Future Focus: A musician turned coder looks to the future

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As part of our Future Focus series, we're ushering in the new decade by looking to the future. We're catching up with Flatiron School alumni to see where they've been, where they're going, and why they're excited about the future.

Raised in the United Kingdom, Ian Harrison grew up passionate about music, but first discovered technology on a desktop computer as a kid. He lost touch with programming, but built a career as a professional musician.

Many years later, Ian was in need of a career change when a friend suggested Flatiron School. Now, he's got a new career as a developer and is excited about the future of tech—and its impacts on the music industry, specifically

How did you first become interested in tech? What brought you to Flatiron School? Where are you today?

When I was 11 my dad got us our first desktop computer, which had a program that allowed you to code in Visual Basic pre-installed.. I got a book to learn the basics and started building some very basic CLI programs. I really loved it, but unfortunately the computer was replaced one year later and the new one didn’t come with the same pre-installed software, so I lost touch.

I discovered the guitar at this point too, which then became my main passion and led to me becoming a professional musician for most of my adult life. This continued until about 18 months ago, when I decided that I needed to make a career change. I started speaking to a few friends who were developers or worked in tech, and began to think this was something I could do. I started to look at free resources online and felt that same spark of excitement that I felt back when I was 11 and I knew I’d found what I was looking for.

Whilst teaching myself the basics, I started researching professional courses and ways into the industry, at which point I came across Flatiron School, which had just opened in London. The course structure, pacing, careers services support, and the deferred tuition arrangements all made it feel like the obvious way to kick-start my career. After some more independent study, I applied, started the course in November 2018, and never looked back. Today, I’m in my final week as a Software Engineering Coach at the London Campus—I joined as an employee after 

graduation—and will be starting a new job as a Junior Front-End Developer at Which? in the coming weeks! 

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How has your life changed since graduation from Flatiron School ?

To be honest, my whole life has changed pretty massively from the moment I first started as a student. Since I started the course, I travel into London from Kent by train for an hour each morning and night, which I’d never done. This has meant a lot of early mornings, late nights and long days, as well as a lot of intense learning and work. As someone who had been self-employed since school, I’d never had an office job, or a commute or commuted before this all came as a bit of a shock to the system initially, but I loved what I was doing which made it easier to adjust. The best part of studying and then teaching here has been getting to know so many wonderful people, as classmates and then colleagues, who I’m sure I’ll stay in touch with when I leave and am excited to see what their future careers will look like as well.

What excites you most about the next decade in tech?

This may sound kinda strange, but I’m looking forward to the tech industry growing up. There seems to have been a real movement in recent years towards making people aware of the societal and ethical implications of changes of the tech industry, which is long overdue. As time goes on the industry is going to become ever more powerful and pivotal in shaping how we work, live and think. 

So, it’s a good thing that we’re addressing important issues head on, so that working in tech doesn’t becomes something people try to hide and aren’t proud of anymore.

The industry has continued potential to do amazing good for the world—if the last 20 years are any indication.

What do you hope to accomplish in your career in the next 10 years? What does 2030 look like for you?

There’s a saying among developers that you should look back on code you wrote 6 months ago and be embarrassed, which highlights the fact that you’re constantly learning as a developer. This is what excites me about my career path. Despite the fact I’ve learnt so much in the last 18 months, I’ve only just uncovered the tip of the iceberg in my code. My main goal is to continue to be able to look back at my code with embarrassment, even after 10 years of being a developer. 

With regards to my career, at some point I want to combine my love of code with my love of music and work for a company that’s at the forefront of the music industry—helping to change how musicians write, record, and produce music. I’ve always been fascinated by this side of being a musician, as digital technology has changed how musicians work dramatically over the decades. I would love to be able to contribute to the future of the music industry and leave my mark on things, too.

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