From Boozehound Bar Manager to Straight-Edge Software Developer — a 2020 story

In late January of 2020, I was managing a quiet evening shift at The Pilcrow Pub, when my boss came in looking stressed. I got him a third of something dank and juicy to try, and he told me about how worried he was about the spread of coronavirus, and the effect it might have on the hospitality industry if it was able to spread in the UK. Full disclosure, I looked at him like he was a deranged doomsday prepper, and told him it would all be fine. At this point I don’t need to elucidate to anyone how wrong I was, but to his credit he’s the only person I know who had any idea at that point. As cases gradually crept up, and people began staying home from work, Manchester became increasingly quiet. Aside from a few stalwart locals the pub went quiet and we waited for the government to officially close hospitality venues. I was relieved to be able to isolate, but also really annoyed that so much of our beer stock would go out of date over the next month, not realising that it would be July before we reopened.

Lockdown began with much concern, hand-washing, and pasta-stockpiling. But when the promise of furlough came, I used much of the unseasonably hot Spring like many others, taking my prescribed daily exercise in the corners of the city that I never usually ventured to, and casual drinking in the manner of a cruise-liner retiree. Before long the novelty of beer deliveries wore off, and I began contemplating my next move. I hate feeling unproductive, and love learning, so I signed up for a free Harvard Computer Science course online and tried my best to get to grips with C+. I have to admit that during the third lesson I got caught in a for loop that I wasn’t able to navigate my way out of, despite numerous days working on it, and decided instead to try my hand at the free Codecademy courses on offer instead. I worked my way through Introductions to HTML, Python, Swift, and CSS but didn’t know where to go next with my coding journey.

When lockdown lifted, I was excited to be hosting one of Manchester’s largest beer gardens. I have always loved the fast-paced, dynamic nature of bar work, chatting to customers about beer, and making sure people are having fun. Unfortunately the COVID restrictions meant that I spent most of my time telling people to separate into smaller groups and making sure that customers weren’t having *too* much fun. As subsequent local lockdowns began, hospitality became increasingly difficult and when the second national lockdown began in November, along with the threat of redundancy, I became committed to finding a new path.

At this point I tried to reinvigorate my Graphic Design portfolio and explored that avenue by doing some freelance work for friends’ lockdown projects. I started working part-time as a delivery driver for Shindigger Brewing to keep the money coming in. I explored UX and UI with some free General Assembly courses, but ultimately came back to coding. I explored options for different courses, but Northcoders had by far the best reviews, and the most comprehensive syllabus that I’d seen. The support that the team gave as soon as I got in contact was incredible, I devoured the JavaScript training modules on FreeCodeCamp, and as soon as I started working on the CodeWars Katas I was hooked. I love solving puzzles, and knowing at the start of something that there is more to learn than I could ever cram into my brain is an incredibly exciting prospect.

Despite the disappointment of failing the entry challenge initially, I persevered with the support of the team at Northcoders and was determined to get onto the course. After a very bougie December I wanted to do Dry January, and my wife wanted to do Veganuary. We decided that rather than having a cheeseboard for one and a bottle of wine for the other we’d both do Dry Veganuary. 4 months later, we’re still going strong. I’d love to say that it’s been hard, but actually the biggest hurdle for me is the temptation of being out and about, so being in the flat for the past few months has made it a pretty easy transition and given me the clear head that I needed to focus on learning so much in such a short period of time. I started the Northcoders course in March, which unfortunately meant handing in my notice at The Pilcrow, the place where I was first acquainted with Northcoders, as well as industry big hitters ThoughtWorks and Equal Experts. I’m still at the start of my coding journey, but have learned so much already. Hopefully by the time I finish at Northcoders, The Pilcrow will be back open so that I can join the tech teams for a celebratory pint on the other side of the bar!