Skip to main content

Alright something a little different for this week, let me tell you about this interesting chat I had the other day. I was interviewing Alex (name changed for confidentiality purposes) for a Product Manager role with one of our developer tool start-ups.

It was approaching the end of the day and Alex was my last interview. Alex, who looked every bit the tech candidate you’d expect to walk through the doors of a tech startup. Glasses? Check. Cool yet understated tech tee? Check. A laptop stickered to oblivion? Absolute check. You know the type – breathes code and lives for a good hackathon. But as we got talking I had one very insightful chat that got me thinking.

Alex’s story was something else. He started in music, playing in bands and producing songs – not your usual route into tech, right? He got into software out of necessity, trying to tweak music production software for his band led to a full-blown fascination with developer tools (devtools).

Alex was all about experimenting and his background in writing music and teaching himself (multiple!) instruments gave him the perseverance he needed to also get started in tech. He started teaching himself to code through bootcamps and taking on small projects, contributing to online forums and building small tools.

What really stuck with me was something Alex said about technology and music. “It’s like playing an instrument,” they said. “Having a great tool is one thing, but knowing how to use it properly – that’s where the magic happens.” Made me think, that did. It’s not just about the tools we use; it’s how we use them that counts.  Alex’s musical experience and prowess really leant to his advantage in the devtool world, emphasising the importance of covering previous experience and hobbies (however irrelevant you think they may be) in a job interview.

After the interview with Alex I did some research online and it turns out that there could be more of a scientific correlation between playing an instrument, in particular composing music and becoming a programmer.  In fact, some suggest that it could even make you a better coder as both have foundations in mathematics, algorithms, analytical thinking and solving problems [1].

A survey conducted by Stack Overflow reported that approximately 40% of professional developers report to playing a musical instrument or have played on in the past.  This percentage is higher than the general population average, which is about 10%.

I also read that back in the days when programmers were few and far between, companies would recruit first those with Maths degrees and a close second, Music scholars to then train up.  Computer science was originally seen as a form of art; like music.  It required creativity and allowed ‘the artist’ to express themselves in a way that was meaningful to them.  ‘CS pioneers such as Ada Lovelace and Alan Turin were know for their creativity, innovation and technical knowhow.  Similarly, famous musicians such as Mozart and Beethoven, were also know for technical mastery and innovative use of musical forms.’ [2]

Many articles also cover the collaboration nature of both writing/playing music and programming.  Yes there’s also a degree of individuality to both, but in order to learn, adopt other approaches and grow in either field, collaboration and a sharing of knowledge in essential.  Just like musicians get together and jam, programmers get together to work on code e.g. pair programming, open-source collaborations, hackathons etc.

So, there you have it. Meeting Alex was a reminder that our career journeys can lead us in all sorts of directions if we’re curious enough, and there’s a definite bonus to sharing these experiences when you’re in a job interview. It was quite the journey from strumming guitars to tapping keyboards for Alex, but maybe it was more inevitable than a coincidence.

If you’re in tech and fancy a chat about your next move, or if you’re a start-up on the lookout for someone a bit different, give us a shout at Develocity. We’re here to match talent with opportunity – and maybe have a good natter along the way.