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I Interviewed some Talented Techies from Diverse Backgrounds: Here’s What I Learnt.

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ARTICLE SUMMARY

Meet 3 women in tech, each with a distinct background and journey into tech. Omotola Shogunle, valued member of our blog squad shares the highlights of her interviews with these accomplished techies.

Introduction

I recently did an interview with techies from different backgrounds about their journeys into tech. We had some great conversations surrounding being a self-taught developer, going through the boot camp route, things more people need to know about breaking into the tech industry and being job-ready, and finally the benefits of working in tech.

To summarize the backgrounds of the female techies I interviewed, I will start with,

  1. Brenda Michelle. She is a self-taught developer and a mom of 3.

  2. Courtney secured a digital media degree but switched into tech through a boot camp organized by CodeFirstGirls.

  3. Charmaine switched from being a neuroscientist to landing a Tech Analyst role and has been in her role for 3 years. 

Here is my summary of the 5 talking points I had with these amazing techies. I hope you find it resourceful.

Brenda Michelle, self-taught developer and mom of 3The Reality of Being a Self-taught Developer
No Curriculum
Being self-taught can sometimes feel like you are venturing into a rabbit hole, as Brenda Michelle described when she started her journey. In comparison with studying a tech course at university where you have a guide. It can be frustrating creating something similar for yourself since:

a. There are a lot of questions you have that need answers

b. You are unsure of where to start from

The worst thing anyone wants is to spend time studying a specific technology only to find out it was the wrong path after all.

So what approach did she suggest?

  1. Start with a bit of Job Market research on LinkedIn. What role are you interested in? And what are the requirements for entry-level developers?

  2. Make a list of important information, like what qualifications do they require? What are the role responsibilities, what technology, framework or language do they use?

  3. Find great resources that can help you learn the skills you need for the job. Use tools like YouTube, Udemy, or freeCodeCamp to find them.

  4. For each language/technology, you want to learn, have your trusted resource linked. Also, add some project ideas you would like to build.

This is a great way to go about building your own self-study curriculum that wins.

When is the right time to start applying for a tech job?

The answer is there isn’t a right time that fits everyone. But a great guide on how you know you are confident to start applying is if you go through the job description and you have a “yes” or “maybe” answer to the requirements the job has then, go ahead and apply for the role. However, if your answer is “no”, you cannot do what the job requires, then you need to learn some more. This is a rule-of-thumb other developers I spoke to suggested, and I thought it was useful. What is important is that you keep on trying until you land your first role.

Where can you ask questions when you are stuck?

We all get stuck! That’s why it’s important to join a community when you start your coding journey. This way, it is easier to ask questions. At the moment, there are communities like freeCodeCamp, codenewbie, Twitter under #hashtags #programming and #codenewbie, stackoverflow where you can ask your questions. If you do not have a group you are learning with, try using these channels to get answers to your questions.


The Bootcamp way

How effective are they?

Courtney earned her degree in an unrelated subject to software engineering and landed a graduate role at Sky TV after completing the Codefirstgirls Bootcamp. So the answer to the question “how effective they are?” is “effective”. What Courtney gained from doing this Bootcamp was:

222237EC-A113-4B74-92C2-B8DFB327C7A3.jpg
A certificate of completion

She gained experience collaborating with other women to build a project
She gained a community to bounce her questions off
Through this network of people, she was able to land her first role.

The great part is this was all for free! Instead of learning by yourself, you can opt-in to learn with others if that is more your style.

How does learning progress after you finish a Bootcamp?

This is totally up to you. Some Bootcamps offer follow-up courses, or you can choose to build more projects with your new skills, so you gain more confidence to apply for a job.

How impactful were CS degree certificates compared to Bootcamp Certificates?

Another question that came up was, did it matter if you didn’t have a CS degree certificate while applying for roles? The answer is no. Courtney said, from her experience, it did not matter. They were more interested in what you knew, how passionate you are and your willingness to learn. Being an owner of a CS degree. I would say what my certificate has helped me do is open the doors to opportunities for work. Which I think anyone with a degree from any course has access to. Some big tech companies might not mind if you don’t have a degree, but most companies do. So really, it’s not the degree you have that matters. It’s if you have the skills needed for the job.

What people need to know about breaking into tech…

First, ladies, you need to know this!

Charmaine, Tech Analyst
There is currently a need for more women to join the tech industry; take advantage of the fact that you are in demand and start training up to become hireable. This was something Charmaine highlighted during her interview, and I agree with her.

You don’t need to Write Code to work in Tech

There are so many non-coding roles in Tech you can apply for. Examples like UI/UX designer, QA (Quality Assurance)Tester, Project Manager/Scrum Master, Tech Support etc. These roles are equally rewarding and are also in demand. If coding is not for you, that’s fine, you can also apply to these roles.

Job-ready or what?

Searching for your first job

This can be very tough. There might be a lot of rejections when applying, but the secret is “keep on trying”. Speaking to other  developers in the field, I got suggestions like using Canva to design your CV to make it stand out. You will also need an online portfolio, which can you can build in 5 mins following this tutorial from the code creative.

When looking for roles, it’s advisable to start with smaller companies and work your way up. Depending on your area, it might be more competitive in big cities than in smaller cities. If you are open to moving cities, this might help you secure your first role quick.

For your first role, it is wise to aim for entry-level roles, these are more suited to applicants who have zero to less than a years experience in industry.

To start job searching, check out platforms like  LinkedIn, Meet Up to find tech events to network, Stackoverflow jobs, and of course SheCanCode’s job board!

Interviewing for the role

What to expect for your first interview? Most companies will be assessing three areas

  • Your technical skills, especially the foundation of how well you understand these

  • How well you work with people

  • If you are a fit for the company.

Your technical skills can be assessed using a take-home coding challenge. Or you might be asked to solve a problem during the interview.  It might also be a Q&A session about a particular tech stack. So it’s important you study well and be prepared. It’s okay if you do not know the answer to the question. It’s an opportunity to learn. Invite the interviewer to help you.

In some interviews, you are asked some situational questions. Most responses should follow the STAR technique where you explain the situation you were in, the task you were given, the action you took and the result achieved. At the end of some interviews, they might get a little personal just to get to know you. Just remember to be yourself. Use this opportunity to also ask questions about the company and people currently working in it.

Benefits of working in tech

What is the reason you want to work in Tech? Money? Cool gear? Job security? For me, it was flexibility. Some developers enjoy the perks of working remotely. What are you looking forward to? There are many more perks. It’s honestly an exciting field to be in.

This article was crafted to encourage anyone looking to transition into the tech industry to give it a shot. I managed to answer the most frequently asked questions about working in this field by having several discussions with these amazing techies. It is great to hear about their journeys and know it’s possible for anyone interested in making a switch. Please leave a comment, share, or get in contact with any of these people if you are interested in knowing more, and I am sure they will be happy to help. Good luck!

You can check out the interviews on IG TV at mycodinghabits.


 

6.pngAUTHOR: Omotola Shogunle – SheCanCode Blog Squad

 

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