This article was written by freelancer Charlie Duffield

It’s never too early to start thinking about your career, and with our ever more digitalised world, you might not have to look far for inspiration. If you’re fascinated by technology, how things work behind big screens, or are addicted to apps, a career in the ever expanding tech industry could be a good fit.

Do you fancy learning to code? If it’s an area you’re interested in, it’s a great future investment; the UK tech sector is creating jobs at twice the rate of the rest of the economy, and the IT and digital industry contribute around £97 billion to the UK economy each year. It’s even reported that up to one million STEM-related jobs will be unfilled by 2020 unless computer coding is taught in schools – so there’s a real demand for tech savvy employees and code stars of the future.

The even better news is that you don’t need a specific background or skillset to get started in the world of tech – just lots of enthusiasm and dedication! We caught up with two young people who are already working in different parts of industry to better understand how to get started…

“It’s so easy to learn to code nowadays”

 
Matt Ward is 20 years old and from the Isle of Man. He works as a software developer for CoinCorner and learnt about cryptocurrency when he was at school. When completing an internship with CoinCorner he realised the potential of Bitcoin, and how fun the industry could be! After taking Computer Science at GCSE level, and learning to code, he went to work for a local IT company, fixing computers and servers. However he decided it wasn’t for him, and kept thinking back to his internship and how great the team and industry had been…

He’s now a software developer for CoinCorner, one of the UK’s leading Bitcoin Exchanges. “Mainly my work consists of building the new CoinCorner App that was submitted for release earlier this week. I also help with creating our API and some bits on the CoinCorner website.”

Crucially, he was building his skills from the time he left school. “I was always creating little projects with code, such as iOS apps and websites. These were never good enough to release, but I needed to build my skills somewhere!”

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“The only skills you need to learn to code are dedication and self-discipline”

 
“There are so many free resources online, and many schools offer coding as an after school club or even as part of the curriculum. It can be very overwhelming at first – and you’ll want to give up many times – but as long as you make it fun for yourself, by creating the projects you’d like to see (no matter how bad they look or however many bugs the code contains!), you’ll want to drive yourself to learn.”

As a software developer for CoinCorner, every day is different. For Matt, the worst aspect is how negative people can be about the industry. “Reading some of the fake news about the industry and seeing some of the fraudulent services that consumers are being caught out by is heart-breaking. Our team works hard to educate the general public about Bitcoin and improve how people see the industry. For example, we created a Medium page this year and are sharing company and industry stories.”

“People just don’t realise how creative coding is!”

 
Olivia is 17 years old and from Liverpool, although she’s already working and studying in Manchester as a Junior Software Developer at Code Nation. Like Matt, her interest in tech also began at school when she was 14 years old. She was really impressed by companies like Apple, and how creative they are with new technology. “I was really keen to learn more about how they work, and the magic behind it all!’

Olivia studied computing for her GCSEs and then went to college to study for a BTEC level three Extended Diploma in IT. “I started off learning Python and small programmes, then moved onto databases using MySQL. I did plan on going to university, but in my second year of college my friend recommended Code Nation, as they were on the course, and I just felt that it was more suited to my personality. So, I left college and continued my studies at Code Nation instead.”

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“Coding school has helped me grow both personally and professionally”

 
Code Nation is a coding school, headquartered in Manchester, which is supported by 40+ businesses that pledge to interview their students when they’re looking to hire a Junior Developer. The school not only teaches students to code, but also helps them to secure jobs and prepare them for the working environment.

After finishing her Masters course, the team at Code Nation helped Olivia secure a 15 month apprenticeship at Createk. “I’m a full-time employee and Junior Software Developer at just 17! I’m now back at Code Nation on another three-month course (while earning a salary) that’s been tailored to the work I’m doing for Createk.”

For Olivia, attending a coding school helped build her confidence. “The way that we work here is very similar to if we were working in-house at a software development company, so I feel more prepared for work than when I was at college. The course has taught me how to multitask, manage my own workload and work in a team.”

“Tech is such a huge part of our daily lives”

 
“I’m really excited to be part of the industry. If I could offer any advice to people thinking about software development, it’s to look at all the options available to them and pick the one that’s right for you. For me, an apprenticeship felt more ‘me’ than university and I’m glad I made this decision. It’s offered me access to the digital industry, which I may not have had through uni. Plus, I’ll have a couple of years’ experience in work before most people my age have graduated!”

You need to be dedicated, passionate and adaptable. You’re not just learning a new language, but a lot of different versions of it in an industry that’s always changing. For example, I’m teaching myself a coding language called Ruby right now. If you have the drive and the desire to keep learning, then you could be part of some of the future’s biggest advancements in tech and that, to me, is really exciting.”

Olivia met loads of new people through her job, with everyone coming from a different background. “Being around people who have more life experience than I do has been amazing in boosting my confidence!

“It was nerve wracking at first, but I’ve never felt more comfortable in a learning environment”

 
Starting an apprenticeship was overwhelming for Olivia at first, and it was her first real job, working alongside colleagues a lot older than herself. “I’m taking all these new experiences in my stride and using my age as an advantage, by bringing new ideas that my older colleagues may not have considered.”

One downside Olivia has noticed is the lack of women. “I think the tech industry is going to need a good mix of men and women as it grows, to help bring new ideas to the table and make sure new tech benefits more people.” However, there’s a lot of team support available and collaboration such as Kanban boards, group projects and lightning talks.

Olivia is still learning as much as she can from the working world, but hopes to become an expert at both front and back-end development so she can work on high profile projects.