8th Light’s modern apprenticeship program allows us to hire software professionals from a wide range of backgrounds, and Ian Carroll is no exception. In an interview with apprenticeship.io, a non-profit dedicated to educating Americans about apprenticeships in technology, Ian shared his journey from a theater major to a full-stack software crafter.
Going from writing plays to writing software might seem like a circuitous path, but the experience has helped shape the way Ian approaches software. “There’s no such thing as an app that’s done. It’s just an app that’s abandoned. The same thing goes with art as well. It’s never finished,” he said. "It’s just, you just stop at some point and it’s really arbitrary when you do, but that’s a moment, that’s not alive. The living is in the development of it. That’s what’s the same in both of them."
Theater is not the only passion that reveals itself in Ian’s philosophy toward software development. For 10 years, he studied Taoist philosophy, which became the foundation for his outlook on life and work.
“In a lot of ways, when I encounter problems in software, things that seem completely unsolvable or just inexplicably like, 'this should be working, why isn’t this working?' I go and I fall back to that tradition of meditation and self-analysis,” he said. "It’s all just not real. I’m just seeing a mirror reflection of my own feelings bounced back to me through the terminal. That anxiety is just in me, and it’s funny how reflective a computer can be about our own feelings."
This level of self-awareness is becoming more important among software professionals as we see more ways that software can impact our lives. “If we ignore ethics when we’re working in software, we are going to code ourselves into a nightmare world, and it will be our fault," he added.
Before joining 8th Light, Ian was primarily self-taught. He used the scrum methodology to calibrate his focus, and eventually earned his certification as a scrum master while learning to develop his first software applications.
Although Ian studied and practiced writing software on his own, he also sought out a community of developers he could learn from. In the podcast, he describes how he became better simply by showing up. “Surround yourself with people who know more than you do, and just soak in the goodness because there’s nowhere for you to go but up when you’re surrounded by people who are better than you,” he said. “Be the worst in the room and dare to show up, and that’s what I would do. I would just show up and I would always do the things.”
Attending Meetups eventually led Ian to connect with his mentors at 8th Light, and pushed him to begin his career as a software crafter in earnest. This experience has also inspired him to remain an eager mentor to anyone he meets. "The whole reason I mentor anybody is because all I am doing is reaching down to my past self and helping my past self out again,” he said. “Because I seriously needed a hand up, and I was blessed to have mentors who were there, who are able to do it. And so to not do that would be to deny what they did for me, and also to deny myself the fact that I was worth it. I was worth having someone reach down and grab me."
To hear more of Ian’s story, listen to the full podcast episode here.
You can also read more about working at 8th Light, and apply for open positions in our upcoming apprenticeship cohort or as a senior developer on our careers page.