Dev Academy becomes a magnet for U of California graduate seeking to learn how to code, seeking pathway for life's next big journey

Eugene Lynch, picture from Dev Academy
What do you do after you have obtained a Chemistry degree from the University of California? You keep pursuing the idea of doing cool things like building a harp using laser beams and other projects to change the world because you just can’t imagine being stuck in an engineering job.

But that’s not all. For Eugene Lynch, a 22-year old Berkeley grad, the answers to future might not be immediately clear, but a step he has taken has led him to the Dev Academy in Wellington – where he will learn how to code.

If New Zealand is lucky, Eugene could stay behind when his student visa runs out, and help fill the huge talent gap in New Zealad’s IT industry.

Eugene Lynch had just graduated from University of California, Berkeley when his friends told him about Dev Academy.

The Dev Academy is a revolutionary school set up this year to help combat the New Zealand information technology shortage. It recently placed 100% of its first graduates in IT jobs.

Dev Academy provides intensive IT programming. The course trains students to be web developers in just nine weeks, as opposed to traditional bachelors degrees that take about three years.

Coming out of one of the top universities in the world with a degree in chemistry the 22-year-old had a job lined up with a “very fancy” lab – but something was holding him back.

Not a 9 to 5 kind of guy

 “I’d reached this point where I’d become very qualified for full time engineering jobs, but I didn’t want a full time engineering job, or full time anything job.

“I needed as much time as possible to work on creative projects, because that’s what makes me most happy,” he says.

While at university, and becoming disillusioned with academia and the life he saw stretching predictably in front of him, he started skipping school to work on a side project.

“I wanted to make musical instruments. I started making simple circuits and learning about circuits, and eventually built this little instrument – a harp – but with laser beams instead of strings. You intercept the beams with your fingers and it plays music.”

Lynch then added a bunch of switches and knobs to the harp and turned it into a midi controller.

“I interfaced it with Ableton [music software], using it as a sampler, step sequencer, and modular synth. Then I interfaced it with Max Jitter, using it to apply mathematical operations to projected video. Then I did both at the same time. Then I made a 7” tall version of it,” he explains.

‘What the **** are you doing, after all this work and schooling?”

Hooked on the process, Eugene kept pushing it further and further, to the anxiety of his parents.

“It was really fun and so I kept doing it. My parents were like, ‘What the **** are you doing, after all this work and schooling?” he laughs.

After graduating, him and his friends got venture capital funding to build “whatever [they] wanted”.

They ended up building what sounds like a beautiful and incredible piece of hardware that allows people to “in a very literal sense” feel things like light, distance, sound, and even mental state.

After completing the project, Eugene moved to Wellington and has now been here for just under a month studying at Dev Academy.

He’s finding the weather cold, but the people warm.

“It’s been cold. I’ve just been wearing clothing in bed,” he says.

For the Berkeley graduate, who already has years of self-taught programming under his belt, the course is great for his foundational skills.

Being ahead of some of the other students has allowed him to work on his mentoring and team-work as well.

“All these people are cool as hell, I enjoy pairing with them,” he says.

One of his favourite parts of the course is the focus on empathy and connecting with people that Dev Academy encourages, as well as the weekly Tech Talks held by IT industry experts.

“The first talk about sexism in the tech industry was really good to hear, especially coming from a place saturated with ‘tech bros’.

“And the way it was explained to us in such a tactful way…it was very understanding and non-assuming,” he says.

Eugene is currently halfway through to the nine week Dev Academy course.

After graduating, he plans to stay on in New Zealand until his visa runs out.