What to expect from _nology – by a trainer

Liam Farrell has a background in leading and training teams of web developers for various different companies. He explains how he uses his background to train _nology students – and what you should expect if you join the course.

Written by Nology Team - 01.04.19

Liam Farrell has a background in leading and training teams of web developers for various different companies.

He explains how he uses his background to train _nology students – and what you should expect if you join the course.

I have a passion for technology and I love teaching

I’ve always known it was something I wanted to do and what particularly appealed about teaching a course like _nology is that being here is a choice. Everyone is on the course because they want to learn. They’re self-motivated – they all have that spark. It’s something you definitely need because it’s an intense course and I’m here to facilitate the learning – not to tell you what the answer is. I try not to talk too much but to introduce concepts and encourage trainees to go off and explore them for themselves. I’m not going to hand them the solution – I want them to discover how it works for themselves.

My background is as a technical scrum master

I’ve always been fascinated by the functions of a team and how they work together. Previous to this I’d worked at blue chip companies where a lot of the projects were run using the slightly older method of working – the waterfall approach. This basically means people would come to us with a certain budget, you’d go away and plan and scope it out for six months before handing it over to the development teams, by which point the client had usually changed their minds or various things hadn’t worked as planned and you’d have to start the process over again. You’re doing everything in one massive chunk. It’s slow and costly to introduce change into this way of working and I really didn’t like it.

Trainees are treated as software developers from day one…

The way of working I eventually got into which makes more sense to me, uses an agile methodology which basically means you work with your client in a different way. You say, ‘tell me the raw requirements,’ then you go away and build something and say, ‘it could look a bit like this – or we could try this.’ The big project is broken into small chunks. A client might not know exactly what they want, or even what’s possible at the start of a project and this way promotes an honest openness between client and developer. The methodology is agile and Scrum is one of the approaches and frameworks I’ve previously used – it’s the way I implement that methodology. Scrum master is the title given to the person who owns the process. They’re not delivering the project, they’re facilitating the flow of information – and it’s the approach we use on _nology. I explained to the trainees on day one that I’d be treating them as a real software development team and they’ll learn the real world approach to becoming a developer. And for that reason there’s a few things it’s useful for anyone considering _nology, to know before they apply.

From beginner to software developer in 12 weeks

Firstly, it’s very intense. The coaches are supplying a huge amount of information to the students from day one. And that’s not to do with the structure of the course or the way of learning, it’s because we think 12 weeks is the shortest period of time we can achieve our goal. We realise people don’t want to spend more time learning than they need to, especially when the goal is to get a job in the tech industry.

It’s also a very fluid course. Just this morning, five minutes before we started the day, we changed our plan. And that’s because myself and Shea (coach and former Nology trainee) assessed yesterday and decided that rather than move on to a new concept today, we really want to make sure what the trainees learnt yesterday had landed. So at the start of the course, we have an outcome which is that we want them to be software developers by the end of the 12 weeks – we have a broad brushstroke of how we’re going to reach that goal and we have smaller goals in between that we are constantly assessing and changing. We’re flexible within the twelve weeks depending on how concepts are landing. It’s exactly how it would work with a development team in the real world.

Also – we throw you in on day one. Trainees are deploying to a production site from their first day. There are some things that can’t be broken down into smaller chunks. So on that first day I explained, ‘this isn’t a concept you’re going to understand today but it’s something you’re going to be working on throughout the course, you’re going to be repeating it day in and day out and every time you do it, it will make more sense.’

JavaScript is a big week on the course

Trainees have to put a certain amount of faith in the coaches. The third week for example is javascript – it’s a big week and we know at some point, lots of the trainees will have a wobble and question whether they can do this. So we need trainees to trust us – they might lose a bit of faith in themselves if they wobble, but they need to trust us that you don’t build a wall instantly. You do it brick by brick and eventually you will get there. You learn through these wobbles that it’s fine not to know everything – you’re not going to know everything. I think academia generally protects you, it teaches you there’s a right and a wrong and here’s the right answer. That’s not how the real world or this course works.

There are different levels on the course for when a trainee encounters a problem. The first level is – work it out for yourself, the second is to google it, the third is to ask a colleague and the fourth is to ask a coach – and it’s a really effective, but slightly different way of learning if you’ve come straight from higher education. If you solve a problem yourself and work your way through it, you’re far more likely to properly understand it. And if you ask a colleague – the very fact they’re explaining it to you means it’s landed with them, which validates their learning. But also, someone who has just been taught a new concept might explain it differently to how I would, having known the subject for ten years. They might be able to say, ‘this is how I made sense of it,’ which is a really effective way of learning and teaching. It’s also practical – if I was spending half an hour a day explaining a problem to twelve students – that’s most of my day gone!

All you need is the right mindset

For anyone thinking of applying to the course I would say what I look for in students is the same as what I look for when I’m recruiting for a scrum team. You need drive, self-motivation and passion. If you have that, the rest will follow. We cover a lot and it’s an intense course – not just for the trainees but for the coaches as well because we’re constantly thinking of new ways to communicate that content and to engage trainees in some fairly complicated subjects. But as I always say to the trainees – you don’t join a course like this because it’s easy. You join it because you want to achieve a goal – and as long as the drive is there – you will achieve that goal.

If you have been inspired by Liam’s blog and are intrested in finding out more about the _nology course and what it covers click here


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