Michael Huggett is a graduate of our iOS Development Bootcamp in Toronto. Mike shared this post about the history of his passion for coding, and how we came to Lighthouse Labs to pursue development full-time.
I've had a varied past, Business/Systems Analysis, Project Management, IT Management even a stint as a Director of Operations. Great companies and great roles but truth be told my eyes only lite up when exposed to code problems. Maybe a dev was having issue unit testing so I'd help out. Or some new feature needs to be added to a home grown internal product but the consultant wasn't around yet we had deadlines so I would jump in and build it, didn't care the language. I would read the code and figure out how to add/extend so that we at least had a prototype that could be reviewed internal, discussed and provide the consultant (when they returned) a highly vetted request.
I've been playing with code since I was 15 (even younger so I'm told, just can't remember anymore). My ability to look at code, hack with it and start adding/changing goes back to the days of my Commodore 64, which my financially strapped single parent mom purchased for me along with a printer. She didn't buy the storage device, her thinking? It's like a typewriter so you need a printer with that keyboard. She tried, and being the persistent fellow I am, I spent my summer holidays copying and re-copying from Commodore 64 magazines code, then I would modify the code, get up the next day and do it all over again. Same in grade 5 when our class was given the Commodore Pet which no one (including the teacher and principle) had any idea what to do with. They found me sneaking into the school at recess and lunch, plugging the machine in, taking the manual and copying code bits, running and tweaking. That's how things started for me, now back to the story at hand. ------
Forgot to mention I've done stints as a QA Team Lead and tester with a knack for breaking things and figuring out why they break (to be clear, put a clock on me and I'd likely fail, but in the course of doing my job, I'd figure this stuff out).
For the last few years an itch has been forming (I scratched the first one with a 2006 Suzuki Boulevard C50). My attention isn't held the way it used to be in a PM/QA/BA role. I found myself spending my evenings and even during work finding ways to write code, to make something happen out of nothing, watch it like a new born, interact and tweak it then observe.
Finally during Feb-April of this year (2016) I decided to buy my way into dedicating 8 weeks to one thing, programming. Being a family man with all that goes with it, I needed to prove if I really want to do this; and it wasn't happening a couple hours a night. Going long days for extended weeks would hopefully confirm this to have staying power or needing a quick exit.
I was in over my head, the material was pouring in at a rapid pace and I was happily drowning in new thoughts, ideas, concepts and immature best practice coding behaviors (although drinking coffee was a transferable skill I put to immediate use).
8 weeks flew! I was the first in at around 7AM Mon-Sat with almost every night leaving between 10PM-1AM the next day. It was glorious! I was in over my head, the material was pouring in at a rapid pace and I was happily drowning in new thoughts, ideas, concepts and immature best practice coding behaviors (although drinking coffee was a transferable skill I put to immediate use).
The provider was LighthouseLabs in Toronto. I hear different opinions about boot-camps, my view? Get absorbed, involved and code from sun up to sun down and keep going. We had a class with a wide variety of backgrounds and character which enriched the experience, but, only if you wanted it too.
For me it was the absolute right fit. Mentors/teachers that actually cared, not just cover the material but to go beyond, to humanize the experience when one gets lost in the forest because of the trees.
I can think of several people that made a permanent impression and provide that kind of role model you need to have in front of you when trying to pull your way through the darkness of ignorance. One specific teacher would never let me get away with anything, he would see what I've done, and knowing it was poor code and instead of glossing over it, he would dig into it, challenging me why I wrote it, what was I thinking.
Being 45 with a 20+ year career that is cemented with "I know best" behaviors I can tell you it was an uncomfortable experience to be scrutinized, but, as time passed (and I gave loads of opportunity) the experience normalized and I actually pursued that critical analysis, in fact, started applying it myself on my own code and found my level of care in what I was producing was growing (even though in many cases the number of lines of code would reduce).
So it's been a couple months now, how did this program benefit me? Am I a kick-ass developer inventing the future and walking around with wads of cash? Hardly. My particular circumstance is a challenge as many of the companies I want to work for are not local, I can't move my family (and extended family) so the options are few. Do I quit? Nope. For now I work by day contracting my old skills whilst spending the nights honing my new skills. The difference? I understand the core, I've refined how I solve problems, and how I find information, in short I have rebuilt how I think which has made my late night coding escapades far more productive.
I'll get to where I want to go, for now companies don't hire REMOTE junior iOS developers (if they do let me know!), so I build a portfolio (like an artist) of all kinds of apps that showcase dev skills, more importantly that show case my thinking and my fearlessness to tackle new things with confidence. A portfolio that keeps these budding skills in constant use.
Lighthouse Labs is one if not the best investment of my time and money I have ever made. It's on me now to make that value GROW!