Brian Cooney is now a web developer living in Shoreditch in London, having learned to code after wanting a change from making furniture for a living. Brian has actually worked with a previous interviewee, Harry Dry! I chatted to Brian about making a big career change, learning to code and his tips for how you can get hired.
Hey, thanks a lot for doing the interview! Could you give an introduction for coders who want to know more about you?
Sure thing - I’m an Irish developer living in London. I work for Crowdform a digital product studio in Shoreditch. We make digital products for startups and enterprise. I work across the stack primarily in React and NodeJS. We use WordPress occasionally for simple marketing and blog based websites, although we are moving towards headless CMS + Gatsby at the moment. I transitioned to web development in 2017 after a decade working in the construction industry as a furniture maker and later, a project manager.
How did you go from making furniture to making code?
In 2016 I was working for a creative fabrication company called Aldworth James & Bond who were involved in creating office interiors for tech companies like Cloudflare and WeWork. At the same time I was listening to podcasts about startups, reading Paul Graham of YC’s essays and Marc Andreessen’s now infamous post – software is eating the world. At a certain point I was thinking more about the tech world than construction. That’s when I knew I wanted to make the switch.
The difference in culture was also important. Open source software is incredible – the industry shares the best ideas to raise the bar collectively. In contrast, the construction sector has an old culture of keeping trade secrets for a perceived competitive advantage.
I initially wrote off the idea of learning to code, assuming you needed to follow the traditional path and study four years of CS to become a programmer. After some research, I discovered it was entirely possible to ”learn enough to be dangerous”. I also have friends and family who work in tech companies, so I reached out to all of them for advice.
How did you learn to code?
I chose to go down the bootcamp route with General Assembly in London as I was looking for a structured curriculum and to learn with others in person. Before I started the course I did some Codecademy modules and a Colt Steel course on Udemy. These start from the basics and builds up to full stack apps. I would recommend anyone who is considering joining a bootcamp to put at least a few months of self-directed study in beforehand. The bootcamps unleash a firehose of information at you, which can be overwhelming. The more fundamentals you know going in, the more you can focus on the harder aspects of the course.