Yesterday evening I had the pleasure of speaking at an event called ‘Demystifying Opportunities in Tech’, alongside Alice Bentinck, Co-Founder of Entrepreneur First, and Chloe Donegan, Co-Founder of Weave. The aim of the event was to get more women interested in the tech startup community and to show them that not only was coding an accessible option for all, it would be a very shrewd move for them to become more versed in all matters digital.
Preparing for my speech gave me time to reflect on how I have come to find myself four weeks into an intensive web development course, as well as figure out what I hope to achieve by the time I come to the end of it.
This time last year, I was pretty certain that I knew where I would be now: safe in my job at a top global investment bank, and that was where I would stay for at least a couple of years, before fulfilling my desire to make a living working for myself. It wasn’t until after I’d finally secured a job, after years of preparation, that I realised that I’d always just been doing what I thought I should be doing, rather than what I wanted to do, with regards to my career. Whilst I started to have these reservations, I also had the chance to meet a range of interesting recent graduates who were running their own startups, charities, or other projects, and had not taken the conventional corporate route straight out of university. This made me realise that I was mistaken in thinking that I had to as well.
It wasn’t long before I realised that if I wanted to go down an entrepreneurial route, then knowing how to code was an incredibly powerful skill to have. When you know how to code, you have the ability to build your own unique websites and applications; you can solve complex problems, whether mathematical, logistical, or practical; from your bedroom, you can launch your own startup.
I’ve already had a feel for the independence an ability to code can give you. In my second year at university, I set up The StoryGraph, a creative writing publication, with a close friend of mine, Andrea. After we had done all of our planning, and had the concept clearly formed in our minds, we were stuck. Neither of us had any technical skills and so for the project to proceed it became impossible not to have to bring somebody else onto the team. Although we have had an excellent experience with our designer and web developer, we struggled to successfully convey our vision of the website, and Andrea and I were still restricted by their busy schedules. Changes couldn’t happen as quickly as we wanted them to. Now I have full control of our website, and we can make changes exactly when we see fit, and experiment in our own time. Already, Andrea and I feel more connected to our creation.
On a more practical level, being a coder gives you a skill that enables you to earn money while freelancing. For people with entrepreneurial aspirations, this can be an ideal setup, as you’re not tied down by the rigidity of a permanent job, and you can structure your day to get the most productivity out of it, fitting in your work on any side projects.
I always thought you needed to have started to learn to code from an early age if you were ever to be any good at it. This is certainly not the case. After two months of four hours a week at Code First: Girls I was able to develop an application called Sclogs which served as a logbook for 12-14 year olds so that they could have a record of their super-curricular activities as they progressed through secondary school and eventually applied to universities or internships. (Here are the details of an example account so that you can get an idea of how a typical ‘sclog’ might look: e-mail – email@example.com, password – sclogtest.)
This project demonstrated to me how the cost of setting up a basic website or app in order to test a concept can in many cases be limited only to how much time you spend on it. As a technical founder, you can quickly test a range of ideas from the comfort of your home, without having to make any financial commitment, until you’re sure an idea has something special about it.
Whether you choose to complete courses on Codecademy, sign up to Treehouse, or participate in the intensive web development course at Makers Academy, do some learning to code. If you don’t, you won’t be giving yourself a chance to really participate in the exciting tech space that is rapidly evolving day-by-day.
If you’re interested, you can watch my talk here. Feedback always welcome!