16th September 2021

From boogaloo to binary: Daniel Awaritefe shares his journey to celebrate National Coding Week

Matt Hayes

Matt Hayes

When furloughed from his previous job at a fitness centre during the pandemic, coding provided an opportunity to forge a new career path.

In July this year, Daniel joined the Fat Beehive team as a frontend developer and has since begun working with a number of clients across the third sector. Previously a dancer and fitness instructor, we sat down to talk about his remarkable journey up to now and why coding offered him opportunities he hadn’t thought possible before to coincide with National Coding Week.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into coding?

‘Where to start? Once I finished university I started to dance, which had always been a passion of mine and I was dancing for around 10 years. I still love to dance, though not professionally it’s more or less only after a few pints now! It was great fun but financially I wasn’t sure it was a viable option, so I switched to more fitness based roles. I started managing fitness studios which I loved! I wasn’t sure it was what I wanted to do all my life but it was great at the time and it offered me a healthy and happy lifestyle. 

I’d been with a new studio for 2 or 3 months when Covid struck and that was obviously damaging for the health and fitness sector. I was placed on furlough and for a while when the weather was good it was non-stop fun, drinking in the park and going on long walks was really all that I did for a few months. After a few months, however, I started to suspect redundancy may be around the corner as the pandemic wore on and so I started to reflect on my career options. I did start to think about dance again but after a conversation with my brother, I researched coding and thought it looked like something I could get involved in.’

Had you ever considered coding as a career before the COVID-19 pandemic or was this a leap into the unknown?

‘To me, coding had always been something completely inaccessible and just simply not an option. Even when I spoke to friends and family I think it came as a surprise to them because it was this job reserved for people who studied computer science or people in films who hack into systems as part of a bank robbery! On top of that, I thought I had probably missed the boat being 34, so I guess I saw a lot of red flags being waved before I’d even started. 

I had looked at a few other options during that time too, I considered a more manual job such as being a plumber or electrician and I’d even looked into engineering. For all of these options though, there was always an apprenticeship route or 2-3 years of study needed before I would be where I wanted to be and I felt as though I just didn’t have that time available. Funnily enough, around that time I caught up with an old colleague who explained how he’d got into coding and basically expelled all the myths I’d heard about! He explained how he’d recently completed a boot camp in 12 weeks and was now in a new job in the tech sector, after that I really started to give it some thought and after some research, I took a bit of a gamble and signed up for a class myself!’

National coding week banner

What sort of challenges did you face when you decided to pursue coding?

‘Oddly enough one of the most challenging things I faced was family friends! I know that might sound odd but it comes from a good place. Given how turbulent life had been in general during the height of the pandemic, I think the reason for those close to me trying to talk me out of such a risk was purely to protect me which, looking back, I obviously appreciate but I was confident in my research and decision to go ahead and get started. It was a massive risk for me personally but now I’ve completed my course and landed a job I feel vindicated! 

In terms of coding itself, I think it’s just the wealth of information available and the challenge is how you begin to try and make sense of it all. I had started trying to teach myself some of the basics before my boot camp started but, once on the course, I found myself applying knowledge in a much more structured way and learning better habits. Even transitioning into a workplace environment, there’s still so much to learn but that’s something I relish and it keeps me hungry and motivated each day.’

In your opinion, what needs to change to bridge the skills and accessibility gaps within coding?

‘I don’t think there’s a silver bullet to solve these problems and I think it’s fair to say there are nuances in how you address the issues. I think primarily, there needs to be a greater education at a younger age to get kids into coding, no matter their gender or ethnic background. As I mentioned, there are a host of schemes now which do well to reach groups who perhaps haven’t had the opportunity previously, but I think there needs to be a greater shift in attitudes to combat the idea that coding is reserved for A-grade students and university-educated people who are typically white. 

Maybe things are changing now but I also think that there needs to be a drive in the importance of coding within the education system in the UK. Now more than ever we’re digitally connected and yet it seems like the focus throughout education still priorities maths, English and science. I’m not saying these aren’t important but there seems to be a lack of a natural pathway from a school education that would inspire kids to get into coding.

Perhaps there needs to be a focus from commercial enterprises to bridge this gap. I got to where I am now without a university degree and thankfully it’s worked out but there are so many opportunities for work that companies could look at how to inspire the next generation of coders. I think without organisations being proactive about diversifying coding, nothing tends to happen.’

How have you found the journey of transitioning from the boot camp to being a professional coder?

‘Coding has probably been one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life in all honesty. If you love problem-solving or simply have a curious mind, then coding is for you. Don’t get me wrong, the journey has been difficult, I’ve had days where it’s felt like my brain is going to implode from the sheer amount of information I’ve had to consume but I’ve always had the support of the team here at Fat Beehive so that’s been incredibly reassuring. I would say also that the boot camp connected me with people with who I’m still in contact now, and being on that journey together has meant that they’re always open to sharing knowledge and expertise when needed, it’s a real community spirit. 

I do have to mention also how thankful I am for the opportunity Fat Beehive has provided me with, not many companies would be willing to take a chance on someone who’s so recently learnt to code but they’ve fully supported me in learning and training and I now get to work with inspiring organisations every day.’

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