Beyond the Code with Jonny | Northcoders Head of Engineering

A woman in a yellow shirt with long brown hair, pulls a green card out of a filing cupboard. She smiles and looks excited at finding the document.  Preview: A woman in a yellow shirt with long brown hair, pulls a green card out of a filing cupboard. She smiles and looks excited at finding the document.

In last month’s blog, ‘Is Tech Only For Logical Thinkers?’, we explored what skills make a good coder, and determined that there is much more to the tech profession than just being logical. 

We discovered that creativity and logic work in tandem when problem-solving; Software Engineers see patterns and create innovative lines of code to find resolve. To truly understand what this means for the coding community we need to speak to contemporaries in the field today…

This month, we speak to Jonny, our resident Head of Engineering at Northcoders. To find out how playing piano positively placates pandemonium at parties, brings balance to his life, fuels his imagination, and satisfies his logically-creative streak outside of work. 

Beyond the Code with Jonny | Northcoders Head of Engineering Preview: Beyond the Code with Jonny | Northcoders Head of Engineering

Hey Jonny, thanks for agreeing to chat. I’m dying to know, which passion came first, coding or playing the piano? 

I’ve dropped in and out of both coding and piano over my life. Making music has always been really important to me, but piano is what I’ve largely settled on, and coding has been something I’ve played around with, but not taken seriously until I moved into this career well into adulthood. It’s interesting that it's now that I most solidly do both.

That is interesting, would you say that being a coder influenced you being a pianist at all? 

Not really, except that stepping away from a problem and looking at something superficially entirely different sometimes helps with problem-solving.

I think a lot of people can relate to that - a change of perspective can resolve so many problems in life. In the same vein, would you say piano playing influenced your coding or tutoring? 

A few times I have looked into how code and audio interface, and it's still on my list to explore more. I wrote a programme that doubled the speed of an audio clip once which has given me a buzz to try out new things.

Woah! Does that type of music have a name already - or have you just invented something new?!  Please let us know when the album is out! In the meantime, can you explain what advantages you think having these two distinct interests has had on you?


Mainly, you have at least two things to talk about at parties. But also you are bound to feel frustrated with one of them at some points, and the other one can provide an escape at these times.

Hahah! Well, you’re already ahead of me by 2 things to talk about at parties there! It sounds like your variety of activities helps to keep you grounded in your day-to-day life. Have you noticed a change in approach when working on these two disciplines?

Yes, in some ways they are very different. Musical skill really benefits from drilling specific sections - repeating them over and over again. Though that's maybe part of the initial training you want to do as a coder, you soon move on to getting more benefits from approaching programmes and puzzles more holistically - writing whole applications, not just repeating the same functions.

When a non-coder thinks of someone who can code, a certain image might appear in their mind. Historically speaking, the field is very male-dominated, though there are moves to change that…Media has also been a catalyst at providing unrealistic depictions in this field.  

Do you feel that the stereotype of being a coder is changing with the times?

Absolutely, though you still sometimes have to emphasise how creative, expressive and social it can be, to many people. I know I fit the stereotype in many ways, but my route in isn’t that typical - most of my education has been centred around the arts up to now. We’ve got a lot of work to do in showing how transferable so many interests and skills are to programming, and that your demographics shouldn’t have anything to do with it. 

Have you ever resolved a coding problem while you have been working on something creative? 


Almost every tricky problem I've solved in my head whilst doing something - anything - else. Staring at a screen isn't conducive to getting your brain to work for you.

No pressure, here - Do you feel that NC promotes this duality of skill? 

NC certainly cares about other parts of your life, and wants to give people opportunities to express their obsessions and preoccupations in both technical and non-technical ways!

Perfect answer, your cheque is in the post. This leads us to the final question - Where and when do you get your best ideas?

When I am asleep, and then I don't remember them. 

Thanks for your thoughts, Jonny! Bye for now!

And there you have it, folks!  Tune in next month, as we chat with Verity, a Northcoders Mentor and Junior Software Engineer, to learn how she gets her logically-creative fix!