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The Coding Diaries: From History Lecturer to Software Engineer

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We caught up with Ed Packard - Associate backend engineer, about his experience at the Makers Academy bootcamp and joining Kin + Carta as a career changer. 

Tell us about your career history and what made you want to make the change into software engineering?

I spent the first ten years of my adult life accumulating history degrees, before spending another decade as a history lecturer. I grew increasingly disillusioned with academia, and realised I needed a change, both professionally and in terms of personal wellbeing. A chance conversation with my American in-laws alerted me to the presence of coding 'bootcamps' - I have always loved messing around with computers since I was a small child, and I thought this could be an interesting new direction for me. I signed up for the Makers Academy course which I completed in October 2021 - it was an amazing experience which helped me not only learn software engineering basics, but also made me reassess the way I learn.

What's your experience been like so far at Kin + Carta?

My experience so far with Kin + Carta has totally justified my decision to switch careers! I am surrounded by friendly and supportive colleagues who have made me feel welcome and valued despite my relative inexperience. I've been given interesting challenges to work on and have even presented to the backend community of practice on one of our associate projects. I feel as if everybody is approachable, even the top-level management, and there is always something exciting going on.

What have you learnt since joining us?

Since joining Kin + Carta, I have realised that I can't expect to learn everything straight away! I have - of course - focused on learning new coding techniques in unfamiliar languages (Java and TypeScript), but I've also spent a lot of time figuring out the structure of the business and the various roles in different practice areas. Thankfully, people are always up for a chat and are happy to share the interesting details of their roles. As a career switcher, I didn't have much sense of how a tech consultancy operated on a day-to-day basis, and this is definitely one of the main things I've learned. I have also understood that I belong here and my imposter syndrome has almost faded to nothing over the past couple of months.

Tell us more about your experience at Makers Academy

Makers Academy provided me with one of the most transformative and intense educational experiences of my life! Following a relatively gentle four-week pre-course of solo study, the twelve-week main course was a genuine rollercoaster - I loved every minute, but there were moments when I wondered if I'd done the right thing giving up my previous work and taking the plunge into coding.  At times it seemed like a vast and impenetrable world. Thankfully, support from the Makers coaches and peers meant that I was able to reframe how I thought about problems - and my own progress - and this has been a hugely valuable change in my mindset. It has helped me not only get off to a good start at Kin + Carta but has also made me much happier in day-to-day life more generally.

Ed Packard with his dog, Prune.
Ed Packard with his dog, Prune

At Makers, we worked on group projects of various sizes, undertook workshops with the coaches, and there was a lot of self-study, including tricky weekend challenges. We mainly worked in Ruby, and latterly JavaScript, but the focus was not on a particular language or framework, but rather developing the skills to be able to pick up new concepts and ideas quickly.  We were introduced to Agile methodologies which were a revelation to me and made me question a lot of the working environments I had previously experienced! There was also a heavy emphasis on emotional intelligence and honing the interpersonal skills that are so important when working on a project with other people. I was very lucky to be in an amazing cohort of twenty people: we came from a wide range of backgrounds but shared an enthusiasm to learn. We still meet up periodically and most of us have now found jobs as software developers.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering a career change?

As for advice for career switchers: it's a cliche, but just do it! I had become deeply unhappy in my previous job and felt stuck in a rut. Learning to code has been one of the best decisions I have made and life suddenly feels very different. I keep having to pinch myself because it all seems so surreal how quickly things have turned around. I turned forty during the Makers bootcamp, and worried that I was too old to change careers but that has not turned out to be the case at all and I genuinely feel my life experience is an asset, even if the switch from history lecturer to coder doesn't seem the most logical.
The 4 newest recruits from Makers Academy
The four latest recruits from Makers Academy bootcamp

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