Ric Lavers is an Australian programmer who got a job at Deloitte despite not having a CS degree. In this wideranging interview Ric discusses how he got into coding, his experience at a coding bootcamp in Sydney, tips for getting hired and lots more. Ric is part of the new Code Fights Youtube series where a group of developers are filmed while they have to complete a coding challenge against the clock!
Hey man, great to have you on board for an interview. Could you give an introduction for developers who want to know more about you?
Can you tell us what your current job at Deloitte Digital involves?
Well Deloitte Digital works as a part of the wider consultancy at Deloitte, however we kinda have our own branding and culture and it can be often feels more like a start up than a massive corporate! Although, a lot of the clients and projects are really large, which was a big factor that attracted me to the company as before hand I hadn't had much experience with building really big applications and how they work at scale.
How did you first get interested in programming?
Well I’ve had an interest in technology for a long time but the real move was during my first job after I graduated from my business degree. It was basically a shit communications gig taking taking emails from the website and sending them out as leads to the operators, (with a few steps in between). And it was so repetitive and dry that I ending up learning Python to and automating the whole thing, so a daily task that took 3-4hrs became a 3 minute click in the morning. After that I could see the real value of coding and was hooked.
How did you learn to code?
I did a lot of self learning using Codecademy.com which was great but I made a decision to move from Canberra to Sydney for more interesting job options and had already convinced myself that programming would be a valuable career skill. So at the same time I decided to accelerate and formalise my programming learning by enrolling a 6 month bootcamp which also offered a diploma of IT.
This was twice the duration of most of the other bootcamps I’d looked but I think that it really helped in getting that hot housing effect because afterwards it provided a internship to get a foot in the door and I felt pretty confident in knowing what to do next in regards to learning. The other huge benefit was the tight friendships made with the cohort. We still hang out all the time and often help each other out with learning, networking and job postings.
Did you ever consider doing a degree in Computer Science and if not, why?
Well I already have a degree in business/ psychology so I wasn’t too keen to spend another 3-4 years getting another! Also a university degree will teach you the science or the why behind coding and computing, which is super interesting but really in the job you only need the how.
Given how fast the prefered frameworks and languages change in industry, it’s hard for a university which work in 4-5 year degree planning cycles to keep up with the current industry demand.
What is the most fun thing for you about programming?
Well I used to say it was the problem solving and the endorphins of seeing something get built. But now I actually think that the most fun I have at work is when I’m working with non-technical people. You see because we share considerablly different responsibilities I can bring a lighter attitude to work, ( as long as I keep their trust that I can complete the task! ).
Can you talk us through the process of getting your first job as a web developer at Mobecom?
That job was actually through an internship, so really all I had to do was prove that I could do the work! The next job I got was through a friend’s recommendation and there I basically just got on with them in the interview and showed off some of the work I’d done on at Mobecom and in personal projects. That was enough to prove I could build apps.
How would you encourage someone who wants to change career into web development?
A few people after hearing my story of career change have been interested. I tell them to do some courses online, try and build something and if they get addicted to a task then it’s probably worth pursuing. If they have that obsessive focus then they're probably going to be a good developer, and I’ve got a thousand tips and suggestions, but if not then I wouldn’t want to encourage them.
Has your lack of Computer Science degree ever been brought up when looking for jobs?
Nope. I think the proof is in the projects. Also, being in an in-demand industry probably helps too.
Do you have any tips for people that are looking for their first job in web development?
Projects, projects, projects! My advice would be to get as many projects as you can. All your friends will want some kind of website so make your friend's band website, go to meetups, get involved in someone else’s projects and if you fail at that then maybe do a coding bootcamp! 😀
Can you tell us about any projects you make and plans for the future?
Well I don’t have a lot of time for side projects at the moment I usually use side projects to learn a new skill like React hooks, or Python. I’ve been playing around with Spotify's open API. It’s pretty great so far and I’ve been able to get the BPM and unique characteristics of tracks as well as search by music label! I collect records so next I’m going to connect it to the discogs API so that you populate a wishlist in discogs from your Spotify playlists. Also I’ve been working on making a video feedback loop device using raspberryPi which is fun and involves getting better at Python and Bash. You can find the repos on Github, but don’t expect the best documentation!