How I went from a pre-Covid bartender to a post-Covid developer
24th June 2021
It’s February 2020 and I’m seven years into my ‘Gap Decade’. Since graduating university I’ve lived in Australia, New Zealand, France, Canada and a few UK cities. I’ve given up my flat and my restaurant has approved my sabbatical. I’m headed off for six months in Tokyo, culminating in seeing the Olympics and I could not be more excited. I’m more than a decade into the Hospitality industry; bartending, waiting tables and managing venues has funded my dreamlike existence and I am GREAT at it. I love the work, the customers love me and my post-Japan promotion is already being talked about. My partner and I have saved up enough that mortgages are being discussed. Life couldn’t be better, my future is looking rosy, what cloud could possibly darken this bright horizon?
Fast forward two months, and the word on everyone’s masked lips is ‘Pandemic’. My half year in Japan lasted three weeks, my industry is non-existent and I’m quarantining in my parents’ spare room, 350 miles away from my girlfriend. All I know is that today sucks. What I do not know is that for the next year, I will spend all but 6 weeks in that room. I’ll spend less than a dozen days with my girlfriend and that I’ll never wait on tables again.
September came, and I returned to work for 14 glorious shifts before my job disappeared for good. I’ll never forget that day. A Friday night, I’m expecting to bust it for the next 11 hours, bringing smiles to the faces of the good folk of London. Instead, I returned home, full of anger, frustration and hopelessness. I had no idea what to do, so I opened a beer and my laptop and began to make decisions.
I’d been interested in coding for years. I taught myself to write HTML in school, making simple web pages and gaining some popularity for being able to customize my Myspace page better than any of my friends. As time went on, life took me further away from it, but my interest never fully left me. Now in my early 30s, my girlfriend had a totally different work schedule (she’d recently left hospitality for a 9-5 job), my body didn’t bounce back from 14 hour shifts quite as quickly and I was constantly missing out on birthdays and get togethers. I needed a change and I’d been putting it off. Covid brought the inevitable future smashing into my present.
So, I sat at my laptop, third beer in hand, and I clicked ‘Buy’ on an online training course that would completely change my life. The course was split into 2 parts; an online coding syllabus (3-12 months) and one-to-one work with a tutor to build two real world web projects. Minimum time to complete is six months, average is twelve. I sat in that spare room of my parents’ house and smashed it out in five. Knowing I would have no distractions for the foreseeable and with tighter lockdown restrictions on the horizon, I sat and coded all day long, six or seven days a week. Early 2021 I was officially signed off and the job hunt began.
The course came with a job guarantee or your money back, so with the help of a recruiter I got on with building a personal website to showcase myself, and my projects, and got applying. After a couple of weeks of an endless stream of unsuccessful applications, things started improving. I got interviews, I sat technical tests and more recruiters reached out to me. Eventually I made it. While waiting to hear back from one company, I received two job offers on the same day. I went with my preferred choice and began work late in March, the first day of my brand new career.
Now in late June, I’ve finished my probation and things are looking great. I have a wonderful team, full of support and patience. The learning curve has been more like a vertical line at times, but I didn’t get into this job to sit back and let my brain rust. I look forward to Monday mornings, where we plan out what my week will look like, to see what I’ll be doing and learning. After years of fear that an ‘Office Job’ would be the end of my energy and enthusiasm, I’ve never felt so productive and full of potential.
If I have any advice to give, it’s that if you’re reading this and feeling like we have quite a lot in common, but you’re being held back by your fears, then I’d say just jump! Find a way to learn that will be best for you. Is this career for everyone? Of course not, but is any job? There are days when I’m bubbling with frustration and want to throw my laptop at the wall. There are days when I feel like the stupidest person in the room, unable to make the code do what I want before having a more senior developer show me how easy it was all along. But that is what learning feels like, what growing feels like.
I’ll never regret my time travelling the world, serving drinks and carrying plates. But I’m a new me now, in a new chapter in what is becoming an ever more enjoyable book. I’m a better me, a happier me. I’m Me++.
By Steven Hall