Last week I completed my full stack developer course with Code Institute that I got through The Learning People. Having done the course from beginning to end I’d thought I’d put all of my thoughts about all the good bits and bad bits that I came across, why I did it and ultimately whether I think it is worth while or not
Back in 2007 I completed a BSc (Hons) degree in Computer Science at a top world 200 university in the UK called University of East Anglia (UEA). At the time I did it the UEA was ranked as the fifth best place in the UK to do computer science so when I left like most people these days finishing a top degree I thought I’d get straight to the city and be pushing a six figure salary in five years. Yep, you guessed it just didn’t happen.
You see life has a great way of showing you the promised land only to quickly pick you up and dump you in no mans land. Figuratively this is what happened to me in 2011: I had to move away from building a professional career and care for a disabled son. I’m not writing this to promote some kind of poor-me reaction but just to give you the background.
To get by I wrote websites for small businesses, ran SEO campaigns and did whatever was necessary to keep the wolves from the door. Forward on to early 2018, my disabled son is nearly an adult and moving to more independent (well supported) living and I’m right back to square one, again.
Now I had run businesses (one not IT related at all) and I had occasionally got on my computer and done some coding but when I evaluated my current skills I felt like the guy who turns up gun fight with a chicken drumstick. Cue major realisation that life IS tough and if I want to get where I want to get to I’m going to have to go full beast mode and update my skills. I procrastinate for about three days…
What I learnt at university and through life running my own businesses is how to learn and that the piece of paper is not as important as what you can actually do. Sure it’s important for getting you past the first hurdle initially but then it becomes about what you can do and what you can show. Oh and enthusiasm goes a long, long way – stay hungry!
I checked out many different courses. First I thought why not do a masters, a quick look at the £12K yearly fee put me off that idea – plus what would I actually learn. Universities are great places to go to get the theory – but for practical stuff you’re better looking elsewhere, believe me. Then I found shed loads of online courses all promising zero to hero and some of them were cheap – I mean really cheap like £100 or so. Too good to be true? It
probably definitely is.
I spent a good week searching and comparing courses and eventually picked Code Institute. It just made sense to me: a Full Stack developer course that is Napier University credit-rated. It offered flexible learning, mentors, chat channels with other students and felt not so remote as the others. Yes it was online but there are regular review sessions with someone who works in the industry, along with a team of people there ready to answer questions and help you every step of the way.
Other than it being university credit-rated what swung it for me in particular was that the course content is guided by a Industry Advisory Council which has industry employers, recruiters, academics, enterprise organisations and startups. It provides validation and guidance on the Code Institute’s programs. This makes sure that Code Inst graduates have the skills necessary to gain employment and subsequently grow and prosper in their new job.
After Python came MongoDB, otherwise known as SQL for people who don’t know SQL. Actually is it pretty cool to learn and I’m going to be using it at my next project at work collating data stores from different places together as there’s no rigid schema. Then Django which for you PHP people out there is pretty much just like Laravel. All good stuff.
The course focuses on real practical coding. No Big O notation, no computational mathematics, no advanced algorithmic studies. Phew! What you learn is useful and what many companies want. While doing the course you build a portfolio which speaks volumes when you’re chatting to an employer.
One thing I did find difficult was Slack, I’m just not used to it and took me a little while to get the hang of it. The good thing about Slack is if I asked a question people would answer depending on the difficultly of the question. This did mean that many of my questions were answered by tutors, having said that I cannot remember having to wait for longer than 10 minutes during the day to have them answered. The community on there is friendly and there’s no silliness from what I could see. In fact most days there are Google hangouts of developers all meeting going over coursework as well as just socialising and recently they have made some people leads for each channel. This works brilliantly and is something that Code Institute can be very proud of, the slack community is alive and well. I’ve made some good friends through the Slack channel.
I didn’t just do the course – with the positive feedback from people on their Slack channel and my mentor Israel I started doing more things… well playing again with code. This is when you really learn: building stuff for yourself and trying to break things and fix them again.
What doing this course did for me was give me my passion for coding back – priceless! It also provided me with a clearly defined road map of how to get from nowhere I wanted to be to somewhere I wanted to go. Oh and all those frameworks didn’t scare me anymore, I happily learned ES6 and then React which I absolutely love using.
So during the course I found my mojo (or marbles) and started to realise I had many things I could offer firms. I talked to quite a few firms and they interviewed me, but I focused on interviewing them and found a wonderful job that was working with maps. So Code Institute helped me to change my life. I now have a full-time job writing Python and PHP at work, along with Geoserver and Openlayers and front end is React. I also do AWS devops: Lambda functions, API Gateways and moreover I got this job before finishing my course.
Just before Christmas 2018 I handed in my five projects and got a first class honours which I am completely delighted about.
So overall I’d say if you are wanting to update your skills and/or get your passion back for coding then do it. If you are a career changer and you’ve never coded before do it too – and I promise you that on successful completion you’ll be more useful than your average guy that just finished a three year computer science degree. But be prepared to burn the midnight oil and focus on your goal.