"To do anything proper in computing I thought I needed a degree. In hindsight I'm not sure this holds true.
Whilst I gained some useful experience...
I could have gotten real world industry experience sooner."
What inspired you to follow this career path?
Stock nerd answer: computer club. At my secondary school you could eat your lunch in the "computer room" and mess around on the BBC Micro and the Acorn Archimedes (phwoar, those were the days!). It was highly unsupervised by the teachers and you could play around doing anything you liked.
I think my technical curiosity was triggered by this opportunity and it's where I learnt about systems, floppy disks, scanners, printers and then how to make the computers do things! With enough work you can could make it do whatever you liked! It just blew my mind. Friends and I would have boxes of floppy discs with games, programming stuff, etc. My family didn't have a computer at home until much later so I think this is where it all started.
Web Development was a later thing when we got a PC at home and my Dad started getting “PC Plus” magazine. In those days computer magazines still covered programming and they had an ongoing feature about how to write these new fangled Internet Explorer compatible documents. I was intrigued by the fact you could just load Notepad, write this strange angle brackety language, and a beautiful document would be displayed. It all went from there...
What was your experience of getting into the industry?
Doing a Computer Science degree seemed like a good idea after sixth form. To do anything proper in computing I thought I needed a degree. In hindsight I'm not sure this holds true. Whilst I gained some useful experience and knowledge at Edinburgh University I could have gotten real world industry experience sooner, and I struggled through a lot of the dry "old fashioned" computer science syllabus.
After university the standard graduate schemes didn’t appeal but I successfully interviewed at a local ecommerce company that sold kilts online.
What were some big opportunities that shaped your career?
It was all down to people I knew. First development job out of university was with folk from the same course. Next job was because a friend was sick of me moaning about first job and knew another friend who was looking for a developer. Next job (sort of current job) was with someone I worked with at first job. In hindsight this also reeks a bit of white male privilege! But it's an example of how your network can work for you.
I think Open Source software and systems have been a big factor, and could qualify as an "opportunity" in some ways. Edinburgh as a good tech hub (before all of the current tech unicorn nonsense) also played a part, as it has a useful cluster of talent and companies. But I guess the elephant in the room is THE INTERNET. All of my jobs have been making STUFF to go on it in some shape or form. It's totally ubiquitous nowadays but when I first started I was amazed that I could be paid to do things to support a business that was purely digital. When I think about it, I'm still amazed now...
Have you ever had to make a difficult career choice?
Knowing when was the right time to move on from previous roles was tricky. Often discussions with friends would result in a "wow, you need to get a new job" moment.
Looking back, what opportunities do you wish you had when starting out?
As someone who was lucky enough to go to university I don't feel qualified to answer this question.
If you could give one piece of advice to your former self, what would it be?
When you don’t love it anymore, get a new job. Oh and buy some shares in Apple. And some bitcoin.
Oliver Jackson, Head of Development, Dentsu Creative