Journey into the Unknown.

(Images courtesy of unDraw)

As a young, budding professional in the tech industry, I always looked at developers with a sense of awe. How did they learn this complex language to such a degree that they can build products from their imagination? How is it possible to spend all your working day writing code on a screen and not become bat shit crazy and an introvert? I would go on to have several promiscuous affairs with on-screen coders and hackers, Elliott from Mr Robot, Tank from the Matrix, John Travolta in Swordfish. These films, stories and characters only saw my desire to learn this coding superpower increase, although the practical side of actually learning it seemed a distant dream, especially after several instances of an hour or two of fumbling around online to produce some sort of hello world alert,….hmm… powerful…I thinks not.


Let me quickly take you back to paint the picture, I spent my late teens and early 20’s working at a software reseller, acquiring as much knowledge from multiple roles in the sales, support and technical department, this provided me with a pretty much full circle visibility of the business at large, I felt like I knew it all. After engaging with some ‘been there, done it, got the t-shirt’ colleagues within the workplace, I was strongly advised to think about my life, where I’m going, will I have any regrets etc, this eventually concluded with ‘go and have an adventure’, so I did. My wife and I proceeded to travel round SE Asia, Australia and New Zealand, culminating in several trips to and from down under where we would make unbelievable friends and connections that will last a lifetime. Still, something was missing, job fulfilment and a future career that I could truly get my teeth into!

When I first joined the workforce, Nick Webster was my Helpdesk Manager, another one of those early 20 somethings who seemed to possess this coding superpower, not only that but he could actually communicate to people (a skill which seemed to evade most developers I had come into contact with). We set off on the right foot and eventually became very close friends, living with each other and doing things that males in their young 20’s typically tended to do, skateboarding in the house, excessive drinking, plans to take over the world, you know the score. Thankfully I grew out of skateboarding in the house, my wife wouldn’t be happy with chunks of the skirting board disappearing on a daily basis!

Upon our arrival back home from New Zealand, I met up with Nick who had recently left Qlik and started up Websy, an advanced training and consultancy firm specialising in the Qlik products, “very cool” I thought, but not at any stage did I foresee a position for myself being forged within this tech company, I didn’t even know what Qlik was !.... how wrong I was…

As it turns out, there was a position on offer, one where I would have to learn how to code proficiently from scratch, starting out with the 3 building blocks for a typical website, HTML, CSS and JavaScript, I’d then have to learn about Qlik and all the APIs, after that I would need to learn how to turn my hand to training people in a classroom setting. From the outset I was nervous, ‘how the hell am I going to learn all this coding malarkey, there’s so much to learn’ I thought, and after that I’ve got to get up in front of a class for 5 days, a class full of analysts and technically proficient people and teach them how to code too, this is daunting.

"Step by step… day by day… my confidence grew with my new powers"

I wouldn’t say I was yet proficient, but I was at least on the path to becoming a super hero. Grasping any opportunity within my personal life to make a basic website or application that usually served a trivial purpose sincerely sped up my learning (I’m sure a lot of developers can vouch for this, the amount of things you learn on a personal project are unmistakably advantageous and always ended up being utilised within your work life). I attended one of Websy’s Web Development Fast track workshops in London which was hosted by the Qlik Dev Group and instructed by Nick Webster and Peter Webb. The Qlik Dev Group are a fantastic bunch of Qlik Luminaries and professionals who spread the good news of the Qlik products and all that’s available within the Qlik Community, there’s always great guest speakers and if you’re fortunate enough to attend the London events, pizza and beer! What can I say, after only 1 or 2 days I was able to not only build a single page application using HTML, but, using JavaScript, I could connect to Qlik Sense and bring in several visualisations, even creating visualisations-on-the-fly using the Visualization API, very cool stuff. The open wide eyes of a 50 plus audience seemed to thoroughly enjoy learning these new skills, conversing amongst each other about how they’re going to immediately take their new skills into their workplace and use them for ongoing projects, there was a real buzz in the air. A serious eye opener for me was the buzz around this, I want to be a big part of this I thought.

My eureka moment….around 2 months into my learning I was asked by Nick to produce a mashup using some inventiveness. Inventiveness I thought, hmmm, the term ‘creative’ or ‘inventive’ were not attributes placed on my CV, I generally suffered from a lack of imagination. After unsuccessfully searching my psyche for an answer, I decided to look for inspiration online. Imagination and creativity aren’t just ‘there’ within people I thought, they become creative based on their environment, surely if I indulge myself in the truly creative side of the internet I will come up with a thing or two. It didn’t take long. I was searching some old school games (slightly unrelated to work) and found some very neat websites which seemed to adopt the retro 80’s / 90’s gamer themes, here’s my mashup I thought.

developer activity

Off I went, coding away using the skills I’d learned from the Websy training and with my new found inspiration I found myself literally losing track of time whilst coding this basic, but rather cool project. The mashup itself did function as I had expected and although it wasn’t the most beautiful and wonderfully created app, it certainly made me realise that I had the ability to think of something, and then create it. For someone like myself who isn’t particularly handy around the house with tools etc, I finally felt like I could be creative and actually produce something, my superpower was now being realised.

Finally, the thought of teaching a coding class a few months ago was daunting, but that was simply a reflection of my inexperience with coding. After a couple more months of committed learning, I was ready to pass on the knowledge to others, and boy was that an enjoyable experience. Being in a classroom setting and teaching people a skill that they actually want to learn is so rewarding and always ended up being a lot of fun.

Since I started with Websy in March 2017, I have been fortunate enough to visit multiple countries round the globe to teach the art of web development and how to leverage the Qlik APIS within an application, I’ve actually done more travelling with work than I did when I was actually ‘travelling’. As an explorer I guess you could say I sucked, but thankfully with coding I’ve found my raison d'être, or maybe it found me? That’s a quandary for another time ;-)

With the introduction of Websy Academy, an interactive e-learning platform, for Web Development, Qlik and the Qlik APIS, I also now get to stand in front of the camera and share all of this knowledge with even more people.

Knowing what I know now, I wish that everyone who feels like I did about the black box of coding takes advantage of the plethora of material out there and invest in themselves to upskill on web development, it’s a now requirement, it’s a future requirement, with automation and AI taking huge leaps on a yearly basis, the time for upgrading yourself is here.