From Defusing Explosives To Debugging Errors: Ex-Military Professional Finds His Way Into Software Development

From Defusing Explosives To Debugging Errors: Ex-Military Professional Finds His Way Into Software Development

December 21, 2023

According to Miyamoto Musashi, the legendary Japanese warrior-turned-philosopher, the Way is in the training. To Ross Baker, a former explosives ordinance assistant in the French Army and recent graduate of Mission Ready, the importance of putting in the hours couldn’t be overstated. After successfully completing the Advanced Software Development (AI & Cloud), Ross is currently working as a full stack developer for the National Institute for Health Innovation (NIHI), where he completed his ten weeks of industry experience as a component of the certification. We asked Ross, coming from a background in the military, how he made the switch.  

Ticking the boxes

“For me, starting a career in tech is like embarking on a never-ending adventure”. The industry, with its constant state of evolution, opens many possibilities. While there is no shortage of problems that need solving in the present, the demand for qualified tech professionals will only increase in the future we are stepping into. With the flexibility of work, high salaries, and, as Ross found, an “amicable culture and humour” of its own, the tech sector has wide appeal.

One major tick box for anyone considering a similar path—is it for me? Many of us will probably be able to relate to Ross here. “I have always had a fascination with technology, though it is only recently I’ve felt I could potentially have something to contribute to the industry.” Technology is all around us, and information technology—the world of software development and its related branches, is becoming increasingly interwoven with our lives. Understanding how real-world problems are solved by writing code may not be necessary to be able to use technology; however, that problem-solving has become a highly sought-after, well-paid skill.

Getting started

Ross had spent some freelancing hours in web development before embarking on some serious training. It was during this time he became aware of the lag between what was taught in class to what he experienced in the market. For someone who is changing careers, time was in essence. This led Ross to look for “additional, hands-on training that focused on knowledge and skills that were more up-to-date and relevant”. Enter: Mission Ready.

In the trenches

Whether starting or starting again, getting into the studying mode is both exciting and daunting. So we wanted to get Ross’s impressions on what it was like to be on a mission, getting hands-on and getting those hours in. “It was a rollercoaster. It was a non-stop ride that swung back and forth between frustration and elation as I worked my way through each mission and became increasingly confident and competent”. The intensity was real, he adds, the kind of intensity that is uplifting and enriching. Ross looks back with admiration at his fellow candidates, who interpreted the tasks in their own way, coming up with a myriad ways to solve a given problem.  

Survive and thrive

Revisiting Musashi, the inventor of Nitō Ichi-Ryū (the two-sword fencing) and winner of 61 duels, the importance of the mindset is paramount. Ross became the preferred candidate for NIHI, after having observed his work ethic, learning style and great attitude during the industry experience component of the programme. He adds that NIHI were also impressed that during the interview, he demonstrated the ability to ‘think like a designer’.

For aspiring candidates, Ross shares it’s essential to commit yourslef fully and trust in the process. “The staff are there to help you achieve your goals and are constantly looking for ways to improve their accelerators. If you embrace what you are shown and do the work, you will succeed”.      

Some final thoughts from Ross highlighted the importance of fun. This pro-tip truly taps into the mind over matter aspect of training. He recommends ‘follow a page (or several) of tech/programming memes. They are great for having a laugh and are surprisingly helpful for keeping things in perspective. For example, knowing that Javascript is a lot like English; no one knows how to use semicolons properly, may just be that smirk you need to find your Way in the training.