Charlotte did an online coding bootcamp and was able to change career and become a Frontend Developer. Check out this interview for her advice on learning to code, getting hired as a developer and what it's like being a programmer.
Hey, so can you introduce yourself?
Hi, I’m Charlotte. I’m a Frontend Developer living and working in Brighton, UK.
Before I became a developer, my background was in science and I worked in a laboratory. I then decided to train to be a software developer. I did an online bootcamp in Full Stack Development with Code Institute and after 2 years of studying whilst working as a developer, I earned a Distinction in my diploma.
What does a typical day as a software developer look like for you?
I am a Frontend Developer for a tech company in the education sector. The tech stack I'm predominantly working with at the moment is ReactJS, but I’ve also been dabbling in a bit of Ruby on Rails (backend) for a project I'm working on currently.
Day to day, I generally log on around 8am (flexible hours and remote working suits my inner early-bird!) and check my emails and the board of tickets that contains the work we’re currently doing. When the whole team has logged on, we do a standup meeting (virtually, but before the pandemic we would have done this in the office) where we talk about what we’re working on and anything that’s blocking us from completing the work.
If one person has an issue, someone else can jump in to help them get the work over the line. Generally the rest of the day is then spent on development work with the occasional meeting dropped in for planning the next features we’re building. I also make presentations of features we’ve released to showcase to the rest of our colleagues all the cool things we’ve been building! I take an extended lunch break so I can get out and about for a walk in the daytime (really important in the winter months!) and usually sign off around 5pm.
How did you learn coding?
Initially I did a bootcamp with Code Institute. The bootcamp was great, I had a mentor that was working in the industry and there was a community of thousands of fellow bootcamp students in a slack group. The course gave me a solid grounding on basic frontend tech, along with backend technologies and databases. However, I found that the real learning came on the job… much like learning to drive a car, passing your test, and then really learning how to drive afterwards.
I taught myself React and React Native for a role I was in after I completed my bootcamp, and totally fell in love with the language! I used a mixture of Udemy courses (Hint: wait for the sales which are on literally every month for a huge discount!), Tyler McGinnis’ course and Wesbos courses to learn React. There are also plenty of awesome Medium articles and Youtube videos to explain key concepts.
Why did you learn to code?
I think my main motivation for getting into tech was the job security, as well as the fact that you’re always learning and no two days are the same! Working in science, while I loved (and still love!) all things nerdy, there was definitely a ceiling with regards to how much you could be paid. I found myself just collecting more and more qualifications in an effort to increase my salary but the goal posts were always moving.
With a scientific background, i’m able to utilise my analytical side but in a totally new creative way and I think that brings a lot to my role. What I love most about coding is that you can create a feature that solves a problem literally out of thin air! I love the feeling I get when I release a feature out into the world and know it’ll give benefit to many people.
How has your life changed since learning to code?
When I got my first coding job I was on the same salary as I was as a lab technician, but after the first two years I had basically doubled my salary which is pretty incredible! I don’t think I would have been able to do that if I had stayed in a scientific career. I’ve been able to save up a deposit for a house much quicker than I would have previously, which was a huge driver for the career change.
In the past couple of years I’ve worked on some incredible projects with real social value. I think tech companies have weathered the storm quite well during the pandemic as essentially all you need is a laptop and an internet connection to keep working! I’ve transitioned to remote working during the past year, which has been hugely beneficial.
What was the interview process like for your first job?
My first job was a very entry level role as a Junior Software Developer. The role advertised was for a Software Developer with several years experience, however I had heard this company was super open to training people who had the right attitude. I sent an email to their HR department asking whether they’d be willing to consider taking on someone who was inexperienced but keen to learn on the job, and was invited for an interview within the next week.
Firstly I had a telephone interview with the team manager. He asked questions about why I wanted to get into tech, and I discussed what work I had been doing and how those skills could be utilised in their company. I was then invited for an in-person interview. Prior to the interview I was asked to complete a psychometric test online. This tells the company things about you as a person and your character and helps them to see how you’d fit into their team dynamic.
At the interview I had a ‘culture’ discussion regarding the results of the psychometric test, they’re super interesting and accurately tell a lot about you! I then had a chat with the team manager and someone from the senior management team regarding the work that I would be expected to do and discuss my (at the time) very limited tech experience. I then did a written test, which was a series of questions to do with frontend tech, backend tech, and database queries.
Do you have tips for people who want to learn to code without doing a degree?
Definitely start building things, start small and practice the basics first i.e. HTML, style it with some CSS, see if you can make it responsive for mobile and web devices, and maybe add some JS interactions. Once you’ve got a little collection of apps, you can build a portfolio site for yourself to link to these apps. If you’re new into tech, and you lack working experience in tech, then the biggest thing you can do to showcase yourself and your skills is a portfolio.
As a general tip, learn to walk away from the code and take a break if you hit a roadblock with your learning. I’ve lost count of the amount of times that some code has been broken, or I’ve not known how to fix something and the answer has just come to me after a short break or whilst doing something completely unrelated!
What are your career goals for the future?
I would like to progress to more senior roles in Frontend development, and then perhaps lead my own team of Frontend Developers. It’s really important to me to work on projects that are super interesting but also do some good in the world, so I’d love to continue working in ‘tech for good’.
As a side-project, I want to start posting consistently on my blog. I started it when I was learning how to code, and I love teaching so it would be good to revive it and teach people cool frontend tricks through that medium :) Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn, or check out my blog for software related posts and general nerdy things!