"I signed up to support my old school after seeing an article in a local newspaper about their work with Future First. I’ve volunteered a couple of times. We did some remote sessions using Google hangouts. The school asked me to present Astro Pi to two ICT classes."
David Honess, Astro Pi Programme Manager and former student of St Ives School, A Technology College and Cornwall College
“I guess I’ve had a bit of an odd journey.
I was the uncool, nerdy kid at school. I was rubbish at sports, I came last in everything. I was kind of focused but it was the end of Year 9 before I realised I actually had to do some work. So I ended up with a string of Bs and Cs.
I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do when I was at school. I originally wanted to be an army officer. When I was 20, I decided to do some A levels at Cornwall College in Chemistry, Physics and Biology.
It was then that I realised I had an aptitude for computer programming. I did a BTEC and went straight into employment. It wasn’t until later on in life that I went to university. That’s one of the main reasons I want students at my old school to know they can change careers and switch about, as long they find something they’re passionate about.
I worked for a telecoms company. I was a software and hardware tester. By chance, I ended up writing code. I was writing programmes that made life easier and allowed me to write quicker. My managers noticed what I was doing and asked me to help them. I was eventually asked to work in the software team. And my coding career was launched.
From there, I started writing lots of code. I had several jobs, I travelled America, I worked for Money Supermarket. I even went back to university to study archaeology and worked in the field for three years.
It was in 2012 that I discovered Raspberry Pi. I liked the idea of bringing back bedroom coding, because that’s where I really got into it. I started to tutor kids with anxiety problems in colleges, teaching them how to use Raspberry Pi.
I wrote a prospective letter to the company and they offered me an interview and then a job.
I’d definitely recommend students do that too. It shows you’ve thought about the company and that you really want to work for them.
What’s my favourite part of the job? I’m on first name terms with astronauts. I’d never have believed you if you’d told me that when I was at school.
I signed up to support my old school after seeing an article in a local newspaper about their work with Future First. I’ve volunteered a couple of times. We did some remote sessions using Google hangouts. The school asked me to present Astro Pi to two ICT classes.
I did a 30 minute presentation using slides and images that show how we got code to space. The students asked lots of questions – they seemed really interested. I think they realised that I am someone who has been in exactly the same situation as they are now in. Hearing someone saying, ‘don’t worry it will be OK’ is reassuring. It makes a job like mine seem attainable to them. It doesn’t seem like a completely alien thing but a real possibility.
What advice would I give to my 16-year-old-self?
Don’t worry if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. Everyone was stressing about that when I was at school. You don’t figure it out until you’re older. I learned the hard way when I went to college. If you don’t have the passion for something, if you just study something you think will be useful, it won’t end well for you. You should pick something that gives you the passion and drive to follow through when it gets hard.
And wait until a minute to midnight before sending applications. Be the first one in their inbox. It works a treat!”