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Career changes are challenging. Particularly if you’re walking away from a job that has brought you so much joy, memories, and success.
Oliver’s musical exploits have taken him all over the world, playing in various bands, in the best venues, in front of sell-out crowds (with the occasional crowd surf for good measure).
After touring for some time, he wanted to plant some roots. He knew walking away from what he loved would be hard, but he knew the time was right. Then he stumbled across a coding bootcamp during the recent Covid pandemic, and he was hooked.
The rest, as they say, is history.
So Oliver, where did you grow up?
“I grew up in a small village near Chorley, which is in Lancashire in the North-West of England. My dad worked for a car finance company and earned enough money for my mum to be able to stay home and look after my two brothers (Chris and Mike) and I. Growing up in the 90s was fascinating. It was a period of incredible cultural change, and the North West was the epicentre for sport and music.”
“My fondest memories of growing up were going to Wigan on the weekends to watch the local rugby team. No trip to Wigan was complete without one of its famous pies. We also used to go on bird-watching holidays in the Lake District in the freezing cold (which I don’t miss!)”
What were your hobbies growing up?
“Being a child of the 90s, I remember life before the technological explosion. Smart phones and social media, even dial-up internet (showing my age now), were yet to be a staple of everyday life, and as kids we had to find other ways to satisfy our urge for creativity and mischief.”
“My parents enrolled me in weekly piano and guitar lessons when I was just six years old. If it were up to me, I would have been spending every evening or weekend provoking the local farm animals or breaking into the school playground to go skateboarding.”
“I had an aptitude for music. I was rolling through my piano exams; I was at Grade 6 level by the time I was going to high school, and I was being entered into local music competitions, often winning prizes.”
“I joined my first band when I was 14 years old. We played at local music venues in Preston, and I was introduced to life in the music studio. I also started playing with my county jazz band, the Lancashire Youth Jazz Orchestra.”
“That was a big turning point for me; I still remember taking my first solo jazz piano performance. To put it bluntly, it went terribly. I was terrified, but it was an important starting point which paved the way for the next 15 years of my life!”
“During my first year at music college, everything just clicked. My ability to improvise and to write rich, compelling music really skyrocketed. Everybody in the college wanted me to be in their band!”
Can you tell us a bit more about your music career?
“I earned my living touring with artists and making music in the studio. I cut my teeth for a few years writing and playing with a group called Nubiyan Twist; we were on the road constantly playing all the venues and festivals in the UK and Europe, and when we weren’t touring, we were writing music in a beautiful studio in South Oxfordshire, which was built by one of the band members.”
“A few years later I was given the opportunity to play keys with an upcoming artist called Yellow Days. He was making a big name for himself, and a few months after joining him I was touring the world, playing in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Japan, and Europe. I also contributed to some of his records. One song even has a few million hits on YouTube!”
“All the great opportunities I have been given are all a direct result of the network I have built and the friends I have made. It’s how the music industry works; you could meet someone one day, then years later they could get in touch with you to offer an exciting opportunity. The value of a strong network is one of the key things that I learnt from those experiences.”
So, why the career change from music to software development?
“Making a living from music is tough. I had played in many places and made a decent living for myself. The problem is that it’s incredibly hard to plan or live with any degree of stability.”
“The lack of stability coupled with the grind of constantly being on the road just started to put me in a bit of a miserable place. I didn’t mind those issues when I was young; I was up for anything. I still loved music, but as I entered my late 20s, I started to enjoy being a career musician less and less. I was craving a career which allowed me to plant some roots.”
“My introduction to software development came in the winter lockdown of 2021. My brother sent me a post on LinkedIn advertising a coding bootcamp, and the bootcamp offered a 5-day coding challenge.”
“I immediately enrolled into a full-stack software development bootcamp provided by the Code Institute and worked through that over the next 12 months. I was introduced to full stack technologies; Python, Flask, Django, React and Amazon AWS. By the time I had completed the bootcamp, I had used my skills to build an application which offered a subscription-based online marketplace for musicians to advertise for work.”
“I was proud of what I built, but I knew I could expand it and make it even better. That’s the great thing about software engineering; just like music, there’s always more to learn, and the more you learn, the richer your product turns out to be.”
“After graduating, I continued learning and building for the next few months; I took a deep dive into Python and Docker, building APIs with token authentication and proxy routing, and getting more familiar with Object-Oriented principles. Then I started applying for jobs, which is when I came across Xander Talent.”
And how are things going at Xander? How have the team supported your career change?
“The team at Xander have really helped me to come into my own. They have given me plenty different projects that not only utilise my skills as a software engineer, but harness that creative energy I have developed over the years as a musician.”
“Shortly after graduating from the Xander academy, I was given the opportunity to lead a 6-week technical pathway of my own, leading 15 trainees through the fundamentals of full-stack web technologies. I created over 250 individual lessons on Xander’s learning management system (complete with interactive examples), planned and delivered over 10 workshops and created an assessment framework for four technical projects.”
“It was such an enriching experience; it really pushed me and brought so many of my skills to the forefront in ways I never would have anticipated. It was a real honour for me that Xander entrusted me with the responsibility of facilitating the growth of future consultants.”
“The culture at Xander is autonomous and supportive. Jumping into projects, I have the freedom to choose my approach, yet the team remains accessible whenever I need assistance. It's a positive blend that has facilitated growth and provided countless opportunities.”
“Each project is a chance to evolve, and my time with Xander consistently shapes me into a better version of myself.”
Any advice for anyone for thinking of joining Xander?
“I have a small story to share which has a bit of hidden message, so bear with me.”
“A few years ago I was playing a gig at Koko, in Camden. The band plays a heavy fusion of Afrobeat, Hip-Hop, Dancehall and Electronic music, and though it’s considered ‘jazz’ music, the crowds we play to always tended to go wild!”
“We were about halfway through our set, everyone in the room is having such a great time. There’s a buzz, we’re killing it, it’s all brilliant.”
“I became a little bit inspired. I ended up jumping into the crowd and had my first ever go at crowd-surfing!”
“Thank heavens I made the right decision as the crowd caught me and carried me for a while. There’s always the fear that everybody will just move out of the way, and let you hit the floor, and I’m grateful to the crowd for humouring me.”
“Whilst it’s something I probably won’t ever do again, I learnt something that night, and I hope it will resonate with others; Make the jump. Take that leap of faith. Go for it. It will change your life in more ways than you can possibly imagine.”