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Career Talk: Why Do Anything?

Aaron is a student on The Developer Pathway. Here, he explains how a simple piece of advice given to him four years ago changed his life and set him on a course for a new career in code...

In the film Inception (spoiler alert!) one of the characters becomes consumed by an idea. This idea, whilst initially contextually specific, comes to dominate her every waking thought and action. It’s pernicious, clawing at her very soul and driving her to make extreme life-altering decisions; and so it was with me...

Aaron Boniface
Four years ago I was in my initial mentor meeting during my first year of teaching. My mentor and I were discussing a lesson plan I’d created and he gave a simple piece of brilliant advice: Whatever you’re doing, ask yourself 'Why'. If you can’t answer that question, don’t do it. He was referring to a specific task in a specific lesson that had been engaging but not helped further the learning. That was it, a comment made about lesson planning.

What next?

It stuck with me and I couldn’t shake it. Initially it improved my lesson planning; next it started to bleed into my time management. Two years later I became head of department and it came to define huge swathes of my job, a motto by which I judged every option of every work decision. Then, the GCSE and A Level specifications changed, and I had to decide which exam board we’d be following. For each spec I asked the question: Why should the students learn the content for this exam? I couldn’t find an answer, not for any of them, and then the inevitable happened, the idea spread and seeped out of work and into the rest of my soul.

The chain of reasoning was as simple as it was dangerous: Why should the students learn this?

I don’t know.

Why should most of them study this subject in this format at all?

They shouldn’t.

Why should I be teaching this at all?

And that was it, a fait accompli. The idea that had started my career as a teacher had become the very idea that ended it; I handed my notice in with no idea of what I was going to do next.

Whilst casting around for professional meaning I decided to take the opportunity to revisit coding, a hobby I’d let slip over the years. A quick google of online courses led me to the excellent freeCodeCamp and a few days later I emerged with a crude but functional website I’d built myself.

Why do anything? 

The question hangs awkwardly. It’s always there but in our busy lives lived from moment to moment we rarely give pause to consider it. In losing myself for several days I’d found an answer of sorts for the love of it.

The cycle of frustration followed by pride that tackling coding challenges brings is addictive and doesn’t lose its appeal. Not only that, but the sense of flow (being in the zone) that this cycle induces is deeply satisfying, satisfying on a fundamental level of consciousness. It inspires a love of whatever caused it and a reverence for this altered state of being. Unfortunately, love and reverence don’t pay the bills, yet I couldn’t not pursue this as a career; I sought a way to become a software developer. 

The best professional decision I’ve ever made

A friend had studied at Northcoders and spoke very highly of the course. Their website was convincing, although the idea of becoming a full-stack JavaScript developer in 12 weeks seemed a little too good to be true!

Unbeknownst to me, my wife had mentioned my plans to our friends who happened to know a guy who had also studied at Northcoders. They put us in touch with each other. This former student also spoke very highly of the course and how he now was about to hire someone else from there too, safe in the knowledge that they would be an excellent addition to his company. 

An hour later I’d applied for the course and it’s been the best professional decision I’ve ever made. The course design, staff and community are all top-notch and not a day goes by that I don’t get to feel both frustrated and proud, revelling in the zone between them.

If you’re also considering a new challenge and taking your first steps on this new journey then the question might not be 'Why?’ after all, but 'Why not?'

The Developer Pathway

Looking for a new challenge in 2019? Sign up for The Developer Pathway coding bootcamp at Northcoders and kick-start a new career in programming. 

Aaron
Aaron is learning how to code on The Developer Pathway.

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