From high school teacher to Software Developer at the BBC

From high school teacher to Software Developer at the BBC

Lisa changed career from Maths teacher to Software Developer with the help of the Command Shift coding bootcamp. In this interview she talks about what she learned at Command Shift, how she overcame her imposter syndrome and her exciting new job with the BBC!

Hey, so can you introduce yourself?

Hi, I’m Lisa from the UK. I am in the middle of a career change from teaching secondary school maths to software engineering. Earlier this year I accepted my first tech job with the BBC as a Junior Software Engineer, the role is due to start in September.


Why did you learn to code?

A few years ago I had taken a break from teaching after having my children. During that time I thought carefully about what I wanted to do and I decided that I wanted to change careers. I had enjoyed teaching but wanted to learn something new, something to challenge me.

After thinking about what sort of things I enjoyed doing at university (other than maths) I decided coding was the way forward. I had done a little coding in FORTRAN and C++ whilst at university and had loved it. I have strong memories of trying to solve a problem, the excitement of it working and the frustration when it doesn’t. But also the amazing eureka moment when you debug and find out why it wasn’t working.

My experience had been using code to solve complex mathematical problems so I looked into what else I could use those skills for. When I decided on software engineering I was a little nervous as it had been a while since I had been at university learning something new.

I had a few transferable skills from my time at university like knowing what variables, loop, functions and if statements were, but other than that the coding was very different. The course I chose to do to facilitate my career change was Command Shift (formerly Manchester Codes). It is an extremely well taught course that leads you through lots of aspects of software engineering.

What attracted you to the Command Shift bootcamp?

After lots of searching on the internet, where I came across different ways to get into coding, I chose to sign up to CommandShift to do their 6 month bootcamp. There are a few reasons I chose to do the Command Shift course.

Firstly, I wanted to have regular lectures (2 evenings a week) as I knew I would learn better having the kind of structure where you commit a regular amount of time each week. I wanted the course to be a priority for me and thought, with my family commitments, that would be the best way forward.

Secondly, I wanted to do a course where there were tutors on hand to answer any queries I had or help me with the coding projects. It’s great being able to search the internet for answers but having experts on hand to help was invaluable.

Finally, I wanted to experience learning alongside like minded people, the support of having your peers doing the same thing as you was great. Command Shift has a very good reputation and I could see the companies that graduates were working at. That’s what I wanted though I never dreamed I would end up working for the BBC.

What did you enjoy about learning to code at Command Shift?

I enjoyed every second of the Command Shift bootcamp. I love being in an environment where I can learn new things, and there is plenty to learn in coding. Command Shift covers a range of coding areas. Firstly, it introduces coding using Javascript, HTML and CSS. Then it moves on to the backend with Express.js, PostgreSQL, Docker, and Sequelize.

Finally, the frontend module covers React. Key concepts like TDD, DRY and SOLID and referred to throughout the course. I was in my element soaking up all the new knowledge and applying it to many different projects on the course.

All the staff are so approachable. The tutors are amazing, they are so helpful at explaining concepts and providing support outside of lectures, even jumping on a call to help out. There is amazing career support, including help with writing CVs and interview prep.

You really feel part of the community as soon as you join, and build great connections with others on the course too. My favourite part of the course was the group project at the end.

Me and two other members of the cohort got to work together on our own app from start to finish. It was up to us to plan and design the app, and then work together to write the code.

Whilst I enjoyed all the projects on the course I found this one more satisfying due to having no materials to follow and to having to work everything out in our team. The tutors were all still there to support us and to advise us and help us if we got stuck.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to change career into programming?

If you know you want to change careers then I would do it as soon as possible. I waited a few years until my young children were a bit older, but actually I wish I had done the course when I had first seen it a few years ago. But I am so pleased I did it, I can’t wait to start my new career.

I personally took my time looking at all the options out there and decided that Command Shift was the way forward for me. So I would suggest doing the same, think about what you want from a course. Ask advice from people in the tech community, but ultimately commit to the decision and make that change.

How has your life changed since learning to code?

After having a break from teaching and becoming a full time mum I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my career. I love being a mum and I’m so happy that I was lucky enough to be able to spend the early years of my children's lives with them, but I wanted something else too.

I needed something to stretch my problem solving skills, I know I have found that with coding. I would spend hours every evening working on my projects whilst on the Command Shift course. It gave me the buzz I had when studying maths years ago.

I have really enjoyed learning all about coding. Teaching was great but I didn’t feel there was anything else for me to learn, no new challenge. Coding is an ever changing discipline, there will always be something new to learn. It is exactly what I was looking for and I know it will provide all the things I want from a career.

How did you get your job at the BBC as a Software Developer?

I hadn’t suffered from imposter syndrome during my time on the course but as soon as I started looking for jobs I felt like I wouldn’t be good enough for any. But I tried to put that out of my mind and applied for a few jobs. I thought to myself - all I can do is apply for jobs and see what happens and just take things as they come. I saw the advert for the graduate scheme for the BBC and thought it was an amazing opportunity, so applied.

I had receieved help from Command Shift with writing my CV and covering letter to show my skills and experience in the best possible way. I was so happy when I was sent a tech test to complete. The imposter syndrome disappeared while I was completing it. I was in my element.

The skills I had learnt on the Command Shift course were invaluable to completing it. What was difficult was doing it alone with no one doing a code review afterwards! Once submitted, I had 2 interviews and then got offered a job. I was so happy! I thought everything had gone well, but you never know for sure, and I am always my harshest critic!

What are your career goals for the future?

I want to continue to learn different aspects of coding. I want to build on the great knowledge that I have learned from Command Shift. The 2 year graduate scheme for the BBC is an amazing opportunity and I am so excited to start it. I am looking forward to seeing if there is a particular area of coding that I enjoy.

This interview was produced in partnership with Command Shift

Interested in changing your life like Lisa? Join our BOOTCAMP course, and learn the skills to become a Junior Software Developer in just 6 months! Cohorts on our remote and part-time course open every 6 weeks, but you can apply at any time. Head to our website here for more info.

About the author
Pete Codes

Pete Codes

Hey, I'm Pete and the creator of this site. I am a self-taught web developer and I'm based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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