Temi Olukoko is a software developer on the British Telecom graduate scheme. She shares her tips for learning coding and her journey into web development.
Hey, so can you introduce yourself?
Hello, my name is Temi and I (usually) live in Bristol, U.K. but I’ve temporarily moved back in with my parents in Edinburgh, Scotland because of covid. I’m a software developer on a technology graduate scheme at BT working within the API Gateways & Microservices team. I have an MSc degree in Geophysics and a BSc degree in Geology and Physics so I never even considered a career in the tech industry until 2 years ago.
I’m an advocate for diversity in tech, where I speak at tech events, mentor young adults in order to encourage them to pursue careers in the tech industry and deliver coding workshops to children.
I’m also a content creator as I create tech, coding and early careers content that I share across social media platforms such as YouTube and Instagram.
What does a typical day as a software developer look like for you?
A typical day for me starts around 8:40am where I'll spend an hour or so doing some independent study. At the moment I'm working my way through a Java course because my team code in Java. At 10:30am I have a daily standup meeting in which myself and my team get together to discuss the tasks we're working on and we mention any progress or issues we're having.
Recently I've had several leadership opportunities at work, so a few times a week I take on the role as scrum master and lead the standup meetings, delegate tasks to other members of my team and get involved with DA (Design Authority) work.
After the daily standup meeting I'll work on the tasks I've been assigned. I might work on some development or design tasks and I also have meetings throughout the day either with my manager, my colleagues or people from different parts of the business. My day usually ends around 16:30 or a bit later if I have deadlines to meet.
How did you learn coding?
I first learnt Python during my BSc degree and I really struggled to pick up the fundamentals of coding because the course was rushed and wasn't taught well by the lecturer. I had a similar situation in my MSc degree where I was taught MATLAB and only just managed to understand what a for loop was.
How did you get your first entry level software engineer job ?
I got a place on BT’s rotational technology graduate scheme which allowed me to get my foot in the door! It’s a rotational program so it's split up into three 8-month rotations, allowing graduates to experience different sectors in tech.
Going into the grad scheme, I knew I had an interest in tech and coding but wasn’t sure I was ready to commit to a purely software engineering graduate scheme. When I started the scheme in September 2019, I joined a network design team where I learnt a lot about mobile architecture but realised it wasn’t for me.
My second rotation was in a software development team, which is where I am now! I was a bit apprehensive before joining the team because their tech stack is Java and Spring Boot which is technology I wasn’t aware of at the time. I’ve learnt a lot since being in this team as I was thrown into the deep end straight away, so I was forced to learn at a fast pace. Since being in the team, I’ve realised software engineering is less about the tech stack you're using and more about figuring out how to solve certain problems.
What advice do you have for someone without a CS degree who wants to get their first programming job?
When learning to code, if you don’t want to spend a lot of money on courses then YouTube is a great place to look. There are several YouTube channels with great content such as freeCodeCamp, programmingWithMosh, Traversy Media etc.
Try not to spend too much time going through online courses as I’ve found that you really learn by applying your knowledge through building web applications. The minute I started to build things from scratch on my own is when I had to think about coding on a bigger scale, such as;
(1) what is the problem I'm trying to solve?
(2) How am I going to solve it?
(3) Who is the product for?
(4) What languages are most appropriate to use? etc.
Having a portfolio is really important! You can either build your own online portfolio showcasing your projects or use your GitHub as a portfolio. Portfolios are a good way to show off your skills to employers and show them your passion for software development.
If you’ve recently graduated from university then graduate schemes are a great way to get into tech! A lot of tech grad schemes these days don’t require you to have a tech-related degree but just an interest and passion for tech!
Have you ever had imposter syndrome?
Yes I have. I had it a lot when I first joined the development team I’m in now. I constantly felt like I wasn’t good enough to do software development work because there was so much I didn’t know but I tried to counteract these feelings by just asking for help when I needed it. Nobody knows everything, especially when it comes to professions like software engineering and when I realised this, my imposter syndrome wasn’t as bad.
I strongly believe that friendly and patient senior software engineers are a very important part of your career as a junior/graduate developer. If it wasn’t for the great colleagues I have now, I probably would have been completely put off from software development altogether. Coding isn’t easy, especially if you don't come from a traditional background so it's important to have people around you who are patient and kind!
Also, getting good feedback from my manager and other members of my team helped me realise that actually i’m doing alright and should probably give myself a break!
What are your tips for people learning to code?
My first tip would be to use online courses or books as a guide! Once you're grounded with the fundamentals of coding, jump into building your own projects.
My next tip would be to get involved with tech communities as soon as you can. There is a large tech community on Twitter so that's always a good place to start. If you’re a newbie in tech then the Code Newbie community is great and if you’re an ethnic minority then there are also several tech communities out there!
My last piece of advice would be to find a mentor early on to help guide you and give you advice whenever you may need it. You can either do this organically by striking up a conversation with someone you admire and letting the relationship grow from there, or you can join a mentorship program.
What are your career goals for the future?
My biggest goal is to secure a permanent job as a junior software developer after finishing my rotational graduate scheme! I’m currently learning about data structures and algorithms to prepare me for future technical interviews.
Thanks for the interview!
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