Val took some time out of teaching to speak to us about her experiences before joining CodeClan, her love of tech and her future aspirations.
What were you doing before CodeClan? Did you study anywhere?
I was working in a digital agency as a C# developer building a whole variety of sites, big and small. I was also pioneering the graduate scheme and looking into how we could grow and support new members of the team. I’ve been in full-time development roles for 5 years, part-time for another 4 while I was studying Computer Science at Heriot Watt University.
Where did your passion for coding come from?
I’ve always been into computers and gadgets ever since I was little. My parents were kind enough to get me a Sega Master System when I was small even though money was tight, and from there I was hooked. I was unfortunate enough to be really good at a lot of subjects at school and wasn’t really sure what to do as a career. In my infinite wisdom I thought accountancy was a good idea… It wasn’t! I was more interested in how the accounting software worked than the actual course content. I decided that the curiosity I had for that coupled with my passion for computers was a better match as a career choice! If only I had known that programming was such a wonderful crossover between the creative world and the logic world, I would have done it straight from school.
Where and how did you learn to code?
Although I did my degree in Computer Science, I really learned to code on my own working in summer placements and in my own projects. My degree provided me with the tools to be an efficient learner and to have a curiosity about the world, which I needed to learn to code.
Why did you choose a career in digital?
The digital world excites me – it’s always changing and evolving. There’s so much to learn and there’s never a dull day – it’s a great area to work in if you want to be constantly challenged.
Why did you take on your role at CodeClan?
It’s great to be able give new students the skills and guidance that I wish I could have had when I was setting out on my path to be a developer. We can really change people’s lives and also provide a stream of really great quality workers into the digital world, which is just amazing.
What do you enjoy most about your role at CodeClan?
The people, both the students and the instructors. It’s a great place to be with a fantastic atmosphere always brimming with energy. I get to work with super talented people and teach really bright, lovely developers to be and see them grow. It’s amazing.
What do you think about the CodeClan model itself?
I think it’s a well overdue change. Being a programmer is a craft, a skill that can be taught and honed. It has real practical aspects that need to be learned and practiced. Much like a joiner or a plumber, we have a set of tools we have to learn to apply efficiently. CodeClan is all about giving those skills to people in the most efficient (and fun!) way possible and getting them into a position where they can then go off and hone their craft.
What are your thoughts on the tech sector in Scotland?
The tech sector in Scotland is vibrant and thriving. There are so many different types of tech businesses looking for all sorts of people to do all sorts of things. It’s a fantastic place to be to pursue a digital career.
Why have you chosen to embark upon a career in tech in Edinburgh (and not in London)?
Although London offers higher salaries, it often comes with longer hours and means horrible commutes, busier streets and lots of noise. I’m more of a shack in the country kind of girl than a big city living girl. Edinburgh is beautiful and has so much going on in the programming world. My next choice would be Glasgow rather than London – it has a great and rapidly expanding digital scene and is still smaller than London!
Why do you think women should learn to code?
I wouldn’t say that anyone “should” learn to code. I would say they might like to “give coding a try” if they have a curiosity about computing and like the idea of doing something very creative yet logical at the same time. For people who love learning, improving, being challenged and the joy of making things then programming is worth looking into – man or woman.
Some believe that coding is more of a right brain/left brain thing rather than a boy/girl thing. Would you agree and why?
I’ve never been a fan of the right/brain left thing or the boy/girl thing. I think people have a diverse range of skills that make them uniquely them. Some people will be able to take up a new skill with ease and others might struggle a little more. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Programming is about developing strengths in areas like creative problem solving and logic, but also having an insatiable thirst for knowledge and the will to keep going even when things get tough. It’s not about gender or “brain type”, it’s about developing the facets you need to be successful.
How has learning to code changed your life?
Learning to code has opened up a world to me that is full of constant learning and improvement, where I am constantly challenged. Being able to couple that with my desire to teach others and help them change their own lives, it’s a dream come true.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
The tech industry changes so fast that it’s hard to tell what I will be doing tomorrow let alone in 5 years! Ideally I’d like to be on a beach in Mauritius but if not, hopefully I’ll still be at CodeClan trying to change the world…