Tutor Spotlight: Ben Bagley

Tutor Spotlight: Ben Bagley

Korina Pažitka

At Careerfoundry, we take tremendous pride and joy in celebrating our Mentors and Tutors, and sharing the unique success stories of these wonderful individuals driven by a passion for sharing knowledge and helping others reach their potential. Today, we bring you the story of Ben Bagley, a UK-based Tutor recruited directly from our own alumni pool.

Meet Ben Bagley

A few years back, I was sitting at my desk, dialing in for a video call with a student taking our Web Development course. I’d chatted with him a lot before the call, and I was excited to meet him face to face. This particular student, Ben Bagley, was one of the most active members of our student community and he was championing our efforts to connect, engage and motivate students to help each other. I wanted to talk to him about possibly getting more involved with CareerFoundry. Fast-forwarding to today - meet Ben Bagley - a CareerFoundry alumnus and Web Development Tutor.

Starting with web development

Before Ben had ever even heard of CareerFoundry, he knew he would likely end up a part of the tech world. “I’ve always been into technology and computers - everything from networking, to complex systems, algorithms, robots etc.”

Ben’s exploration of web development began in high school - his desire to learn the subject matter was grand, and, fueled with the unparalleled eagerness of teenage years, he dove right into coding. He started taking apart templates and live websites, curious to see what did what, and his interest grew from there. It was not an easy ride, but step by step, he started building his first digital creations, making mistakes along the way, and, most importantly, embracing and learning from those mistakes. Knowing first hand what it feels like being new to something and trying to make sense of it outside the comfort and support of a traditional classroom, Ben shares his learning with all his students - don’t be afraid to make mistakes, just start coding!

“I got the basics from a few websites and books and the rest… I just opened a code editor and started writing and learned from the mistakes I made.”

Current projects

Besides being a CareerFoundry Tutor, Ben works on a number of projects in his free time and he likes coming up with solutions and new ideas to test out. One such project is a website distractfree.news where users can quickly get news from various sources all in one place. He also dabbles in cyber security and enjoys keeping up to date with what’s going on in the world.

What does his day as a developer look like? Being a firm believer in the power of planning, Ben sticks to a simple but effective technique - he creates to-do lists.

If he gets stuck on an issue, Ben hunts for solutions on/in trusted dev resources such as Stackoverflow or dedicated Slack groups. He’ll pour all of his energy into finding a solution, because he doesn’t like leaving a to-do list unfinished. Kudos! We can relate.

On a professional level, the allure of Web Development for Ben lies in the possibilities, independence, and freedom it provides.

“I like being able to build new applications and having the know-how to do it myself without having to rely on a third party to build it for me. I like having the ability to test out ideas that I have, and the freedom to learn what I want, when I want.”

Seeking these values in his day-to-day work, Ben has chosen the freelance track. He talks about this choice with unbridled excitement:

“Now, freelancing is fantastic! I am able to learn new technologies and languages wherever and whenever I like. Should a freelance project arise, I am able to take what I have learned new or old, and apply it to the application I am building.”

Right now, for example, Ben is working with PHP in order to get experience with the language and see what it’s like building and developing with this widely-used open-source coding language.

And what attracted him to take on a role of a Tutor with CareerFoundry? The fulfillment derived from guiding others as they navigate the complex but mighty world of Web Development and helping them grow into fully-fledged developers. “I like helping students… Everything down from simple explanations to fixing application errors that they are running into, whether that relates to the course or if they’re trying to create something different.” The prospect of connecting and working with people from across the globe came as an additional benefit that solidified his decision to share his knowledge through tutoring.

About finding the best learning style

“Everyone has a different learning style. Me – I like the practical approach, diving right in, and if something doesn’t work… don’t worry about it, find the solution and learn from your mistakes.” Ben advises his students to take their time when they need it – it’s important to get confident and well-versed in the intricacies of the language they are learning.

Naturally, it gets tough sometimes, for example when an error just refuses to be fixed, or the code simply won’t do what it’s supposed to do. It can be a frustrating and emotionally taxing time for the students, and this is when it’s incredibly important and challenging for a Tutor to find a healthy balance between giving the answer that will solve the issue at hand and guiding the student to solve the issue independently.

“…being able to research and solve issues on your own is a crucial part of being a developer. After all, the Tutor and Mentor won’t always be there, but we are here should they (the students) need help.”

Another challenge that is familiar to every student and working professional is time management. And, as Ben admits, it’s another tough one. Students have different circumstances that affect when and how they organize their day and dedicated study time, so one size does not necessarily fit all, but through his own experience, Ben has vetted one piece of advice: Use your energy wisely. “Try not to burn (yourself) out with too much work in the beginning. There is a lot of information to consume. Learning Web Development doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time… because you are always learning, languages are always being updated with new versions, changes, new features, new syntax, etc.”

It might be an exhausting process, but the constant influx of new challenges and fresh knowledge makes the work anything but boring. “…to put it shortly, Web Development is very rewarding to learn as every day is different.”

In the end, the prize is the pride and sense of accomplishment of building something from scratch and being able to share it with the world. “Going from a blank page to a fully built application or website is a fantastic feeling.”

Useful resources for learning Web Development

Alongside CareerFoundry courses, for those looking to get started with Web Development, Ben recommends:

  • Web Design with HTML, CSS, JavaScript and jQuery Set — “Highly recommended. Massively detailed in it’s explanations.”
  • In terms of learning backend (Ruby on Rails), Ben recommends starting out with the Ruby on Rails website and guides, and then moving onto YouTube videos.
  • GoRails and Mackenzie Child
  • YouTube — With some simple keyword magic, YouTube becomes an amazing resource of channels for Web Developers. For example: DevTips.

Getting your foot in the door

The job market is hungry for Web Developers, but there are still many factors that can optimize/cut one’s trajectory between graduation and landing a job in the industry. To all future and present Junior developers, Ben advises starting by building up a portfolio and a GitHub profile.

“When I got my junior development position I went into the office, I had a chat with the developers, CEO etc, I gave them my GitHub profile. At this point, I built things like a Twitter clone, Pinterest clone – things like that. My point is, even if you don’t have anything to show live, the code still talks.”

Looking into the future

There are many exciting things happening in tech right now, but amongst all that’s new and shiny out there, Ben has his eyes set on machine learning – a field of computer science that gives computers the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed.

“There are now also machine learning websites building applications, which can be quite scary to developers but you have to keep in mind that someone still has to build it and it’s still new. Clients still want a human experience, and machine learning is not perfect, far from it.”

And, how does he feel about the pace of these advancements and the impact they have on the industry? “Web Development is always moving forward and technologies are changing every day. Technology will always advance, it’s just (a matter of) whether people can keep up.”

What You Should Do Now

  1. If you’d like a step-by-step intro to find out if web dev is right for you - sign up here for our free 7-day web dev short course.
  2. If you are interested in becoming a Web Developer check out our web development course (you'll learn the essential skills employers need).
  3. If you’d like to speak to an expert Career Advisor for free about how you can really get a new job in tech - connect with us here.

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Korina Pažitka

Korina Pažitka

Student Advisor at CareerFoundry