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Why I transitioned from jazz guitarist to web developer

Photograph of Jacob Papageorgiou

Jacob Papageorgiou

Developer

Armed with a BA Music, MSc Management, three years experience in Fintech, mid-twenties, I quit my job and started coding. It was the best decision of my life. - Jacob Papageorgiou

After I finished school I didn’t quite know what to do, other than play guitar, party and write music. So, I did just that. I enrolled at Kingston University and got my BA Music in Jazz Guitar Performance. Cool, ey? It was, until I finally realised that music was simply a hobby. That lead to my enrolment at UCL, where I got an MSc Management - a classic trick to ‘secure a better future’.

After graduation, I thought 'what awesome skills do I have now that would add value to a company?' Truth is, though I did obtain a lot of valuable skills at university, I couldn't see myself becoming an aspiring spreadsheet ninja, crunch numbers or take phone calls. That wouldn't be a job that allowed me to really grow and have real impact in a company. I wanted something different, more creative and practical.

I soon started as an analyst for a well known insurance company - it paid the bills for the time being. Guess what I did? Fill up spreadsheets and talk on the phone! I later joined a crypto startup as Head of Marketing, where I had my first interaction with developers. I realised they were not working in code caves in the dark. I noticed how important the product team was to a business, unlike my spreadsheet skills.

In record time, the devs could prototype applications and test them, all while doing maintenance on existing apps. I was very much inspired by their creative and technical output. The fact they were making things that hundreds of people were using was exciting. Was it too late to pick up these super powers? I would go home and crunch through Codecademy and FreeCodeCamp for the next two months and realised I loved it. It was time to flip the switch. I quit my job in November 2018 and decided to seriously learn to code. This led to my enrolment on a nine week intensive bootcamp at Le Wagon.

Learning how to code - quickly and efficiently

It was time to shift the long, academic and theoretical gears into something more hands on. This was all about cutting out distractions and introducing practical assignments, code challenges, team work, hard work and overwhelming frustrations. Scary? The first two weeks were the hardest as I didn't understand the concepts of programming very well but the key was to not compare yourself to others. However, once the 'struggles' made synapses in the brain and I had a few 'click moments', then I really felt like a ninja. I became a better version of myself at the end of each day. After roughly 400 long hours of hard work, many errors, panic moments and an emotional rollercoaster, we created three beautiful progressive web applications and I obtained a portfolio of knowledge that will stay with me for a lifetime.

Great, I can code. What now?

Was I skilled enough to do this full time? After fighting with imposter syndrome for a few days, I made my portfolio to showcase my front and backend skills and started applying to companies. I disliked the buzzwords. I wanted a place where I could code things from scratch and become better at understanding HTML, CSS, JavaScript and all the fundamentals. With a keen eye for design, I wanted a small place where I could learn from others and keep the momentum going. After several applications, code challenges, rejections, and a wave of joy, it was decision time. I accepted an offer to join Ten4 Design, a niche, digital web design agency. The second best decision of my life...after learning to code.

I now spend my days working alongside a team of bright and creative individuals where... guess what? I code things from scratch and I'm getting a better understanding of web fundamentals. Every day is different. Every day brings on new challenges. Every day I make an impact alongside the rest of the team.

Word of advice

Remember, we all started somewhere. You can kick imposter syndrome out the way. A senior developer was once a junior. It's just a matter of hours 😊

It's normal to not know much. If you're willing to learn, that's all that matters.

Focus on learning daily, asking questions and sharpen your existing skills.

Help others, it'll help you get better.

The beginning of...the beginning

After a long journey in music and Fintech, I really did change my life by learning to code and joining Ten4. I come to work to face new challenges, solve new and exciting problems and develop my coding mindset. I'm so grateful I'm now in an environment where I'm continuously learning, I have a lot of 'a-ha!' moments and feel much more rewarded than when I was crunching spreadsheets.

Just like in the music days, spending hours mastering an instrument, I can now transfer the same discipline and apply it to code. In the future, I'd like to deep dive into PHP and a JavaScript framework like VueJS all while learning a bit more design and sharpening my JS skills on Treehouse. I look forward to helping Ten4 meet new goals and learn from each new challenge.

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