“I want to be a Developer and build something amazing !” — Why?

Dave O'Dea
Apr 17, 2017 · 5 min read

As a mature student, I recently returned to University and started learning to code on Free Code Camp and Team Treehouse, along with deciding to leave my previous career and make a serious change.

5 or 6 years ago I decided that I wanted to change, not just my career — my whole-life, in fact, the decision was made for me …

For the previous 10 + years I had worked as a professional Chef. I was good at it. It gave me great purpose and energy and I rose through the ranks pretty fast for someone my age.
However, it turns out that working 14+ hours per day and thinking solely about your kitchen, even on your rare off-day (pun intended)is not conducive to a happy, healthy lifestyle — who knew?
Anyways, for those and a few other reasons, I came to the decision that I wanted to change.

Mid-90’s PC computing at its finest.

That is where it all​ began for me. I started out the same as everyone else of a similar age, playing games (mostly solitaire and minesweeper), browsing Yahoo! and having great chats with people from all over the world via instant messenger.

Eventually, and not long after — I began to wonder how it all worked. I mean, I was simply fascinated by this machine and more specifically — the internet. Using the internet and by extension the world-wide-web (which was only a couple of years old at this time), here I was — me, a young teenager on a farm in Ireland with the ability to talk to and find out about anyone and anything I could imagine! Needless to say, my mind was blown.

When I was in secondary school, computer science subjects were not high on the priority list at most schools. At my school, we did have Computer class, another fond memory. Mr. H (who doubled as a Math lecturer if I’m not mistaken)would teach us programming skills using BASIC for about 1 hour per week.
Having the opportunity to actually make the computer do “cool shit” that most other people couldn’t, was, to say the least, addictive.
It is important to note at this stage that school was not high on my list of priorities. I proceeded to graduate from school with mediocre (to put it mildly) results.

Somewhere around my last or second-last year of school, my mother got me a summer job washing pots in a hotel where she was working in the restaurant at the time.

Enter stage left, my second love — cooking.

I remember, one day, staring through a doorway in the wash-up area which leads to the kitchen. I was enthralled by the noise, the visuals and the heat of a busy kitchen in full flight.
One-day when the kitchen team was short staffed, the Head Chef, Mike, asked me if I would be able to lend another pair of hands. I jumped at the opportunity and straight away got to work on peeling kilos and kilos of carrots, cleaning endless bags of mussels, as well any other food related tasks which I could get the senior Chefs to offer up, all the while keeping on top of my wash-up duties.

This was the starting point of a career — no, a love affair with food and the professional kitchen. If I’m honest, I was more interested in the logistics and management of a busy, quality kitchen. This is probably why I pushed myself harder (I thought anyway) than my fellow junior cooks. I wanted — more than them, I believed at least — to be the one who orchestrated and controlled the beast that is a great kitchen.

That career/affair lasted 10+ years. There were hysterically high points punctuated by terrible lows, but in the end, I walked away. When I finally did, I was exhausted.

On one particular day, I left work early, feeling unwell. The position I held at the time had me on-site 16 hours a day attempting to drive control back into a failing operation that was devoid of any structure or momentum.
That night, after falling asleep, I woke up drowned in sweat and running a fever, in pain all over. The next morning my local doctor sent me to the hospital where I was treated for severe dehydration.
Later that night I had emergency surgery to remove an appendix that was about to make a serious mess.

“The Secret of Change Is to Focus All of Your Energy, Not on Fighting the Old, But on Building the New.”

I spent about a week in the hospital, and I had plenty of time to reflect. Reflection is something I have slowly improved on over the years, but that time was definitely the catalyst. I decided, right there in that hospital, that the love affair was over.

I reminisced about all the time I spent in my youth, tinkering with computers. The endless hours spent trying to figure out how they worked and teaching myself how to code basic programs.
Eventually, the penny dropped. It’s worth noting that I have never been the kind of person to work steadily, in small steps, toward an eventual goal. I generally envision the end goal, where I want to be and work backward from there.

I decided that I wanted to use technology to build something amazing — what was needed to make this happen?

To be continued …

Kitchen to Keyboard

One fella’s journey from Professional Chef to Software…

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