Saturday, I went out to meet up with an inspiring fellow by the name of Rob Redding, president of Redding Designs, which is a start up web development company in my local area. How our meeting happened is actually an interesting story, and I want to share the experience with you guys. Hopefully there is something to take away from my story.
So as my regular readers know, about a year ago, I made the decision to stop programming in my free time, and pursue it full tilt with no promise for employment. Shortly after making that decision I discovered University of the People where I’m currently studying part-time for a bachelor’s in computer science. The school has been an amazing opportunity for which I’ll be forever grateful, but I also needed and still do need, a way to pay the bills.
Somehow, after tirelessly applying for entry level positions at companies all over my local area, I got an email from Khan Academy. They offered me the opportunity to complete a sample work project, and after completing that, they hired me on as a remote consultant. That’s where I’ve been working for the last seven months now on a contract by contract basis. It’s an amazing job, and I’m so appreciative for the opportunity that KA gave me. However, there are two main reasons why I have been looking for other work.
The first reason is that although I’m more than capable of completing the tasks given to me at Khan Academy, I’m not working side by side with other developers. If I were more developed in my profession, this wouldn’t be as big of a deal. But seeing as I’m still fresh in my career, I really think it’s important to be a part of a team – in person. One of the most understated forms of learning is simply taking part in conversations with people who are knowledgeable in their fields. That and other benefits like pair programming, the ability to quickly seek advice or compare solutions and ideas, are all missing from my current work space.
The other reason I’ve been searching for work elsewhere, is that I’ve spent the last 6 years jumping from one job to the next because of contract work. I haven’t been a permanent full-time employee for 6 years! The problem with KA is that although it pays exceptionally well for my current experience, is that it’s not permanent work. I can’t plan ahead for anything, because I don’t know what my income will be like over the next few months at any given time. Right now, what my family really needs is security. A dependable income that we can rely on, even if it is quite a bit less than the dollars I bring home now.
So, this is why I sent my resume into Redding Designs. I’ve been keeping my eye open for an entry level position as a programmer, at a company that I really want to work for. Redding Designs was the one. Everything about their company site, the work, the employee descriptions and job postings spoke to me. They are a small, hard working team that likes to have fun while really getting things done.
How I landed the new job
So here is where the story gets interesting. Often when I begin looking into a company, I start feeling a sudden loss of confidence in my application. There is so much that I wish I have done like building better, more professional projects to show off. A problem I have is that I start worrying about making my application as professional as I can given my limited experience and education. Sometimes this means I end up not applying at all, or even just missing the opportunity because I took too long to send in an application.
This time, I decided to take a different approach. I have never seen such an awesome job post before, and I had a hunch that Rob might respect a more unorthodox approach to a job application. Instead of worrying about a professional sounding cover letter filled with fluff and listing skills and credentials, I decided to write a letter very similar to the style that I write here on my blog. Basically I just told a bit of my story and described why I was passionate to learn at his company.
Even my resume this time around took on a lighter tone. Instead of being dry and factual, I tried to just be myself as much as I could when choosing my words. Apparently it worked, because within an hour or so after sending in my application, I got a reply form Rob!!
He happened to have a booth set up this past weekend at the Home show here in Woodstock. He asked me to pop by and pay him a visit – so I did! After introducing myself, my wife and our son, they took off looking at other booths while Rob and I talked. He started by telling me a bit about himself and the company.
Once we got talking back and forth, I felt like we were getting along well. It was the most interesting “interview” I’ve ever had. It felt more like I met up with someone I already knew to hang out, rather than being drilled with technical questions. I couldn’t believe how well our conversation went. Then a women approaches the booth and jokingly says, “I know this guy works for you!” (pointing at me), and I (perhaps too arrogantly; IDK) replied “soon!”. Rob played along and said after today, he is now up from 8, to 9 employees!
After a brief conversation with someone I suspected was probably a potential client, I realized what an idiot I looked like. The women was this public figure –> https://www.facebook.com/katebuilds/ from HGTV (Home and Garden Television), Kate Campbell – derp. I had no clue. Rob told me who it was, and I just thought, “I really do live under a rock”. Actually I live in a walk-in closet turned office, but rock sounds more degrading.
Rob Redding’s story
I personally find Rob’s story very inspiring, and it gives me a heightened sense of confidence in my own abilities. Rob is a completely self taught web developer, who actually went to school so he could work as a manager in the automotive industry. Web development was something that he taught himself at 15 so he could make a website for his christian rock band. When they went to record their first album, the producer wanted a website too, so Rob took on the job.
As time went on, friends, and friends of friends, began having Rob make their websites, and by the time he was all grown up and working in the automotive industry, he was so overwhelmed with clients, he had to choose between his “side” work, or his full-time day job. After being asked to move to Toronto against his wishes, it was the final kicker for him. Rob decided to dive deep into web development leaving his career in the automotive industry soaking wet from the splash!
I have a ton of respect for Rob’s roots, and I’m glad I found someone who holds self education in high regard. Even as I pursue a BS in computer science, I’m still largely self taught. Especially in web development, everything I know has been through self learning, or learning from friends. As proud as I am for being self taught, I also look forward to completing my degree program as well.
You see, back when I was a musician and street performer, I used to be so proud of being self taught. I learned how to play a variety of instruments, how to sing, how to write, record, program MIDI controllers, solder loose connections in my guitars, build speakers and microphones… the list goes on. I managed to learn a lot simply from hitting up the library everyday and reading. Then as YouTube exploded it became easier and easier to find great tutorials on anything I wanted to learn.
However, and this is a big however. Until I started seeking one-on-one lessons from instructors, there were a lot of bad habits that I was developing without knowing it. Getting proper instruction from others who were better developed than I was in their areas of expertise, was the change in my regular routine that began pushing me to the next level as a song writer/performer/producer or what ever you want to call what I was.
Now, that path got derailed with the news of my son to be, and I knew I was going to lose my much needed creative space to continue being a musician. I’ve written about this before, but long story short, after a lot of careful reflection I concluded that I wanted to become a programmer.
These days, a lot of what I learned on my old path to being a song writer (really, I was planning on being a producer like this guy; David Campos) has helped guide many of my decisions as I dance around the world of software. I believe that anything can be learned if you stick with it every single day, and don’t stop learning. Don’t stop believing in your ability to grow. You don’t need a formal education to become good at something as evident from Rob Redding’s successes. If you’re willing to put in the hours, and you truly enjoy what you’re doing; couple that with a lot of hard work and fewer hours with your head on a pillow, and what you get is a recipe for success 🙂
Still though, when I was aspiring to be a producer one thing I learned, is that you have to be open to learn from others. Whether that be through some sort of formal instruction or education like the one I’m getting at UoPeople, or even from others who are more advanced than you are. I think this new job is going to bring a lot in terms of personal development for me. Once I’m finished my break from school, I’ll be working and learning roughly 12 hours a day either on the job or at uni… That’s going to be pretty amazing considering coding, 3 years ago, was something I did in my spare time.
So I hope this story has inspired some of you to keep moving forward no matter how tough times get. My followers know, that the past year has seen many ups and downs, but I just absolutely refuse to give up. It has certainly paid off. Redding Designs is the perfect company for me to be working for right now; I knew it as soon as I read the job description. In a later post, I want to bring up a few more thoughts on that point in more detail. Visualization hasn’t gotten its fair share of attention on this blog, and it’s time I open up about some of my less tangible strategies.
But for now, I just want to say how thankful I am for my new opportunity. You guys should all check out the company website for Redding too. They truly have some wonderful designs and are following suite with recent changes in methodologies. I’m pumped to work with these guys!
Redding Designs: http://www.reddingdesigns.com/