How I turned my coding hobby into a career

Kate standing in Cultivate's Edinburgh office

After starting a career in education, Kate trained in software development at CodeClan. We spoke to her about becoming a software developer and getting a job at Cultivate.

What did you do before training at CodeClan?

I was on maternity leave before joining the course, and my daughter was eight months old when I started. Before that, I was the Admissions Manager at CodeClan! It was my job to deliver info sessions, interview prospective students, and manage student enrolment onto the course.

Before that I worked in education policy in London, where I helped schools and charities to set up new state schools by advising them on everything from governance structure and finance plans, to ICT procurement and finding a building for their school.

Why coding and tech?

I enjoyed working in education and at CodeClan, but I didn’t really know what I wanted my career to look like in the long term. The jobs I’d had up to that point weren’t particularly cohesive: there were some shared skills, but otherwise they were pretty different in terms of the organisations I worked for and the roles I had.

After my daughter was born I was keen to get back to work and it seemed like a good point to reflect on what I wanted from my career.

I had just spent months telling people how amazing the course at CodeClan was, I’d watched the people I’d interviewed go from being fed up with their career and often fairly knocked back by spending so much time doing something they weren’t passionate about to competent, enthusiastic, confident programmers.

Added to that was the fact that I’d already been programming in my spare time and really enjoyed it. I’d just never stopped to think about whether I should turn my hobby into a career.

How did you find the day to day reality of the course?

I enjoyed every part of the course and found out pretty quickly that I could easily spend all day and night learning. In the early days I spent my spare time reading up on the concepts we had covered in class, or looking into features that we hadn’t, and by the end of the course I was spending my spare time building more things, or fleshing out projects beyond what we’d been asked to do.

You don’t need to spend lots of extra time learning to succeed in the course, as the curriculum is very well designed and paced, but I was caught up in the thrill of finding something that seemed to suit my brain so well.

That’s not to say there weren’t hard days (or even weeks). I didn’t struggle too much with the concepts, but the intensity of the course did get to me a couple of times. It was particularly hard when my daughter decided that she was going to give up sleeping for lent.

I think everyone in my cohort went through at least one tough patch. It’s understandable: these 16 weeks reshape the way you think, and you’re bombarded with new information on a daily basis.

We got each other through it with pep talks and gallons of tea.

How was the social side of the course?

One of the best things about the course is the people you go through it with. CodeClan really encourages cohorts to take the time to get to know each other well and to bond as early as possible. My cohort took that to heart and I think we all had a better time because of it.

The course is so intense you need people that you can talk to or take a break with who understand what you’re going through.

My cohort spent a lot of time playing boardgames: at lunchtimes we cycled through a core of favourites and then on Thursday nights, our one night off from homework a week, we’d often try something new. As much as I love programming, you need to switch off otherwise you’ll burn out and so these boardgame breaks with my cohort were crucial!

You’ve just started working as a Software Developer at Cultivate. How have your first few weeks been?

I’ve really been enjoying my new job. The main reason I applied to Cultivate was because it has such great values, including empathy, collaboration, honesty and quality.

We work in pairs here, so I get to collaborate with people who have much more experience than me which has been a great way to learn. There has been a lot of new information to take in but I’ve already been able to work on new features and bug fixes that have been deployed.

The course set me up really well to tackle the challenges of being a developer, both because the content is so well structured and also because it really helps you to learn how to learn.

Interested in changing career?

Come to one of our regular Edinburgh or Glasgow info or taster sessions to find out more.


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