Community Stories: Naoise’s story

Below is an extract from Code Institute’s recent e-Book entitled, “Community: your key to career change success -Tips from students who have worn your shoes and from employers that want to hire you”. In this story, we read about Naoise, a hackathon enthusiast who is now a Senior Development Manager. Naoise wanted to plug the gaps in the broad patchwork of skills he had built up. Here’s his story.

Naoise’s Story

Naoise had lived in Sweden and worked in tech since the 1980s when he returned to Ireland. As one of life’s instinctive learners ­– and teachers – Naoise wanted to plug the gaps in the broad patchwork of skills he had built up. He knew that Slack could prove too much of a distraction for him, but he could not resist the lure of hackathons, as he tells us here.

“I didn’t just fall upon this course and decide that I’m going to change my life to become a programmer. Over the years I’ve done a lot of programming, but not as a professional programmer. I worked for a big tech outfit in Sweden for many years until I was laid off in 2018. 

Code Institute gave me an opportunity to formalize the knowledge that I had and also learn new skills, become better at HTML and CSS, and learn JavaScript and Python properly. So learn the programming language properly from start to finish, as opposed to learning enough to solve a certain problem. 

I did well and got my distinction. But because I didn’t have a degree, I had a hard time finding work as a developer. Tech firms get hundreds of applications and have these automated systems that flash red when there are no mentions of a university degree on your CV.

I did eventually succeed because a manager actually looked at my skill set. Apart from my job as a software developer, I also became a Mentor for Code Institute.

I like doing this. I like helping people, and I have a knack for explaining complex things in a simple way because that’s what I did for decades as an information architect. This is why I avoided Slack while I was on the course because I knew that I would get too distracted.

But I did join one of the first Code Institute hackathons and have since done three or four of them. For some, I was a team facilitator because I think hackathons are an excellent way for people to understand what it’s like to work as a team.

You’re doing the course very much on your own. But most developers will work for a development team. They will have to collaborate; they will have to communicate; they will have to get used to continuous integration, continuous deployment, and all that kind of stuff. And that’s what the hackathon teaches you. 

The stance I take as a hackathon facilitator is also my mentoring style: I want you to learn. I’ll provide guidance, of course. But rather than saying do this, do that, and this is the way it should be done, I say: ‘I will help you when you need help. These are things I can do. You tell me when you want me to do that, and I will do it. But I want you to be in charge.’ That’s the crucial part.

I want someone else to be the Scrum Master to get comfortable doing that. You decide you want to do the frontend or the backend because that’s the way to include people who, even though they don’t have the relevant skills, they gain the ability to want to break down problems into smaller problems and then solve those problems. 

Of course, it may seem daunting. I joined my first hackathon when I had only done HTML and CSS, and my initial thought was, ‘I’m in trouble. I mean, what can I possibly contribute to this? I don’t know JavaScript. I don’t know Python. I don’t know all the other frameworks in Django and Flask, everything else.’ But that’s the first thing that people need to get over. Regardless of where you are in the course, your background or your knowledge, join a hackathon. 

You get to understand how to communicate, collaborate with the team, and resolve issues. You also get an introduction to areas that you haven’t covered in the course yet. So further down the line, as you get to grips with JavaScript or the basics of Python databases, you go, ‘Ah, okay, I remember this from the hackathon.’

Code Institute has really taken this on board and now organises around 11 hackathons a year. They are not afraid to listen to suggestions, and they recognize a sensible idea when they see it, and that can be a rarity in this industry.

I do like my job as a Mentor. I get excellent feedback, and that’s because they like the fact I’m structured and provide them with a presentation explaining what the mentoring relationship is all about, what they can expect to get out of it, how the sessions are structured, and what they can request from the various support pillars. I’m probably doing that more than I should as a mentor, but I want them to succeed, and they realise that.”

Read more community stories

Want to read more stories like this one from Naoise? Download our latest eBook and read more stories from the amazing Code Institute community. Remember, if you’re thinking of a career change to software development, these amazing people wore the same shoes as you. Download the eBook through the form below.

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