Marc Rayner is a Junior Developer at Aeon who joined us after completing Codeclan‘s PSD course in February 2020. Working at Aeon has allowed him to gain a better understanding of the challenges of working within a complex production codebase, continuing to improve and develop his skills. In this interview, Marc gives insight into his day-to-day responsibilities and gives useful tips to those interested in software development.
What’s your background? What inspired you to learn to code?
For me, a move into a developer team has been a long-held ambition. Over the last 6 years, I’ve had several jobs in the tech industry. I can always remember chatting with developers at socials, at times they were speaking a foreign language; they'd break out laughing about something and then have to try to explain it in layman’s terms. Now I find myself on the other side of those conversations! I’ve had some great developer friends & colleagues over the years, they inspired my curiosity to learn more about it.
So many aspects of life today are enhanced by software / tech products, but when you first look at code, it can seem impenetrable and intimidating. Despite that, the door is always open, it is possible, you can learn programming – but a desire to challenge yourself and strong growth mindset is important. The time was right for me in 2020 to take on that challenge.
Beyond that, my broader motivation for a career in the software industry ultimately stems from users. People. I’m happy to be part of an industry which exists to deliver better experiences and more benefits for people who are using their computers and smartphones daily.
Why did you choose Aeon?
I’ve always liked networking and connecting with others. I know that’s tough to do with Covid-19 but whatever opportunities there are to network, do your best to try to engage. I had met our CEO Jamie several times, we had a shared interest in software, and how it can transform old-fashioned ways of working - that is what Aeon does for our users. When he learned I was doing CodeClan, he was looking to bring people on board, so we had a few coffee meetings to discuss the plans for Aeon. I think he saw the value of both my specific junior developer skills but also my all-rounder industry background.
I was interested in the Aeon product and particularly excited to see the codebase was largely React and Ruby - technologies with which I have the most experience with so far at this early point in my career; they were “nice to haves” for a first junior role. Once I learned more about the product and projects which lay ahead this year, along with the impending lockdown back in March, it became very clear that Aeon was the right opportunity at the right time.
What do you do as a junior developer?
The first thing I did was look at the codebase for a few days and try to keep my composure. It’s quite a jump from school projects to your first production codebase!
From there, I was able to start chipping away at tasks which were created following a UX feedback exercise relating to a major product overhaul. I started small: changing the positioning of certain items, improving behaviours on various pages and fixing some issues. There's been a lot of frontend stuff in React but quite a bit on the backend as well. Ruby / Rails may have been overtaken in popularity in recent times, but it's still here, it works well for us, we're handling a complicated database with it. I’ve also got acquainted with the legacy front-end app, as we still leverage a number of its features. Tens of thousands of lines of jQuery!
Gradually, my tasks are starting to get a little more complex, our current work combines aspects of the new product with some new bespoke functionality for a client. We use Jira and Github to track everything that’s happening, and we're fortunate to have a great experienced senior developer Colin who has been a massive help in getting me up and running.
What do you enjoy the most about your job?
So far I’d say it’s definitely the continued learning & growth on the technical side. That was part of my whole motivation for investing in myself in the first place - my career had reached a point where I had stopped learning, which is not a great place for any ambitious person. Now that I've made changes, I'm learning again, more so than I have in years.
I’m focused, digging through documentation and resources to help solve the trickier problems which I encounter when trying to build something or change the way something works. Ultimately that's the fundamental aspect of being a developer: problem solving, whether it's a change, new feature or fix, it's a programming problem. I'm enjoying my improved ability to get simpler things solved fairly quickly and tackling some slightly more complicated challenges.
What have you learnt during your time at Aeon?
Well, I've only been here a few months, so I’ve not quite learned how to write an app as complex as Aeon myself! But I’ve made good progress, I’ve learned how to navigate the codebase and better understand the ways in which components interact. I'm also getting a lot better at reading and quickly understanding developer documentation - which I think is just something that improves with time. The big thing I want to learn is about how to interpret requirements, designs or issues and convert them into the specific developer actions which deliver the result you need - that's how you bring ideas and innovation into reality. Experience is important in that area, so I know I still have a lot to learn.
I’ve also discovered a bit about myself as I’ve been working fully remote for the first time - you have to be able to create the right environment and routine, to stay fresh, motivated and focused when it’s just you and your desk!
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to become a software developer?
The #1 thing would be practice. There are tons of free resources out there online for self-learning. Continued practice can take you up to a certain point, it can actually take some people all the way into their first job - if you build and deploy good projects which you can point to and demonstrate working software, employers will take notice.
For me, I really wanted to go back to a classroom environment. I had known about CodeClan’s success for some years, I felt it gave me the best chance of a quick return on investment; my goal was to become a Junior Developer by mid-2020 and I’ve achieved that. It’s a great option for folks in Scotland who have an interest in programming but also want a course with proven results. I left with a solid set of projects and good education in developer fundamentals & habits, and had a lot of fun on the journey.
What skills are required to become a developer at Aeon?
Right now, we're still planning the next stage of recruitment, but it looks our next signing will be a mid-level developer. Our senior dev has 20 years’ experience, I have less than a year, so we ideally need someone somewhere in the middle! Any background or interest in geology would be a benefit but not a pre-requisite - I have minimal geology background at all but I’m finding it great to learn that alongside the development side.
We are always open to finding new talent to join our our team. If you think you might fit in with what we need, please drop us a note with a copy of your CV at firstname.lastname@example.org.