Darragh Browne is just one of many students who completely turned his career around. He went from making sandwiches in a deli to working as a coder for a major company. Now he’s considering setting up his own tech firm.
Like many of us, Darragh had been living as an adult with choices that he’d made when he was much younger.
It would be insane to ask a random 17-year-old to choose your lifelong career. Yet millions of us do just that – working our entire adult lives in roles chosen for us by our teenage selves. Before we’ve even turned 18, we either choose a third level course – or none at all – and often stick to the same path that we picked when we were much younger and inexperienced.
The solution is, of course, upskilling and changing careers in adult life. We don’t deny that it can be a challenge, but people like Darragh are living proof that it can definitely be done.
The First Steps
When Darragh signed up for the Diploma in Software Development, he was working full-time at a deli counter. Darragh had dabbled in traditional third-level education, but the course content and teaching styles didn’t suit him and he never finished the courses. He wanted, in his words, “real world coding experience”.
“Code Institute is not like college in that sense,” he says. “It’s more like a work environment. The high likelihood of employment [in tech] was the deciding factor for me.”
“I was working in a deli for a year and it wasn’t for me. I was in a rut. I hated the idea of going into work. I needed something to get me away from it and I always liked computers.”
Changing horses midstream is daunting. Some believe that good careers are for other people – people who are not like them, who pursued their career from childhood, who might be from a specific socioeconomic background, or whose peers or families have the right connections.
But everyone you see with a successful career in tech was once in your shoes. They were not born behind a computer, working in code. They too faced the fear of learning to do their job from scratch. Many of them also had zero industry connections. And they’ve also had first-day nerves when attending a class or new workplace.
And many of those people with great coding careers worked in humble or unglamorous jobs before moving across to a fulfilling career in tech.
“Going into a minimum wage job five days a week was not appealing,” says Darragh. “There was nothing to get excited about in that career for me. The main reason behind doing the bootcamp was to change my life, to give myself options and to give myself a career. I was hellbent on upgrading my quality of life”
Putting Down the Apron
For Darragh, the benefits of his new skills became apparent immediately. It was, of course, fulfilling and gratifying to learn a new skill. All students enjoy the satisfaction and pride of expanding their knowledge and horizons. But for Darragh it was even more: The moment he finished the bootcamp, he knew he would never wear the deli apron again. It wasn’t just that he knew he was changing jobs, it was also as if someone had pressed fast-forward on his new career.
Darragh is a good communicator with a natural rapport with other students, so he was a good fit for the role of teacher’s assistant in Code Institute.
“When I was invited to work at Code Institute as a teacher’s assistant, I continued to learn,” he says. “Then, after I went through that, I got an email from a recruiter who remembered me from one of the Code Institute’s hiring weeks.”
“So I worked for Code Institute for 9 months and then I got an email on a Tuesday from Activo asking if I could come in on Wednesday and do an interview. I had a contract on Thursday, and handed my letter of resignation in on the Friday. So things move fast in the tech world! If they have a job [to fill] and find the right guy or girl, they’ll snap them up immediately. The opportunities are there.”
“Over the past weeks and months, I’ve been thinking of starting my own company one day. But for the moment, I’m happy working where I am.”
Darragh is now working for Intercom, one of the fastest growing tech communications companies in the world, with offices in Dublin, San Francisco and Chicago.
“I still wake up in the morning and pinch myself: Instead of going in every day and putting on the sandwich maker’s coat and hat, I’m going into a nice office where there’s a good computer waiting for me and I’m writing code all day. I love every minute of it.”
“I’m happy to gain experience. I’ve gone from working in a deli to thinking about setting up my own tech company, all within a year and a half. It’s been a real rollercoaster, and I’m looking forward to keeping going at that.”
But the important thing to remember is that Darragh was entering the bootcamp as an absolute beginner. “When it comes to coding,” he says, “I had no experience.”
It sometimes doesn’t look like it, but we live in a peak time for social mobility: People change careers all the time, they learn the in-demand skills, employers suddenly see them differently, and their lives change.