The intersection of creativity and logic

“I feel like I learned in one week, what I learned in my whole software paper. It’s just amazing, the pace they get you to learn at — and they teach you how to learn.”

After looking for a new challenge and getting hooked on programming, Thomas Codling had the “best experience of his life” at Enspiral Dev Academy.

Thomas had taken a few different paths at university but found none were quite right for him. He started working as a Claims Officer at ACC (Accident Compensation Corporation). “It was really interesting, but it got to the point where I stopped learning — and once I stopped learning and it was just the grind, it stopped being fun.” Thomas made the decision to change careers, but he also wanted to do something productive while figuring things out. He remembered enjoying Codecademy, and started a subscription to follow their Web Development learning track which combined HTML, CSS, Javascript, React, and some testing.

“About a third of the way into it, I was addicted.”

As someone who had “always loved math”, Thomas had taken software engineering papers at university, but even he was uninspired by the focus on calculations and formulae. “I was still learning programming and I really liked it. I just couldn’t really imagine what a job in programming would look like.” 

That changed with web development. “As soon as I started making websites, I was into it. Programming really engages the math part of my brain, and design engages the creative part of my brain.” He started doing his research on programming jobs and the advice pointed to bootcamps being the best way in. With that, he enrolled for the next intake at the Dev Academy Wellington campus. 

Just one week into Bootcamp, the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown was announced and he headed home to be with family on Waiheke Island, Auckland. “It was initially pretty shocking with all of the chaos going on in the world, but once I got into a good routine it was totally fine! The regular lectures and closing circles were great for keeping me busy while I was stuck at home over lockdown.”

Thomas (on screen, bottom right) when the cohort came back to the Pōneke campus after lockdown

Despite being remote, the teamwork and human skills aspects of Bootcamp were what Thomas really wanted to focus on. In the move to online learning, the teaching team ensured that students still had the experience of working in teams and live pair programming. The working environment was perfect for him to hone his collaboration and communication skills, and the final group project was the ultimate test. After a morning of everyone in the cohort pitching and voting on ideas, his project made the cut and he had the opportunity to work with a team to create the final product — PlantHeads, a database for finding information on plants, as well as a place for people to buy and sell plants. “I was the project lead as well as working on the front-end of the website. We had another front-end team member, two back end developers, and someone in charge of authentication.”

“This was an incredible experience for all of us, and while I feel we have all gotten so much better technically even since then, I’m still super proud of what my group was able to achieve.”

Getting the real-life team experience was crucial, Thomas says, “especially when you’re working in an Agile team that’s trying to produce something. I was trying to figure out where I fit in. I have a tendency to want to control what’s going on and I knew that, so it was nice to test myself in situations and see if I could let someone else take the reins.”

One of the best parts of the Human Skills curriculum for Thomas was the values and identity exploration. “I learned so much about myself as a person during these exercises! I also gained a huge appreciation for my family and those around me.” He enjoyed the constant interactions with his cohort during weekly Human Skills deep dives and on Discord. “We all still became close and I have definitely made friends for life even though the interactions were mostly online.”

That connection came through on graduation night, too. His family watched the livestream on the TV at home, along with almost 100 other whānau and friends of the cohort around New Zealand and overseas. During the ceremony, teachers present each student with a taonga and say some words of praise, recognition, even some inside jokes. “As they got to each person the chat would fill up with compliments from everyone in the cohort for that particular person…it just warmed my heart.”

Thomas talking about the inspiration behind his final project, PlantHeads, on the night of (virtual) graduation

Since graduating, Thomas has continued to fuel his passion for learning. Alongside solidifying his React knowledge, he has dabbled in Ruby on Rails, Typescript, and Phaser, a JavaScript library for making video games. “Ruby on Rails is by far my favourite of the technologies I have tried so far. Phaser is really easy to get started with and I have only really scratched the surface of what it can do.”

His advice to others who might be interested in coding is simple: “Just do it. It was one of the best experiences of my life — even if it was in the middle of a global pandemic. Even the support you get after Bootcamp is incredible. I’ve reached out a few times for support from the teachers and they’ve given me so much help.”

With so many interests, Thomas is ready to explore the opportunities in tech.

“The field is so big, and I’ve been excited by everything I do. I don’t feel ready to lock myself into anything. All I really know right now is that I want to be behind a keyboard, programming.”


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