Grant Winter is one of our original alumni, having graduated from our Web Development Bootcamp in March of 2014. He came to Lighthouse to refresh his career after finding no joy in being a Chiropractor, and now is loving life as a father of a brand new baby and a Rails developer with Vogogo in Calgary.
What were you doing before Lighthouse Labs?
Before Lighthouse and becoming a developer I had a previous life as a chiropractor. I kind of stumbled into the profession because my brother was a chiropractor. Despite doing it for almost 10 years I never felt passionate about it. Most of my time working as a chiropractor was in the UK. While there my brother and me launched a startup aimed at allowing healthcare providers to prescribe physical rehabilitation exercises to their patients and track their progress. At the time, I had no dev chops, so we had to outsource all development work. Although our initial foray into the health start-up space eventually fizzled and didn't really go anywhere, it was an awesome experience in the school of hard knocks... and I was hooked. I knew I needed to work in tech.
My wife and myself decided to end our time in the UK and travel around the world for a year before landing back home in Canada. I knew I was going back to a country I hadn't lived in for almost 10 years and was going to have to start from scratch and I had no intention of returning to my previous career path of chiropractic.
The day I arrived back in Canada I checked my google news feed on my phone and saw an article about the rising popularity of bootcamps in the USA. I knew immediately that was my next step.
What made you decide to come to Lighthouse Labs?
After getting the green-light to attend a bootcamp from my amazingly supportive wife, I researched a few bootcamps, but as soon as I saw the Lighthouse website, I applied immediately and had a phone interview a couple days later. I really liked their approach and could see right away that they had really top notch instructors who were industry veterans. Logistics was also a factor for me, since I lived in Calgary, the temporary move to Vancouver was going to be much more manageable than moving to the USA or Toronto.
What advice would you give someone who wants to become a developer?
I think I would first start by asking them how badly they want to become a developer and if they are prepared to put the work in. I don't think this is an easy career path. It is super fun and satisfying, but not easy. If that someone was willing to put the work in, I would highly encourage them to attend a bootcamp. I don't think attending a bootcamp will make you an awesome developer. Becoming an awesome developer takes experience and lots of it. What a bootcamp will do is give you context and a firm foundation upon which to build yourself into an awesome developer.
In addition to encouraging this someone to attend a bootcamp, I would also say, get out there, get involved and shake a lot of hands. Being a developer is a very social and team oriented profession and your next job may come from someone you meet at a tech talk or meetup group.
Lastly, aim to work somewhere where you aren't the smartest guy in the room and at a stretch, aim for a place where you are the dumbest.
It’s been a year since you graduated Lighthouse Labs, what have you been up to?
It has actually been a year and half since I finished Lighthouse. I was a graduate of cohort #2 and finished in March of 2014. I ended up getting a placement through Lighthouse with a Calgary company called Business Instincts Group (BIG). It was so awesome of Lighthouse to reach out to companies on my home turf to give me the option of doing my co-op back home. After my 3 month placement, I was offered full-time employment. While at BIG I worked on a crowdfunding application for the company to help promote some of their internal projects. Being the only developer on the project and the only Rails dev in the company meant I had to exercise a lot of technical self direction and project management almost immediately. It gave me a wide range of experience working in all areas of the application... front-end, back-end, deployment, and even marketing and SEO.
After a year working with BIG, an opportunity came up to work with Vogogo which is a Calgary based payments and risk management company. It was an opportunity I eagerly jumped at and has turned out to be an amazing position working on a big team with amazingly talented developers. In addition to their amazing skills they are also all just awesome people... and very generous with their time, sharing their know-how with the a relative newb like me.
How did Lighthouse prepare you for your transition from bootcamp to full-time developer with Vogogo?
Lighthouse definitely planted the seeds of hard work a year and a half ago... and I've kept the momentum going since. I pretty much code all the time now... for work and recreation. Since starting on this adventure I've always had the philosophy that I'm a jagged rock in a stream. The stream is code and rocks don't get smooth if they aren't in the stream.
Tell us about how you're involved in the Calgary tech scene!
As soon as I returned to Calgary I started joining tech meetup groups and trying to meet as many people in the Calgary start up scene as possible. I regularly attend the Ruby meetup group here in town which has been getting more popular over the last year and it is awesome to see the scene growing here in Calgary. I was also involved as a volunteer for The HTML500 last winter and worked as a TA for the Lighthouse Labs Intro to Web Development course that was here in Calgary this last Summer.
What technologies are you working with?
Currently I'm working with a typical Rails stack. In my spare time, I like to check out whatever the new hotness is, and dabble.
What's the most interesting part of your job?
The most interesting part of my job is the constant challenge. I'm still at the stage in my career where most problems I'm facing, I'm facing for the first time. I love working though a problem, putting in a PR and then having it go through the review process from my team. I think it is pretty funny at times I've had some really scathing reviews on my PR's to the point where the reviewer has apologized to me afterwards... but I love the feedback as it makes me better at what I do.
Any side projects?
I have a 2 month old baby daughter... so ... changing diapers is my current side project. Regarding coding side projects, I have some ideas in the pipeline, but free time is pretty scarce right now. I would love to go back and rebuild my original start up health care app from years ago just for kicks. Looking back at the original project that we outsourced, I know I could do it better... and would probably look at a Rails and React stack for it.
Next is to just try to keep the momentum going. Keep learning, keep giving my all for my team, keep loving what I do, and keep getting smoother.