I always find it fascinating to see exactly what courses, including our current Ladders programme in collaboration with Generator, can do to influence young people’s lives in any capacity. How do they utilise the experience and how much of a role has it played in their success?
When it comes to the tech industry, it seems that only the passion and dedication to developing skills is all you need to pursue a career in the sector. It was David Campbell, freelance software developer, who solidified my perception. I was fortunate enough to meet David at Campus North, the leading tech hub for Software Development companies in the North East, to chat about his story and exactly how his experience on the Ladders programme in 2017 affected his career choices.
Well, my Dad was a programmer, but I never really considered it. I was more of an artist at the time, so I never really saw the link between the two creative sectors. With that in mind, I went to do Games Design which had a lot to do with programming and after that, I was no longer fully dedicated to art.
So, finding out about Ladders when I did was terrific because I found out that I could not only learn and use programming, especially with Newcastle being one of the best places to be in the tech industry, but I found that I could continue my passion for design as well. What Phil taught me on Ladders was that I could build websites using the new skill of programming whilst also be using the design skills I already had.
So how did you find out about Ladders?
My father found it actually because of his interest in programming. He just approached me one day and shown me the advertisement, said ‘this sounds really interesting’. I was kind of in the mindset to pursue design at the time and I only needed a vague knowledge of programming. I was actually going to be a concept artist for games, that was the idea.
Ah, I see. Because of your minimal programming experience, were you hesitant when you first started the course?
I knew that everyone was in the same situation that I was because when you go into other courses, they don’t necessarily start straight from scratch. But starting from scratch was exactly what Ladders was about. There were people who had masses of knowledge and just wanted to know even more but there were also people just like me.
So actually, you thought it was a good thing having different people with different skills on the same course?
Absolutely. What it did was that I could see where it could take me. It was full of interesting people doing interesting things that I eventually thought, wow, I could be doing that too!
On a general note, what was the experience like at Ladders?
It was truly great and so much fun. I particularly like the way it was formatted. The opportunity to run your own project was just brilliant. I was still an artist at that point, so I just made a portfolio website for myself, so it was nice to correlate the projects.
How about the tours and meeting people from industry?
It was really interesting to find out that they started off quite similar to me. Many of them had drastic career changes, didn’t study software at university and only did small programmes such as Ladders. It was helpful to hear that it could be possible for someone like me.
What was it like working with your fellow Ladders peers? Did you support each other in any way?
At the time, I was doing more of the critiquing of the design of their websites and they were helping me more with the complicated programming techniques. But I remember actively asking for a way to make my website more complicated, even though I didn’t need to, just so I could learn more.
So, you essentially challenged each other which would’ve been so useful.
Yeah, and the whole point of it is to grasp the opportunity and learn as much as possible so it certainly played a part in that.
What was it like working with Phil, our Software Development mentor?
(Sigh) He’s just the best, such a great guy. He keeps in touch now to check on how I’m doing. I really enjoyed chatting with Phil, figuring out what exactly I should learn and where I could take this. He really encouraged me to work outside of the courses, giving me so many resources to keep working on and so on.
Now tell me about your current job!
Interesting. How did you use your Ladders experience to move onto Nebula Labs?
Well to start, two of the founders of Nebula Labs are my high school peers so watching them and Dylan, who has been designing apps and programming since he was 13. But it always felt for me like something they could do, and I could never do. They really encouraged me to give it a go so putting myself through Ladders programme and building my skills more and more led to his belief that I’d be useful in the company and it makes me very happy that I’m actually still learning on the job.
Most importantly, my experience at Ladders essentially gave me a portfolio. In the tech industry, degrees and certificates don’t matter, they want to see a finished result. The fact that I made my own website was much more valuable.
We’re massively expanding. Newcastle has a massive tech hub and we have so much inward investment and a generally huge community. Campus North is an example of just how collaborative and community-driven we are. I mean, the offices are always messaging each other and advising each other which just represents Newcastle in general. It’s a really helpful, collaborative group of people who just want to support each other in succeeding.
Finally, would you recommend the Ladders Software Development course?
Anyone who’s unsure of what they want to do – just try programming. There are only a few jobs that won’t have any relevance at all to software skills. It’s adaptable. And of course, if you find that you like it, then there are so many careers in tech that you can fall into and Newcastle is the best place to be for it.
To find out more about David’s work, Nebula Labs and the Ladders Software Development course, check out the links below:
Nebula Labs: https://nebulalabs.co.uk/
Ignite Accelerator Belfast: https://nebulalabs.co.uk/portfolio-item/ignite-accelerator-web-experience/
Newcastle Film Festival app
Newcastle Start-Up Week: https://nebulalabs.co.uk/portfolio-item/newcastle-startup-week-mobile-app/
Mouth of the Tyne Festival: https://nebulalabs.co.uk/portfolio-item/mouth-of-the-tyne-festival-web-experience/