Teaching ‘bots to read
Mapt: How did you become a developer?
Mark: I wasn’t academically smart enough to get accepted into the Computer Science degree at the University of Bristol, but I noticed that the Chemistry degree requirements were lower and if you could take any science subject in combination with suitable secondary subjects to then after the first year, swap your main degree subject. So I applied and was accepted to Bristol to study Chemistry, I chose Mathematics and Computer Science as secondary subjects, and switched to the full Computer Science degree.
M: My natural inclination to seek an easy life made me jump on the Visual Basic bandwagon in 1992 and that got me started with the Microsoft platform. You could argue that my success as a developer is a direct result of me embracing technologies that minimize the amount of code I personally have to write.
Mapt: How did you come to write a book?
M: I was approached by a Packt commissioning editor who had seen my LinkedIn profile. I had “get a book published” on my bucket list so I naturally jumped at the opportunity.
Mapt: Give us an interesting/fun fact about your book
M: Scattered throughout the book are pop cultural references and the names of all my nieces and nephews.
Mapt: What’s the best feedback you have received for C# 6 and .NET Core 1.0?
Mark points us towards PhiC’s review on Amazon: ‘I am a total novice to the art of development and started reading this book with some trepidation. However, I was blown away by how the author builds you up from the initial stages of writing your own script through to more advanced concepts. I would highly recommend this to anyone starting out in the subject or, like me, want to see what all the fuss is about! It is obvious that the author is an experienced teacher/trainer as his presentation of subjects and the methodical approach he uses throughout the book is second to none. It is a must for anyone interested in this subject.’
Mapt: What do you think is the most exciting trend on the horizon?
M: Big Data analysis and Machine Learning driving bots combined with a content management system (CMS). Today, companies create a website that customers and partners can browse around and search to find information stored in a CMS. Tomorrow they will create a bot front end to the same CMS. You will be able to have a conversation with a bot that knows all about that organisation.
M: For example, instead of going to Gatwick Airport’s website to find out about flight times or car parking or restaurants, you’ll have an interactive chat with Gatwick Airport’s bot, either through typing in a chat app or verbally via Siri or Cortana or Alexa.
Mapt: What’s changed in the industry since you first started?
M: When I started, having a degree was an expected entry point to a professional technical career. While degrees are still necessary for some careers, like being a doctor, more and more companies today realise they are missing potentially talented degree-less employees. Why spend three years at a college or university learning what out-of-touch academics think, and rack up £27,000 or more in debt, when you could do an apprenticeship and start earning from age 18 (or even 16)? Three years later you could be £50,000 better off financially and have three years of real world experience compared to a graduate. Ernst & Young recently dropped their degree requirements for applications. That will trigger a wave of similar decisions from smart employers.
Mapt: What was the craziest thing you did in your career?
M: There are two: In 2004, I quit IT and decided to go to film school to learn screenwriting for a year. I went back to IT and then in 2010, I quit IT again to become a mathematics teacher in London secondary schools. Both cost me a lot financially but I don’t regret either. I’m who I am today because I don’t follow the well-trod path.
Mapt: Any advice to today’s young developers?
M: Don’t go into the gaming industry just because you think it’ll be ‘fun’. It *can* be fun, but so can working on business systems! Choose a position based on the technology and the team members that you will work with, not the salary or the industry.
Mapt: What is your dream job?
M: I can’t really say, although I hope to have to be there within the next five years.
Mapt: What are you reading right now?
M: I am currently reading The Reason I Jump: one boy’s voice from the silence of autism and Horace and Me: Life Lessons from an Ancient Poet as well as lots of techie books, of course!