How did you begin your journey into tech and coding?
Totally by accident. Someone gave me a cracked copy of the Microsoft and the Adobe suites back when I was a teenager, so I starting playing around with some of the features of Microsoft Publisher and Adobe Dreamweaver. It turned out you can make websites quickly with them, but most of the sites looked bad — really bad — so I started looking at the layer underneath... the code!
Most people assume that code and design are opposites, but in reality code is a written design tool. It's explaining how something should work and look — the user experience and user interface of something digital. The best coders I know understand good creative work. Look at sites featured on SiteInspire and Hover States to see the correlation between code and design.
After a lot of struggling to make things over years and years, I eventually had a little portfolio I'd created online. I applied for a job that I never thought I'd get (it was a cool creative agency in London), and I somehow got the role.
What made you want to start up SuperHi, and how is it different to other online coding courses?
I wanted to take the best parts of an in-person, classroom-style bootcamp, which are several thousand pounds to join, and transform it into the highest quality, digital-first education — where anyone in the world can learn for a fraction of the price, at any time.
One thing that separates us from others is our specialisation for the creative industries. Most of our students are designers, photographers, illustrators or work in the field of creativity. We don't think the postman needs to learn to code, but we do see the incredible value for creative people to learn. So we specialise our course for them!
On first looking at our site, it could feel like our courses are expensive compared to the free-but-crappy alternatives online. But if someone is curious about how we teach and the value we give, they should try our First Steps to Coding guide to see if they like our style of teaching. It's totally free too.
"If anything, the way we work is the most collaborative and open environment I've ever worked in."
How collaborative is your job?
SuperHi is a remote team — we have five people working from four different locations in different countries and different time zones — so we have to be incredibly collaborative. We're also teaching students in over 45 countries worldwide too, so we have to use a lot of tools that help us work together in a non-traditional, digital-first setting.
We take a ton of notes and plan continually. There's no "did they say this?" in our work as everything is written down and agreed to at that moment. If anything, the way we work is the most collaborative and open environment I've ever worked in.
You were also previously co-founder of Steer. What have been the biggest lessons you have learned from starting up your own tech companies?
Running a tech startup is tough! It's long days and nights (and sometimes weekends) because you're trying to make something happen that isn't there already. Sometimes I feel like I'm Sisyphus pushing a boulder up a never-ending hill!
But it's all worth it. I get to work with and pick the best team. I get to collaborate with amazingly talented students from all over the world, who go on to create incredible projects and advance their careers. Whenever I hear that a student has got their dream job and it was partly down to us, that makes it worth it.
What advice would you give to young creatives thinking of learning to code, and what are the benefits of knowing the skill?
Even as part of the students that come out of SuperHi, we see a lot moving into combination roles such as designer/developer. For a hiring company, particularly a smaller company, someone with a combination role is incredibly valuable.
"If you're not willing to learn the internals of the very thing that enables your business, then you'll never really understand your business."
And what advice would you give to those who are also looking to develop their own tech-based startup?
My best advice is to do as much as you can by yourself without needing to rely on others. One thing I get asked over and over is "I need a coder to make my idea," and when I ask them what stage they're at, most of the time they're still in the planning stage. They don't need a coder, they just need to do the hard graft of everything. They can do a business plan, they can do wireframes and sketches, they can talk to potential customers, they can learn what technology they need to work with... they can get everything in place before they get someone else to help.
If you started running a restaurant, you might not be cooking all the meals, but you need to know a lot about food. If you're starting to run a tech-based startup, you can not succeed without knowing the basics of coding. If you're not willing to learn the internals of the very thing that enables your business, then you'll never really understand your business.