Episode 1 – Alfie Darko

  1. Tell us about your journey to becoming a Software Engineer?

So around 2 years ago, me and my friend wanted to make some money & we got the idea to start a cleaning company as an in-way to eventually get into property management.
We needed a site and being that I had some experience putting sites together from when I was a kid (from myspace etc.) & just messing around with the idea of coding previously too so I thought let me have a go.

It took a a while (and many cups of coffee) but I was able to complete it in the end and it meant we could go live and take bookings online from the get go. I found that I really enjoyed this. It combined being technical, being investigative and being creative which really got me engaged and kept me coming back.

It’s funny because one day I was randomly looking on reed to see how much front end devs get paid and I saw a contract role saying £500 per day. That was enough motivation for me to chase this down lol.

It’s good that there are entry paths that you can take without going to uni because I wasn’t ready to do 3+ years of learning for a computer science degree, especially as we had just started a business too. I just carried on learning anything that was interesting to me in regard to software engineering on the side.

One day I was on the net and a tweet popped up on twitter, a fellowship/scholarship programme by Makers Academy. Instead of paying £10,000 for the 4-month intensive course, they were offering a number of free places by those who showed great promise in their 3 stage interview & assessment process. I applied as quickly as humanly possible. 

Got through, did the interview, got turned down.

A few days later, I get an email saying that there were so many amazing candidates they had extended how many places they were offering and would like to offer me one. Life hits you fast!

After the course, they had an arrangement that they where trialling where they actually paid me until I got a job which was great & it meant I could focus on upskilling and interviews.

Eventually got a front-end developer role which so far I am 9 months into today.

2. You were running a company called “ClickServices” where you was a co-founder, tell us more about your company and what experiences you learned ?

Yep so I’m still involved with that to this day. I said we started as a cleaning company but have moved into Inventory reports, removals, carpet cleaning & we manage a number of Airbnb/ holiday rental properties now. We want to push forward and eventually have our own properties under offering eventually, that’s the our furthest goal atm.  

I think one good thing I’ve learnt how some of the SAAS offerings can really help business owners save time. It’s only recently that we have stopped sending manual invoices via email and allowed a service to do that for us. It saves so much time. Whenever there is technology that can save you time, go for it! A lot of companies in our space don’t really utilize technology like that, in fact, many don’t have a website & that leaves them at a disadvantage when the next set of tech-savvy competitors give them a run for their money.

3. How can we get more ethnic minorities in Tech ? 

I think we need to promote how much money you can make & how quickly. Especially living in London. At Makers there were a few people in my cohort who came from a finance background and wanted to get into another potentially well paid but with less stress. Doesn’t just have to be career-wise too. It’s a useful practical skill in today’s world, people will always want to give you money.

Also the entry to software engineering without a degree is abit foggy. Most people don’t know that you can somehow get into this without a degree although that is changing to an extent.

If someone told me I can wear a tracksuit to work everyday when I was young, I would have been doing this years ago lol.

There are quite a lot of things in tech that would attract more ethnic minorities if they knew, but probably the most important one is visibility! People in tech blogging, tweeting and talking to people about what they do highlights to other minorities that there are people who look like you in this industry who are thriving and making good money.

4. What advice would you give to someone trying to get into the tech industry ?

Prepare to keep learning. In tech things change quickly. So you do have to regularly learn new things and do some reading/research. 

Make / Follow a curriculum! Check these bootcamp curriculums and just learn what they are learning. It’s all on github / internet! 

Talk to other tech people. Learn how they got their entry into tech, everybody has a different story.

5. What is the future goal for Alfie ?

Mostly to build our current business until the point where I can take what I do at work into our own company.

I’ve been playing around with starting an SAAS business but that’s later down the line! I’m still playing around with ideas that can utilize my past experiences as my advantage! Music production was my past love so It would be amazing to do something in the Music Tech or Music Business area as there are lots of problems to solve!


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