AO Jobs
  • People Stories

Swapping front line for front end – Sam’s story

Back to articles

I’m Sam and I’m a Front End Developer at AO, but my early career was very different.  

I joined the Royal Marines at 17 years old and spent most of my career in Scotland and Wales. It was just before the pandemic hit in 2020 when I finished my last draft at 45 Commando RM as a Platoons Weapons Instructor (PW2). It’s safe to say I’ve operated in some arduous environments, from the Jungles of Guatemala to the Arctic mountains of Norway.  

Leaving the Royal Marines

Like anything in the Military, a lot of planning and preparation goes into any task you do. I had a full year to plan and prepare my departure but not knowing what I wanted to do was a scary thought!  

I attended all the resettlement courses I could, ranging from CV writing to interview techniques, as well as roadshows aimed at service leavers. I also reached out to friends and family to gain experience in some of their worlds which really opened my eyes to the reality of working life as a civilian.  

Landing on coding

I was out having some lunch when someone suggested I should look into coding. My interest was certainly peaked so I did some research and found a few companies in Manchester that ran these coding bootcamps.  

Before committing to a three-month bootcamp, I explored some free learning platforms where I began to teach myself code. This was definitely the route I wanted to go down, so I used some of my Military pension to sign up with Codenation and make the leap into coding. 

Finding AO

Whilst I was coming towards the end of the bootcamp, I applied for several different tech jobs – but with no success. I took another job just to cover my bills and was constantly trying to up-skill in between shift work, but it felt like I was slipping away from securing that first job in tech. 

Then one day, I had a phone call asking if I would be interested in an apprenticeship at a company called AO. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity! I was lucky enough to pass the interview process and was offered the apprenticeship a week later as a Front End Developer. 

Becoming an apprentice

When I first joined AO, I went back onto a coding bootcamp to kickstart my apprenticeship. It was different to my first one as it was completely tailored towards my new role. I was put into a newly formed team with a mentor – and I really did land on my feet. The knowledge I was gaining from everyone in the team was unbelievable. If I was struggling with something, there was always someone on hand to jump on a quick call and talk me through it. 

I spent a lot of my days pairing with my mentor or mobbing with the team on bugs that may come up. I was getting the work I needed to complete my apprenticeship and more knowledge around the domain I was working in. I had exposure to front end, back end, agile ways of working, the different roles within the business and so much more. The people that were in my team were pivotal in my progression and I can’t thank them enough.  

Adapting to a new way of life

One of the biggest challenges I faced was battling my imposter syndrome. I questioned myself so many times, doubting if I had the right skills to transfer across to another career. Having now spent 2 ½ years at AO, I can undoubtedly say I have so many skills, the list doesn’t end – from being able to work as part of a team or pick up some work alone and get it done.  

I would always volunteer to run different ceremonies, whether that be a quiz at Christmas or a demo to stakeholders. Being front and centre was the best part of my career in the Royal Marines so this is still something I love and feel comfortable doing. 

Not only was I adjusting to a new working world, I was also trying to find my feet back in civilian life. At times it was difficult – having been in the Military for 12 years and being around people 24/7 and always on the move – I now had to work from home due to the pandemic and not travel or have people around me.  

Looking to the future

The last 2 ½ years at AO have truly been amazing – passing my apprenticeship with distinction was testament to the people I work with, past and present. I started a new career at the bottom and came into it with minimal tech experience and not once has anybody looked down at me for that – they have only gone out of their way to help. 

I’ve always been a ‘people person’ and I’m so excited to see what the future holds. My favourite colour has definitely stayed on track from Royal Marines Green to AO green! 

Sam Hall 
Front End Developer