My Coding Life
I thought I would get into coding after I left school. I did computing in year 12, at Scotch College in Perth. It was my favourite subject. I got the scores that allowed me into the course I wanted in University – Information Systems at Curtain University in Perth. However, it was the wrong course for me at the time. I soon discovered that I did not like the business side of it. There was too much business and not enough programming. I ended up leaving the course half way through. At that point, if I had chosen another course that was more focused on coding, I’m quite sure my life would have taken a completely different direction. But I chose to try something a little more creative. I’ve always had a good visual eye so I thought I would give photography a go. I specifically liked film and TV so I thought the photography would be a good background for Cinematography. I should also mention at this point I had tried becoming a pilot and ran out of money very quickly. Becoming a pilot is an extraordinarily expensive thing to do. Since I had tried two things and failed, I felt like I needed to stick at the photography whether I enjoyed it or not. I was tired of quitting things. I enrolled in a TAFE course – Diploma of applied science in photography with a minor in cinematography. Thankfully, I enjoyed it very much and did end up finishing it. However, life always has a way of throwing curve balls.
I found out that I had a natural ability to play the drums. The first time I sat in front of a drum kit, I could play. I joined a couple of bands and had some fun but it wasn’t until one fateful night that I was filming a gig for a band called Sundiata that I saw Effigy. They were performing their very first gig supporting the band that I was filming. There was Pete on guitar and Annie on Bass in front of a bed sheet with a logo painted on. It wasn’t a plain bed sheet either, it had a pattern on it. But I was impressed. The bands I was in before were incredibly badly organised. I was the only one with a car and it was like herding cats just to rehearse. These guys had a gig and didn’t even have a drummer. Pete had an old drum machine that he didn’t know how to program so at the start of each song, he’d turn it on and after they finished he’d turn it off again. I’ve never seen a band more in need of a drummer. I was also very impressed with their original songs and they were the only Perth band I’d ever heard doing pixies covers. I was in love. Anyway, I went up to them after the gig and told them that they needed me. Fate agreed and away we went. We played a number of gigs in Perth and got quite a following. We also had the attention of a Record Company – Roadrunner Records who were based in the Netherlands but had an Australian contingent in Melbourne. They decided to sign us to a five record deal. Now Perth has a very strange culture. Perth crowds don’t respect you if you’re local. The idea is I think, that if you don’t make it out of Perth, then you can’t be any good. They only respect bands that come from the Eastern States. Given the record company were based in Melbourne, Melbourne is the music capital of Australia, and I had just finished my photography diploma, there was a unanimous decision that the band should move to Melbourne. So we did.
We all lived together in a house in North Carlton. We recorded 2 CD’s. We toured around most of the capital cities and quite a few regional towns as well. We had high rotation on Triple J for a number of our tracks. We made music videos, we were on Recovery, Hey Hey it’s Saturday, some other TV appearances. It was a lot of fun. There is a thing called lead singer syndrome however. And Pete had that in spades. He wouldn’t let anyone else write songs, and he was not a nice guy to work with. Eventually, Annie quit, then we got a new bass player and after a while, both she and I quit together. Pete went on to form about five different line-ups but people kept quitting on him. I think he’s still doing solo stuff but I don’t really keep in touch.
After that I wanted to get back into Cinematography. I managed to get an attachment (which is like a government funded mini apprenticeship) in the camera department on a TV show that was just starting called the Secret Life of Us. Lucky for me, the guy whose job I was learning turned out to be a bit of a schmuck and no one asked him back for the second season, so I got the job. I went on to do 4 seasons of the show and became a reasonable camera assistant. I worked on other TV shows, short films, commercials, music videos, as well as my own short films. I even managed to get shortlisted for Tropfest in 2006 with a short film called ‘Bouncing Betty,’ named after a landmine that explodes after you step off it and it jumps into the air. The story follows an unwitting soldier who steps on a bouncing betty. He manages to dig it up without it exploding and has a plan to put it under a rock but then steps on another one. He manages to wrangle the first one against his helmet while holding the other one against his foot and hoping on the other foot. Then he hops on another one and that’s where it ends.
I did enjoy my time in Film and TV but the hours were very taxing and I decided I wasn’t cut out for freelancing and having to continually look for work. I wanted a job with more security. I wasn’t ready to go back to study so I joined Netspace as a Customer Service Officer. It was during this time that life threw me another curve ball.
I was riding my bicycle to work one day and turned left just after a garbage truck. Unfortunately, the truck then turned left again into a driveway and didn’t see me. I couldn’t stop in time and the bike and my right leg ended up going under the back wheels. My leg was a bit of a mess but the foot was intact. They carted me off to hospital and the doctors were poking my foot asking if I could feel it and I felt nothing. The nerve had been severed. They told me that I would be looking at surgery after surgery to try and re-attach the nerve and I’d likely never be able to walk very well again or… they amputate, so I signed the form, gave them the ok and woke up without the lower part of my leg. On the positive side, it hasn’t slowed me down much and it’s given me a new empathy for others living with a disability.
Since then I have gone on to marry and have two wonderful kids; Marshall (7) and Aria (5). I’ve even introduced Marshall to a coding game on the tablet called Light Bot and he really liked it. I’ll make a coder out of him yet.
I was quite proud a Microsoft Outlook script I created for a company I worked for called Brunel Chauffeur Drive. I noticed an inefficiency in the way the company crosschecked passenger lists between the airlines and the company’s own passenger lists. I developed an automated script that ran from a rule in Microsoft Outlook to read emails and highlight specific words. This made critical emails containing large amounts of unformatted data much easier to read and interpret. I successfully developed the script, demonstrated its effectiveness to my manager, and then implemented its use across the organisation. It is still used today, saving the company valuable time and increasing accuracy tremendously. My initiative was recognised by senior management for contributing to improved business efficiency for the company.
I’ve had my fingers in a lot of pies. Drumming, Photography, Film Making, Customer Service, Training, and Administration. However, the one thing that I set out to do after I left school, the one thing I have been most suited for, I have yet to actually do. So what I’m about to start in earnest, is my life as a coder.