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Rising to the challenge – AO’er Ryan, goes from Baker to Coder

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Ryan is one of our Senior Software Engineers. He’s a perfect example of why companies shouldn’ make too much of someone’s decision to go to university or not. While we certainly offer opportunities for graduates looking for their first job, we’re always mindful that every individual is much more than the sum of their education choices.

Ryan’s current role is all about making online shopping easier for our customers. It’s a varied role within a very fast-moving area of the business, but Ryan helps us quickly adapt to challenges. Dividing his time between his desk and team meetings, he collaborates with his colleagues to make important advances on everything from designing systems to coding.

Excited to finally leave high school behind him, Ryan decided not to pursue further education. Instead, he dove straight into the working life, taking on all manner of casual jobs before settling into a role as a baker. As much as he enjoyed spending his time serving up freshly made breads and pastries, he knew baking wasn’ going to be a lifelong occupation.

Recognising that the future would see a rise in demand for coding specialists, he set about teaching himself IT software languages with a view to establishing a career as a coder.

In Ryan’s own words, ‘I knew in my heart of hearts that I should be doing more with my career. One day, my brother, who’s an IT developer, threw a Teach Yourself Coding book at me. I knew there’d be more and more of a demand for these kinds of skills, so I decided to open the book, literally and figuratively, on my career as a coder!’

After spending up to 10 hours a day learning different coding languages, he found himself developing a genuine passion for software. Six months later, armed with a self-administered curriculum of coding knowledge, he decided to pursue a role in the tech world.

As much as he had faith in his ability as a coder, he wasn’ too optimistic when he put his CV online, anticipating that his lack of experience and formal education would put him far behind other candidates.

But we looked at Ryan’s story a little differently. It’s one thing to learn the complexities of coding with the support of a formal education. But to learn it on your own in between tiring night and day shifts in a bakery was something else altogether, so we decided to bring him in for an interview.

Impressing us in person with his self-taught understanding of different coding languages, we knew we had found someone with a genuine passion for the craft. We immediately offered him a Junior Developer role to see how he would fare in a professional environment. His worries that he would be a fish out of water turned out to be wholly unfounded. Everyone made him feel at home, providing the support and flexibility for him to wrap his head around practices and protocols without undue pressure. Six years later, and Ryan has risen through the ranks to become a Senior Software Developer.

Ryan’s story just goes to show that it’s never too late to use your initiative and try something new. Who knows where it could take you? There are plenty of smart employers who appreciate the hidden value of an unconventional career route. AO is bursting with stories of individuals like Ryan, and we’re always ready to read between the lines of a CV to identify future potential. Whatever your story, we can’ wait to hear it. AO, let’s go!