion required to throw whatever, just a little bit further. I have little or no time for athletics but helping people with computer programming comes naturally to me, it’s effortless. I simply enjoy it, for me it’s fun and would choose a codebar over most social events. I like to treat those who need help with the grace and patience that my mother had/has.

From my first website at the age of 16, it involved a lot of looking things up in isolation and I would desperately desire to have someone I could have around me to ask questions when I was stuck. I love helping people getting unstuck, coaching a student through a problem, without directly giving them the answer for me is incredibly rewarding.

What are your plans for the future?

Erm… I want to continue to help others around me reach their potential, this for me is exceptionally rewarding. I have recently given up hobbies, sold my sewing machine, sold my knitting needles to focus on a hand full of things; learning German, cycling, life drawing and Javascript.

What advice would you give to aspiring developers?

Firstly Imposters Syndrome is real and it effects more people than you realise, and for some it’s not a problem and that’s amazing. I have witnessed senior managers/developers I admire confess to difficulties and insecurities. Imposters syndrome also has its benefits, it can be the fuel that drives fires to perform to a very high standard.

Being a developer is a choice that means you will spend your career as a lifetime learning, excepting that is key, it’s not naturally comfortable to be in an environment surrounded in constant change. Sometimes I fantasise about a job where each day is predictable, lifting something from one place and putting it somewhere else, but I know such repetition inevitably would get boring for me. Therefore get used to constantly learning.

Probably looking up some documentation?

What is the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

A brave decision is one made in uncertainty, to do something that involves risk. I would consider my life to be incredibly vanilla. But in my personal opinion I have a symbiotic relationship with my mum, growing up without a father or siblings means that myself and my mother both looked after each other. We work in tandem therefore for me leaving home, required bravery but felt necessary. It got to the point where I felt I needed to decouple myself from her which has been traumatic at points as I worry about her capacity to look after herself.

I have been called brave recently for moving to another country alone, not speaking the language, to a job that I knew would be challenging; this could be considered brave, but my company was exceptionally supportive, for which I am also exceptionally grateful.

I want to continue to help others around me reach their potential, this for me is exceptionally rewarding.