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Inspiring future generations of web developers on National Coding Week

Written by Cheryl Swan on

It’s National Coding Week. A week all about learning new digital skills and encouraging our younger generation to embrace learning coding.

For National Coding Week, we caught up with a few of our accessibility experts to see what drew them towards working in the tech field and encourage other aspiring coders to take up a career in this important and exciting industry

What are your roles within the HeX team?

James Hall, Tom Miller, Zara Gemmell all stood together smiling
The HeX team from left to right: James Hall, Tom Miller, and Zara Gemmell

James Hall: I’m the Creative Director at HeX Productions. I manage the team, develop accessible websites, provide training sessions, and support organisations across the globe to become accessible. 

Tom Miller: I’m HeX’s Front-end Developer, responsible for looking after our websites across the board.

Zara Gemmell:  I’m HeX’s Accessibility Director. My role is building strong relationships with clients, making sure accessibility is at the forefront of every project, and raising awareness of the importance of inclusivity with our clients, our peers and the wider community.

Why did you get into coding?

James: I’ve been into all things web as far back as I can remember. I built my first website at the age of 13 or 14; this is when was born. I used Microsoft Front Page, which is now regarded as one of the worst programs in the world! My passion for web development followed into college, where I became a Student Web Developer. After that, I went on to study E-commerce technology at university.

Tom: Web development has always interested me, but it hasn’t always been my specialism. I started out in the editorial industry, managing a team of picture editors. However, in my spare time, I regularly played around with WordPress, assisting with family members’ sites and creating websites for friends.

Zara: My love for web development came from the decision to empower myself with the knowledge of an ever-growing industry. I knew if I didn’t make it my business to understand the web, I would soon be out of touch. I started by learning how to create a website for my photography portfolio but never really expected to become a developer. Then an opportunity arose to join HeX as a Junior Web Developer, and I took a chance on a career change. After working on numerous development projects, I haven’t looked back.

How did you get into a career as a web developer?

James: After university, I worked for a year with the Tech Guys (now known as Know How) to get web experience. Then opportunities arose working with public sector organisations, such as Broxtowe Borough Council and Gedling Borough Council. These taught me the ins and outs of the industry. At the same time, I was freelancing, which enabled me to reduce my hours and get to work creating my own startup business – HeX. Since, HeX has flourished into an award-winning company with a global reach.

Tom: After enjoying working alongside a couple of developers, I decided to take the plunge and take a sabbatical from work to take part in a Javascript Bootcamp. This led me to become a graduate software engineer. However, I soon realised that working on the backend of websites wasn’t for me, and that’s when I discovered my passion for Front-end development work.

Zara: My need to understand web development led me to take on a college course in the evenings to fit around my full-time corporate job. I took the decision to join HeX as a Junior Web Developer to gain some hands-on experience. However, over the years learning the craft and building upon my extensive accessibility knowledge base, I became HeX’s Accessibility Director. These skills have allowed me to shape the business and guide the growth of the company, moving HeX’s business model into having a focus on digital accessibility, which is an area where I continue to champion more awareness in the industry.

How could someone in education enhance their experience?

a laptop with coding on the screen

James: Whilst I was a Student Web Developer I took the time to look after the ‘student zone’ at college and built that site up. At university, my dissertation involved turning an offline business into an online one, in which I built an online coffee bean ordering system for a local coffee shop. It’s projects like these where you can gain new skills and can refer to them on your CV. 

It’s also important to secure work experience within the industry you are trying to go into, it’ll broaden your experience and give you real-life insight into that career. HeX works closely with universities, colleges, and schools to give young people the opportunity to take away accessibility knowledge to help in shaping the digital future. So, bear us in mind if you’re looking for work experience. 

What advice would you give to future developers?

“Things are always moving fast in development, so you’ve got to be able to learn quickly.”

Tom: There isn’t a day goes by where you don’t learn something new in web development. You’ve got to have patience and try to be methodical in the way that you work.

Quite often, things don’t always work the first time, so being able to deal with these frustrations is important. If you’re good at problem solving, you’ll thrive in this field. 

Why is accessibility important in coding?

an orange hexagon with the accessibility symbol inside

Zara: Web accessibility is when websites, apps, and digital tech are built so that people with disabilities or users of assistive technology can use them. If accessibility isn’t taken into consideration or isn’t designed in the correct way, it can create barriers that exclude people and even stop them from using a website altogether.

It’s everyone’s responsibility to design with the user in mind, especially so for web developers. That’s from the wireframing stage, right through the development process, and even within the site’s content.

There are Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to guide you through how to make a site accessible and four main principles to consider when building an accessible website

Our top 5 tips to get into coding:

  • Get Googling – there are lots of online tools and software out there now to be able to self-teach yourself code. From free resources for young people such as Code Club which offers free step-by-step guides, to in-depth YouTube tutorials.  
  • If self-teaching doesn’t necessarily work for you, enrol on a course to show you the way. Take a look at local colleges or universities for courses. 
  • Coding can be a bit like learning a new foreign language, so you’ll need to choose the code that you want to learn and see what suits you. Here are some you can Google Java, HTML, CSS, and Python. 
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help, it’s the best way to learn. Upskill yourself from learning tips and tricks from the experts. 
  • Have the confidence to give it a go. Try writing your own code and sure you’ll surprise yourself with what you can achieve! 
someone typing on one laptop with coding on the screen, next to another with someone talking over a online call

Got the experience and looking for a career in web development?

We’ve currently got vacancies for Front-end Developers and PHP Developers to join our expanding team.