Chris Hepworth is an alumnus of our iOS Essentials with Swift bootcamp who recently released his second app in the App Store. Since we love to showcase alumni success, we interviewed him about his career path, his experience at Big Nerd Ranch, and his apps:
How did you get interested in coding? What made you pursue it as a career? I have worked in IT within the banking industry for a number of years, mainly in data and systems management. While I found this work interesting, it never really excited me. I have always been fascinated by coding and my early experiences began with visual basic, writing macros to automate processes in Excel & Access to make mundane tasks quicker and easier for my colleagues. This all changed when Apple launched Swift back in June 2014. I had become very interested in writing iOS apps and I was very excited about this new powerful modern language. I started learning all I could from the limited resources I could find and very soon I was hooked. I love writing Swift code; it feels modern and safe and the syntax is concise yet expressive. I now knew what I wanted to be: an iOS Developer!
Tell us about your current job. Where do you work and what is your role? I’m currently unemployed having been made redundant at the end of 2015. I used to work for a major bank, working in data management, but my role was migrated to India. I have spent my time since then learning the core aspects of iOS development including architecture, design, the Xcode environment and Swift. I have successfully navigated the App Store submission process and have two apps of my own design on the store. I am currently finalizing another app, which utilizes Core Data, and looking for employment both within the United Kingdom and the United States.
How did you first hear about Big Nerd Ranch, and what made you decide to attend a bootcamp? In my thirst for Swift and iOS knowledge, I had accumulated and read through quite a lot of material, but I knew I needed to take my learning to the next level. I decided to make a list of what my desired training would look like. It had to be in a classroom, with other like minded students, away from all distractions, and with a knowledgeable instructor who was on hand to answer questions, when they were asked, not weeks later by email. What else? Oh yes, and the tutor needed to be an actual developer, not some academic who had never written an app for a real customer. Not much to ask for I know, but I started my search. I live in the UK so started my search there—nothing. I began to give up hope, thinking that perhaps my list was too demanding.
I had come across Big Nerd Ranch quite a lot already, but had initially dismissed them because I knew they were based in the United States. I looked at the website and read up on their courses. They sounded perfect, but they were nine hours away on a plane. Could I make this work? I contacted their Training Facilitator with a few questions and she came back promptly and with the answers I needed. I checked flights from the UK to Atlanta and found some direct, reasonably priced flights. The course ticked all the boxes and the Georgia location looked fantastic. I clicked on the link and booked myself for the course!
What was the best part of the iOS Essentials bootcamp? What did you learn? The best part for me was having access to a knowledgeable instructor who was a developer himself. He had built apps in the real world, so he could give meaningful insight and advice. But most of all, he gave me confidence in my ability and knowledge. My learning to date had been a bit disconnected, and he helped focus it and bring it all together so that I had the confidence to build my own apps. I also enjoyed the fact that the bootcamp is hard work and BNR really immerses you in the code. This is carefully balanced with time for reflection and walks around the ranch. It is very clear that the folks at Big Nerd Ranch love what they do, and they are able to provoke this feeling in the students resulting in a fantastic learning environment.
What inspired you to create your apps, and what was the hardest part of the development process? After the course, I wanted to use my new knowledge to write my own app. I didn’t have any fantastic ideas, so I stuck with what I knew: banking. I wanted to keep the app fairly simple, but at the same time wanted to exercise and extend my knowledge and also showcase my skills in order to start building a portfolio. I currently have two apps on the App Store: Finance Calc and Day Zero. My third app is a work in progress called miniBooks.
Finance Calc is a traditonal calculator, but when the user clicks a button at the bottom of the keyboard, five additional mini-calculators are revealed. This allows the user to calculate multibuy deals, sales tax, interest rates, loans and percentages. Day Zero is an app that counts the days since or until a special event and was inspired by my thirteen-year old daughter, Tiana. After three years of saving and planning, we had finally booked a vacation to Disney World and Tiana wanted to be able to count down the days until our departure. The idea for Day Zero was born.
Unlike with Finance Calc, I was building this app for a customer, and a very demanding one at that! Together we drew out what the app should look like and then I set about building it. The hardest part of the development process was trying to meet the demands of my customer. She had some great ideas for the UI design, but at times I was limited by my own lack of knowledge. However, not wanting to disappoint, I persevered and managed to deliver, resulting in a very satisfied customer!
What advice would you give to Big Nerd Ranch students/alumni who are looking to develop their own iOS apps?
Don’t wait for or worry about having that killer app idea. Just go for it. Stick with what you know or ask friends and family for ideas. The important thing is that you start writing apps now, make and then fix mistakes and get your app on the App Store. You’ll only get better by doing and at the same time you will be building a portfolio of apps to showcase.
Also, don’t forget to challenge yourself. Explore the different frameworks and try to introduce these aspects into your apps. Don’t be limited by your own knowledge. Connect with other developers; I have always found that there is always someone out there willing to help you.
Anything else we should know?
Attending the iOS bootcamp I also got the chance to meet other fellow nerds and I still keep in touch with a couple of them. They have kindly helped test flight my apps and provided great advice and support. It’s great being part of the Big Nerd Ranch family!
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Chris Downie and Sam Landfried
Chris Downie and Sam Landfried