How I Became A Dev During A Global Pandemic

How I Became A Dev During A Global PandemicPreview: How I Became A Dev During A Global Pandemic

Okay, so it’s March 7th, 2020, and I had not been feeling that great for about two weeks at this point.

‘This is by far the worst cold I have ever had in my life…..’

I had been saying to myself for a couple of days now. Despite this, I had a gig that night so I pulled myself together and did a bit of guitar practice for the upcoming show.

How I Became A Dev During A Global PandemicPreview: How I Became A Dev During A Global Pandemic

At this point in my life, I was a full-time musician and I had been so for about twelve years professionally. The night in question’s show wasn’t a paid gig, but a chance for me to play some original country music with the band I currently play with,White Little Lies(I will attach a link at the bottom for anyone who would like to listen).At this point in the journey of my current cold, I had noticed that my breathing was becoming a bit more laboured as the days went by but I love playing my own music and I would be damned if some pesky cold was going to stop me singing lovely harmonies, as I had assumed naively at this stage, the cold would be subsiding due to it having been a fortnight of sniffles and intermittent cold sweats.

By the time I got to the gig that night, simply put —I was struggling to breathe or get any kind of full breath at all. I managed to struggle through the gig, occasionally getting dizzy and almost fainting at one point before driving the 45 min journey home, pretty stressed out and exhausted from the exertion of simply trying to breathe. For those reading this who have had asthma attacks, you will know all too well that feeling that is almost impossible to describe to someone who has never experienced such an awful affliction. That simple -‘Oh f**k, I am going to die.’

I walked through the door of my apartment and went straight to bed, hoping I would be able to sleep this particular episode off. I must have been asleep a couple of mins before I jerked awake and gasped for air. I walked very slowly to my flatmate's room and asked him to ring me an ambulance, to which he jumped out of bed and accompanied me to the living room where I collapsed on the couch. I will forever be grateful to him for being there for me that night.

How I Became A Dev During A Global PandemicPreview: How I Became A Dev During A Global Pandemic

The next week is a bit of a blur but it involved 4.5 days in a hospital bed, struggling to sleep, and connected at various points over the recurring days to nebulizers that help with the inflammation that was causing my breathing difficulty. I consider myself very lucky that I never needed to be put on a ventilator and my sincerest love and admiration goes out to people who needed that particular treatment and fought COVID19. That time spent in the Liverpool Royal Hospital was a pretty crazy time in my life and I got to see firsthand what amazing work the NHS nurses do on a daily basis — they redefine the term hard workingI was told I didn’t have COVID19, just a very aggressive cold and after 4.5 days, I was well enough to go home.

Now, when I came out of the hospital, it wasn’t at this point that I initially wanted to change my career — it was the opposite. I was excited that I had so much time to practice guitar and develop my musical skills further. This lasted for a couple of weeks before I lost all my scheduled work for the upcoming year and a half. Cancellation after cancellation followed by all of my one-to-one tuition moving to platforms like FaceTime and Zoom. For the first time in 12 years, I didn’t really have anything to do with my day and that was when my brain started to search for something else…..but what?

How I Became A Dev During A Global PandemicPreview: How I Became A Dev During A Global Pandemic

For as long as I can remember I have loved puzzles, whether it be a game of chess, sudoku, crosswords, or even the good old Rubik’s cube. I knew that I needed to do something creative otherwise my mental health would deteriorate as my physical health had. In my life, I have been lucky enough to maintain some wonderful friends and I have a core group of best friends that have stood by me for over half my life. Two of these friends work in the field of tech. Over the years they have sent me things and tried to entice me over to the tech world but I was stubborn and wanted to be a rockstar on stage….who wants to let go of that dream right?

‘Surrender to what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be.’

Sonia Ricotti

I am going to describe this as bluntly as I can —I for some reason just lost my interest in music overnight. I woke up one day and had zero desire to play my guitar or do anything musically. I needed something else….I needed a new creative fix. I spoke to my friend Matt who lives in Berlin, Germany who works as a freelance Developer and he pointed me in the direction of various resources that I could possibly get stuck into if I wanted to learn to code. One of these was I thought to myself what do I have to lose, then signed up, and from that point, I have pretty much not looked back.

I completed the HTML5 and CSS3 courses within a couple of weeks and decided I would be brave and have a go at learning a wonderful computer language called JavaScript. The next few weeks felt like the first few months of learning guitar — I was obsessed but learning was slow. I constantly badgered my coding friends for advice and guidance when there were topics I could not wrap my head around. How was I supposed to remember it all…For Loops, Conditional Logic, Classes, Functions, Variables…..but after a while I did. I hammered the course and spent hours online immersed in algorithm challenges and YouTube videos from Regex through to Object-Oriented Programming. All the while my guitar sat in the corner like a drink I had forgotten to finish but couldn’t be bothered to take out.

I felt the sparks of possibly wanting to do coding as a career so I reached out to my friends again and was pointed in the direction of a company called Northcoders. For those who do not know, Northcoders is one of the UK’s leading bootcamps for teaching people to code and getting them up to a Junior Developer Level and able to land their first job in tech once they finish the course. I had seen the course advertised a few years prior but the cost and gig commitments stopped me from properly paying attention. All at once, it seemed both these issues were answered. I had a bit of money from my parent's divorce and due to a global pandemic…I had all the time in the world. Before I knew it, I had gone onto the website and booked an entry challenge.

How I Became A Dev During A Global PandemicPreview: How I Became A Dev During A Global Pandemic

At some point in the Xmas period of 2020, I was greeted on zoom by a chap named Dave who would be the tutor presiding over my entry challenge…a series of coding tasks designed to test whether I had the ability to get through the bootcamps demanding schedule. It was the most nerve-racking hour of my adult life(minus the asthma attack)….but…I PASSED!! This was the moment, this was the start of my new life I told myself as I went and grabbed a celebratory beer and rang my friends and family. I was to start the bootcamp in the January of 2021, so I relaxed and enjoyed a fabulous Christmas full of excitement and curiosity as to what the year ahead would hold.

January rolled around and I can still remember my first day of the bootcamp, seeing all the curious faces of the new people who also had decided to take the plunge and change the direction of their lives. It was an amazing atmosphere and the tutors of the course made us all feel welcome and introduced themselves and told us all their favourite biscuits in order to break the ice that being on a zoom call with a large number of people can create. I am not going to go into the details of the bootcamp as it progressed, as I feel this would ruin the experience of any readers who are thinking of doing the coding bootcamp. The adventure of learning new coding skills at such an intense pace — really is something that can’t be described.

There is one main reason that people do a coding bootcamp — they want a job. Their first step on the dev ladder. Towards the end of my time with the bootcamp, Northcoders themselves offered forward an open position for someone who would like to become a tutor and mentor on the bootcamp themselves. I had been a guitar teacher for about eight years and done pretty well on the bootcamp so thought I could be a great asset to the company.. with that in mind…I applied for my first job in tech.

‘You will never experience personal growth if you fear taking chances’ , T Sorenson

One thing I need to say about myself is that I get incredibly anxious when having to do something times it almost gets to a panic attack level. Because of this…I totally fudged my interview…or so I thought. I left the zoom call like…what a disaster, then started to look for more jobs to apply for. A couple of days later I get a call from Vel, one of the tutors who interviewed me. My palms were sweating, my voice breaking and the phone almost falling out of my hand due to shaking.

We would like to offer you the job..WHAT…how! It turns out I hadn’t fudged my interview as I first initially thought. I had gotten the job and I was to start on May 4th, 2021….Star Wars Day….this was fate, right? Fast forward to now...January 15th, 2022, the current day I am writing this article..around exactly a whole year since I started the bootcamp. I have been a tutor now for eight months and I am probably the happiest I have been in a long time. I love my job and I feel creative every single day and get to problem-solve every single day, which is more than I could ever ask for out of a career. Working with students, helping them debug their code, working on my own projects/apps, and just being around like-minded creative people was the change I needed. I know people will say…well were you not around creative people being a musician — I was, but I needed to be around a different type of creativity to the one I had grown accustomed to.

How I Became A Dev During A Global PandemicPreview: How I Became A Dev During A Global Pandemic

Me and my new role :)

I am going to wrap this up shortly but I just want to say one more thing…changing careers was terrifying. At times I had major identity crisis issues as I tried to let go of the identity I had clung to for the better part of 20 years. In a way, I had to allow myself…to allow myself to want to be something else, and that wasn’t always easy. If the global pandemic had not have happened, I doubt I would be here writing this article. To anyone thinking of changing their careers I would say if you have a morning as I did — where everything you thought you wanted to do felt alien and you were craving another direction — take the plunge if life allows it and offers it to you. It’s the best choice I have ever made and I am excited to see where I end up.

Here’s to the new you if that’s the choice you make! If you decide to stay where you are…here’s to you also!


My country band, White Little Lies —

Northcoders Website —