Wondering what you can do with a sociology degree?
Beatrice found an apprenticeship as a developer after spotting the position on my No CS Degree job board which makes me very happy! Here she gives her story of learning to code, the benefits of women meetup groups, the power of networking and the benefits of using Github.
Hey, so can you introduce yourself?
My name is Beatrice and I recently joined Fueled, on their London team as a Front-End Intern/Apprentice. Like most people who are entering the technology field, I have a non-tech background.
My first degree was in Sociology and then my masters was in Gender Studies. Funnily enough, both of my university dissertations centred around technology and its impact on black women. So I’m not surprised that I ended up working in the technology industry 😆
After graduating from university, I found myself working in finance. Although I was good at my job, I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to work in technology but I wasn’t sure what role would suit me.
I loved being creative, technology and art. But, I had no idea how I could marry these things together to find the right role for me. I remember speaking to my older sister and she recommended that I should learn how to code. She knew I was a good problem solver, enjoyed learning new things, being creative and loved all things STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths).
After my sister mentioned coding, everyone around kept encouraging me to learn how to code. It felt like a sign from the universe. But, I felt like I wasn’t smart enough! Eventually, I met two developers who coached at Codebar Brighton at a Hackathon who persuaded me to come to Codebar’s weekly workshop.
After attending my first workshop at Codebar, I was hooked! Coding connected my love for technology and art together. From there, I knew that I wanted to start my technology career as a coder.
What does a typical day as a software developer look like for you?
A typical day usually begins with me starting with signing into Slack and greeting my team (remote life ftw). My first week, I spent working on a mini project, which was creating my own stylesheet for Style Stage. My stylesheet was inspired by GTA Vice City, vaporwave and 80’s aesthetic.
I really enjoyed this mini-project, as I learnt more about modern CSS. My team loved my stylesheet. I was shocked because I felt like my work wasn’t good enough so I was worried to show everyone. I’m trying to break this habit and I’ve told myself that I’m going to submit this stylesheet. For now, you can view my stylesheet here.
Currently, I’m working on a learning project. The learning project is a safe space for me to learn and make mistakes. I’m learning VueJS and how to use external RESTful APIs. I’ve used React before and I felt like I didn’t understand anything. But learning VueJS has made me realise I DID have a good understanding of some Reacts concepts. I’m eager to relearn and build some new React projects.
For my learning project, I created my own wireframe. Then I spoke with the design team, who turnt my wireframe into a cool design. With my mentor, we broke down each design part into different tickets for me to develop.
The tickets are created using the projects tab on Github. Each time I pick up a new ticket, I create a new branch to work on. Once finished, I create a pull request where my code is reviewed and then I merge that branch. After I finish off a ticket, I move onto the next ticket and if I need any help my team is always there to help out. I feel very lucky to work with supportive team members.
I’ve only been in my job for two months and I’ve learnt so much. I’ve learnt useful practices for example BEM methodology, how to write good Git commits and how to read AND understand documentations. I’m really eager to put what I’ve learned into real client work and also my own personal projects.
**Sidenote: I’m aware, some readers might have never heard/used Git or have basic knowledge of Git. These resources are useful to get a better understanding of Git and Github:
- Resources to learn Git
- Git and Github For Poets
How did you learn coding?
I began learning how to code through FreeCodeCamp and attending evening workshops at Codebar Brighton. I then started the Udemy course The Web Developer Bootcamp by Colt Steele. This is an amazing course, however some of the content is outdated (however it appears the course is being revamped and updated).
I then attended a coding bootcamp called TechSwitch which taught me other essential skills and methodologies for example:
- Agile Methodology
- Pair Programming
- TDD (Test Driven Development)
- Sprints/Sprint Planning
- Standups, Retros and Demos
Looking back on my journey, there are a few things I would have done differently:
- Become comfortable breaking things - I was worried when I made mistakes and broke my code. I’m slowly learning that when you break your code, this is a potential opportunity to improve your problem solving skill.
- Find another junior developer to learn with/from - On my team at Fueled, there’s another junior developer. She’s really amazing and supportive (you should follow her on Twitter: Reem 🦌 🇱🇧 (@reemcodes)). We send stuff that we’ve found (like books, articles etc) and bounce ideas back and forth with each other. Junior developers generally feel like we don’t know anything, but actually we know a lot more than we think we do.
- Make a meetup group for junior developers - This leads on from my previous point. I attended a few hackathons and workshops like Codebar, Codefirst Girls and Node Girls and I met so many amazing junior developers. In fact, another self taught I met at the Node Girls workshop in 2019 sent me the NO CS website as she knew that I was applying for jobs. We all had different skills and I wish I had created a junior developer network of my own, where we meet up to work together on our own project or group projects.
- Volunteer as a web developer - There’s a big difference working on your own personal project and working on a real life project. Being a volunteer is rewarding, you can learn as you build, gain real client experience and it’s another project on your portfolio.
How did you get your first job?
I found this job through the No CS Degree job board. I’m glad No CS job board exists, as the platform is making software development more accessible to people with no CS degrees and career-changers. I’m glad companies are taking the risk to hire entry-level/junior developers.
What was the interview process like at Fueled?
I had two interviews. The first interview was with someone who works in HR, this was a casual interview. The second interview was with the Director of Web Engineering. We had a conversation about my background, passion about engineering and discussed my projects on Github.
Do you have tips for people who want to learn to code without doing a degree?
In 2019, I did a lightning talk called “Lessons From a Self Taught Junior Developer”. In the talk, I share some lessons I’ve learnt whilst teaching myself how to code.
Here are also a few more tips:
- FreeCodeCamp is an excellent starting point to learn the basics. They also posted articles on their blog and videos on their YouTube channel. ALSO IT’S FREE
- Attend free workshops if there are any in your area - It’s a great way to meet developers.
- Network - This can help you find a job, the latest tech out there and learn more about the industry. If you're shy or anxious maybe have a friend tag along. Or pre-plan 3-5 questions that you want to ask each person you meet
- Have a portfolio of work - whether that’s on Github, Codepen or on your own personal website.
- Build projects and if your stuck don’t be afraid to ask for help on places like StackOverflow
- Comparison is the thief of joy. Don’t compare yourself to others who have got a job in 3 months, 1 year etc. This is your own journey - focus on yourself.
What are your career goals for the future?
One of my career goals was to give back to the tech community, which I’m already doing by volunteering with CodeYourFuture as a teaching assistant. Code Your Future is a coding bootcamp for refugees and underrepresented communities to get into the tech industry. It’s super rewarding!
Also, I would love to have the opportunity to blog and run mini workshops where I teach people (especially young girls) how to code by making their own mini game. It would be amazing if my mini workshop inspired young girls and women to consider technology as a career option or even a fun hobby.
In terms of job progression, I want to become a UX Engineer as I’m passionate about user experience, designing and coding. This is a hybrid role which bridges the gap between design and development. For anyone who is interested in learning more about this role, this book called Design Engineering Handbook by Invision explores the role in depth.
Thanks for the interview!
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