Success Stories

Mike Davies

Margate, UK

Mike Davies

Coding By the Sea

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Hi! I'm Mike. I'm a former Math teacher turned coder from the UK. I spent most of my adult life in London and now live by the sea with my wife, young son, and dog. When I'm not parenting or writing code, I can usually be found playing bass in my band, running, or drinking coffee.

I was one of a class of two on my degree in Physics with Philosophy, and spent 5 years teaching inner city kids via the Teach First program. Following this, I travelled a lot, mainly in Asia. I love bicycle touring, and have done a number of long-distance trips, with my first being from Bangkok to Beijing.

I currently work as CTO of a small business, where I mainly work with PHP, JavaScript, SQL, and various APIs between the three. I'm always trying to learn, and am currently tinkering with AI.

My Early Years

I spent the younger part of my childhood in the analogue / early digital age. I was a slightly weird kid, who loved the tech I could access. I actually taught myself to code on an old ZX Spectrum I bought second-hand, and wrote short programs which I saved onto cassette tape of all things. I was young (I think 9 or 10), and didn't even know this could be a job or that you could study this properly at University at the time; I put it aside, but the foundations were laid for later.

A New Career

After working as a teacher and a long stint traveling, I spent a year working in graduate recruitment for a charity, where a colleague (also an ex teacher) was starting a tutoring company. I was interested in entrepreneurship, and asked if I could come on board in 2012. This was the birth of Owl Tutors, where I've been the last 12 years, now working as CTO.

Here I've learnt to code on the job, building and maintaining our systems and website. At Owl Tutors I initially worked in a non-technical role, but we quickly realized we needed systems to grow. The company was bootstrapped, so with no outside funding we had to do everything ourselves. It was here that my then-almost twenty year old experiences of coding came back, and I realized that I might have some relevant skills.

Discovering Treehouse

I dove headfirst into a ton of documentation and realized I had a lot to learn. I tried to learn modern web development from a couple of textbooks, but found the approach too disengaging. That's when I found Treehouse, and I was instantly a fan.

Treehouse was very different back then of course, with significantly more animated frogs and no Techdegrees, but it was really useful and clear. I worked through the entire FreeCodeCamp platform as well, as it was then, and built a few websites for patient friends and family, including for my then band.

The initial learning curve was very hard. I spent most evenings and weekends learning and coding for about 18 months, whilst implementing my learning in my day job.

My biggest early lesson was learning how to fail, and the power of debugging your own code to learn what wasn't working and why. I found once I got past a certain point in my study that I viewed everything differently.

This is the main bit of advice I give to new coders: Once you are past the initial learning curve, the path gets considerably flatter and easier, so stick with it.

I still work at Owl Tutors. Our company has grown considerably, which wouldn't be the case without the kind of systems I learnt to build through Treehouse and other platforms.

My favorite specific part of my job is using new tech to make our staff and tutor's jobs easier. For example, recently I used the OpenAI API to automate a process our sales staff were performing dozens of times a day.

My least favorite part of the job is being a tech team of one (i.e. the worst possible key-man score) and the associated pressure that comes with it. Being British, salary conversations don't come easily, but I have (at least) tripled my earning potential when compared to teaching. Best of all, thanks to my tech skills I am able to work from home most days, which allows me to be around a lot to help my wife parent our very energetic young son.

Life Lessons

I am always learning, and this is my favorite quality of my job. The amount of change in (for example) JavaScript since I started learning it is huge, and comparing the ECMAScript code I now use to the vanilla JS from 2014 feels like a long way.

I've learned quite a number of life lessons from coding along the way, the main one being that there is always a solution, but that it is often not where you first think it is.

Entrepreneurship and coding have both taught me a healthy disrespect for ever going back to a traditional career. I have been at Owl Tutors for a long time now, and I'm committed here for the foreseeable.

The main thing I wished I'd known when I first started to code was to get my hands dirty and work on a real project. Tutorials and lessons are great for a while, but I've always learnt the most by far when I have to build something real and solve a problem for myself.

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Are you ready to start learning?

Learning with Treehouse for only 30 minutes a day can teach you the skills needed to land the job that you've been dreaming about.

Start A Free Trial
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