How to get into coding in Northern Ireland – WebTalksNI
19th Feb 2018
Corvus has developed a video interview series dedicated to Web Specialists in Northern Ireland. This series, named WebTalksNI will be a great source for knowledge sharing and identifying where the demand is in the digital market in Northern Ireland.
Gareth: “Hello, my name is Gareth Stirling and I am a Web Development and UX recruitment specialist for Corvus Recruitment. This is our first entry in a series of video blogs called WebTalksNI. Here we will be talking with local web development specialist on various topics; for instance, how they got into web development, the training they undertook and the key technologies they see as important in 2018.
1. So, Paul, when did you first develop an interest in coding?
Paul: “I started being interested in tech from a very young age, I never really thought I could make a career out of it. But at the age of 13/14 I started messing around with Yahoo GeoCities if you remember?
So as a little kid I started making websites for online games I played, one game I played quite a lot was Runescape, I built a little clan website. At the time it was just a little bit of fun, at the time I never thought I end up doing that for a living.”
Gareth: “That’s interesting, I’ve read about other developers who started back in the 80’s developing games for the likes of Spectrum and Commodore, now they’re full-scale game developers for the likes of Rockstar and those big companies.”
2. You took quite an unusual route into web development. Can you tell us more about that?
Paul: “Yes, so as I was saying, I never knew you could make money and a living from coding. So, from I was about 9 years old, I knew wanted to do, that was to leave school and join the air force, so I did, at 18 I joined the royal air force as a policeman. Spent just under 5 years working around the world, serving for the RAF which was quite an experience. From there I spent a lot of time away from home, too didn’t get to see my friends or family very often. So, I decided I wanted to come back home again.
The way I figured out I could do software development, I went to Google and searched for well-paid jobs in Belfast and Software Developer popped up. I thought I could probably figure that out. I had a little bit of experience with GeoCities and stuff, so I started using online courses to learn how to code. I started with Code Academy, once I was comfortable with that, I subscribed to Team Treehouse, an American company who produce a lot of video tutorials – I stuck with that for about 6 months. Then I started applying for jobs here in Belfast.”
Gareth: “That’s interesting, a common misconception is that you need to have a degree in IT to be considered, but you’re living proof, that is not the case.”
Paul: “I know I think it’s becoming more and more common now, for every job I’ve worked in since I moved back, I’ve worked with at least one other person who has went in the way I did, by learning it themselves.”
3. If someone was considering a second career in web development, what would be your advice? How would they start?
Paul: “The best way anyone can get started is by building little things yourself, that probably sounds really scary and intimidating. Sign up to something like CodeAcademy or Team Treehouse, for a couple of hours each week or each night if you have the time and build your own little portfolio of simple websites or whatever you’re interested in building. Whenever you have a portfolio with examples of your work, then you can start applying for jobs. Most employers care far more about the fact that you can your job than you have a bit of paper from a University.
So, my advice is to start building things, sign up for online tutorials and get started.”
Gareth: “Yes, that’s a 100%, we still have some old school clients who would be looking for a 3rd level qualifications, but that is rare now, more is, experience, as you say, if you have a portfolio which you can talk about at interview, at the least you will get an audience if not you’ll get a job.”
4. For some people, the thought of moving into development is quite intimating. What do you think the key attributes someone needs to succeed? For example; do they have to be strong in Maths?
Paul: “A lot of people think that computer science is quite maths heavy and in certain fields, it can be. if you’re working with data science or anything like that, there can be maths involved in that, it’s not anything that can’t be learnt. If you’re more interested in web development like building websites or anything like that. Maths rarely comes into it. There is the occasion of trying to work out percentage widths, but maths isn’t really a thing for that.
Probably, the best part of a job like this, would be the fact that you work online, which means your community is the global – that probably sounds fairly cheesy. But even local communities we have here in Belfast, we have BelfastJS and PHPBelfast, there is loads of people that are willing to help. If you get in touch with the right person, reach out to someone on Twitter, it is really common for people to coach others.
Gareth: “You mentioned there the local meetups like BelfastJS and PHPBelfast and it does really seem to be a community were developers are involved, again it’s something we’re are looking to help in any way we can even with these video blogs.”
5. From a Technical point of view - what do you see as the most important developments in the industry in 2018?
Paul: “2018, I think is going to be really interesting. Things that are becoming more and more popular are things like serverless technologies, so the idea that you can own a website without needing to manage your own infrastructure. Amazon Web services offer that kind of service for basically free.
Another thing that I think we will find really important, especially over the next few years is Machine Learning. We are starting to see more and more, a lot of companies in Northern Ireland who are using, again Amazon’s kind of services for tagging images or processing large amounts of data, which would take humans literally 100s of years to do.
Health data is a really great example of that if you run that through advanced machine learning algorithms, you get to figure out a whole lot of stuff you couldn’t figure out yourself. So, I think machine learning is something that I certainly will be spending a lot of time learning over the next year.”
6. From a personal point of view - how do you see your own career developing? I know you mentioned you would like to get into coaching yourself. If you’d like to tell us a bit about that.
Paul: “Yes, I mentioned earlier that the community for software development is really friendly and welcoming. I had a mentor when I first started, someone who volunteered their time to help me learn to code. It is something I really enjoy doing now that I’ve had the chance to work as a senior developer and had people working under me. I am happiest when I’m pair programming with someone or teaching them how to code. So, my ultimate goal is to make that my career, so coaching other people and creating learning resources for developers who are getting started.
Gareth:” Well, that wraps up our very first WebTalksNI view interview. Follow Paul here on Social Media, he has various Twitter, YouTube channels and if you’re seeking to get into web development. Paul would be a great resource to utilise.
If you thought this series on WebTalksNI was helpful or you’d like to get involved, please get in touch on 028 9091 8529 or subscribe to us on YouTube to see the next interview. If you’re a software developer seeking new opportunities or career guidance, please get in touch with Gareth for a confidential chat on 028 9092 8528 or email your CV to firstname.lastname@example.org