How I became a software developer, and what the future of development looks like.

Mike Oram, of Mayden Academy, shares how to break into coding.
7th September 2018

Software development is a highly valued modern skill, in a growing global industry. This means that being a proficient coder and a creative developer makes you highly valuable to any company.

But how do you get into software as a career? Do you have to be a genius?

How hard is it to find your first job? We spoke to Mike Oram, the lovely guy behind Mayden Academy, to get the inside track. For more information, head over to www.maydenacademy.co.uk to find out about their courses, or catch them at Bath Digital Festival 2018.

How did you get into software development, Mike?

I took a non-traditional route into software. I didn’t have a degree. I don’t have any scientific qualifications. I just played with code for a bit of fun from the age of 13, and really enjoyed the creativity of it.

Gradually, my hobby became building websites. Although I didn’t make any money until I was 16, when I started helping out family friends. This gave me a bit of a portfolio, and I kept going from there.

I did study business and computing at college, but always coded a bit in my spare time. I decided not to go to University, which I think more and more people do these days. By that point, I’d been coding for four or five years, so I got my first job as a developer and went from there.

My first job was with a digital agency, in fact, I started the day after my last A-level exam. It was a really junior, web development role. I worked there, learned more tricks and moved closer to home. I’ve worked in Bath at Future Publishing, Hargreaves Lansdown, and I’ve been at Mayden for a while. I now work at Mayden Academy, which means I get to train people, which I love.

 

Why did you decide to train new developers?

I actually started training other people really early on. I often worked with friends, I tutored in my evenings throughout my career, to help other people get into coding. I really enjoy helping others learn new skills.

How easy is it to learn how to code?

Actually, I’d like to reassure people on this point. The barrier to entry is not as high as people think. There’s a misconception that you have to be a super nerd. It’s definitely not easy, but you don’t need to have a degree, you just need to want it enough and want to work hard.

Mike’s top 4 languages to learn:

  • HTML
  • CSS
  • Javascript
  • Python

How should someone find work in software development?

In order to get a job, really you just need a portfolio of things you built. I did that by building websites for people I knew, or for myself. At Mayden Academy, we advise people to take on work for charities, or do some voluntary development and start gradually before you take on paid work.

Also, don’t be afraid to use free online resources, whether it’s tutorials on YouTube or websites like codeacademy.com or udemy.com where you can find guides and free lessons to upskill you. These won’t get you a job, but they’ll get you on the road to a job and real projects.

There’s a high demand for software developers, all across the UK. So if you can grasp the skill, it’s hard work and you have to be dedicated, but it will pay off in the long run.

What kind of change do you expect to see in the next 10 years?

People do mention AI and machine learning, and of course, these technologies are important. But I really expect VR and AR to have a bigger impact than AI in the next decade. I think that choosing to go into these two areas (VR and AR) is a good move.

The evolution of the Javascript eco-system is also interesting right now. Learning about Javascript is going to be beneficial in the next ten years. I expect it to replace a lot of the languages we’re using.

There’s a big step towards integration of APIs, for example, Alexa does very little on its own, but when connected to other services it becomes incredibly powerful. So for me, making everything talk to each other, data communication and API’s, is a vital area of software development.

Overall, I’d like to say that if you want a career as a developer, just go for it! It’s fun, diverse and surprisingly easy once you’ve got to grips with the main elements.

Sound good? Mike is happy to answer any questions you might have, so get in touch if you’re interested in pursuing a career in tech: [email protected]