But, but … don’t you want to hear about my degree?

The Stack Overflow developer survey for 2017 showed that only 49.4% of thought their formal education was important or very important. I share my story on how I came to find out that my degree might have been less relevant to my career success than I thought.

I hope you are sitting comfortably …

“… An apprenticeship —that’s what I’ll do!”

These are the words that echoed through my mind as I flicked page after page of graduate magazines — marvelling more at the hilarity of degree courses entitled “fire” than doing anything remotely serious, like … you know making monumental decisions such as what you’ll do for the rest of your life.

I was tired of sitting and listening at school — I wanted to take matters into my own hands, I wanted to get my hands dirty and the whole idea of a degree was such a massive turn off … I just wasn’t that bothered.

With friends all around me making sure fire decisions about their lives, I brandished the biggest pillow I could find and smothered the voice in my head that wanted to just go out and work.

I flicked in procrastination and before I knew it I was up sh*t creek and definitely without a paddle studying Information Management and Computing at Loughborough University.

So there I am — sat in a crusty and decrepid engineering building, surrounded by mostly hairy dudes with metallica t-shirts and a smell about them that said “I slept in these clothes” — Yep, I was feeling pretty frightened … and alone.

The door cracked open.

In wandered this old fellow — holes spotted all over a tattered old jumper and stubble like he’d just had the best weekend of his life … Without any sign of introduction he flips the lid on his laptop and launches at the speed of light into his command line, typing out what I could only remember as pure insanity.

“What the f*ck is this old guy doing?!” I thought to myself.

… I glanced around sheepishly and watched everyone furiously taking notes and nodding along.

“What the f*ck have I got myself into?!”

Two years on and the battle was still waging on.

I was fighting against an immovable object: finding a placement.

After 9 months of battling, bruised everywhere, especially my ego… I’d given up — despite my beautiful module results… noone cared.

I took a shot of pain killers … taking another summer out to go work by a lake in Maine in the US. I took my pay check and I went travelling …there I was … in a hot tub overlooking niagra falls and the thoughts of coding just a distant memory by now, when an email pinged into my inbox. The lord had answered my prayers.

… wait “Did God see me weeping softly in the back of that lecture hall when that old guy was writing terminal commands like a lunatic?”… — I had a placement.

Fast forward again to my last year of university and I was approached through Stack Overflow by a London start-up … I couldn’t have dreamed for a better job at the time — it was exactly what I wanted.

I suffered through more gruelling weeks putting together a demo application and suffering some quite intimidating feedback sessions from the founders — I think they saw that I wasn’t willing to take no for an answer.

On the last day of many rounds of testing I joined them in their new office to put pen to paper on a crispy looking contract when it hit me.

Like taking a hit standing still from a one ton rugby player oh boy did it hit me — square in the face …

There I am fingers firmly holding my contract in one hand striding with pure jubilation towards the door I hear the founder murmer something. With a quick pivot I turn and read the words on his lips almost in slow motion as he says to me …

“Oh, how’s your degree going?”

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