February 11, 2017
Three and a half years ago, I started out as a chemical engineering grad. It took me quite a while to find my calling – eighteen months in a production plant and a master’s degree later, and I finally feel like I have found it. I spent so long waiting for a moment of epiphany, that I never actually expected it to arrive. I had started even to content myself with the prospect that I could spend my career flitting, because nothing would sustain my interest for long enough – interested in everything but never committing fully to anything. It did arrive however, not as a flash moment of clarity as perhaps anticipated, but as a gradual realisation over several months.
A career change is a bit of a scary prospect, particularly if you don’t quite know where to go next. After a year and a half of applying my undergraduate degree in the working world, I gave in to the fact that the role and I just weren’t compatible. It was a realisation that I came to reluctantly. I left my job and felt like I was entering a state of limbo. I went back to university, in the hope that I could achieve some enlightenment there.
Over the course of the following year, I learned, by gaining exposure to signal processing, that I quite liked to code. I couldn’t quite tell if I was any good at it, but it challenged and frustrated me, and opened my eyes to seemingly unlimited creative potential of code.
Once I decided to try and become a developer, I starting learning to code with Ruby. I was learning it here and there, when I could make time for it - a few sporadic non-committal hours a week. Initially, I assumed a technical background would be sufficient to land me a graduate developer role. It wasn’t.
Then I found my catalyst. I attended an amazing event called Rails Girls in June last year. The workshop aims to introduce more women to web development. There, I had my first introduction to app-building, and to London’s tech community. The first person I spoke to there was a wonderful developer named Louis, who was curious about my motivation for attending. I very sheepishly disclosed that I wanted to become a software developer, expecting to be met with questions about the type of development I’d like to do, or what languages and frameworks I wanted to work with. Questions that I didn’t really have fully-formed answers to. That wasn’t the case though, at all. Instead the response was: “Yes. Totally, go for it!”, before sharing with me an abundance of advice to set me on the right track.
That response encompasses my experience of the software development community so far - an embracing and motivating community of non-complacent knowledge-sharers. After Rails Girls, I ramped up my approach to learning as much about software development as I could, so that I could make the leap, while also completing the master’s degree. I attended workshops, industry events, and tried to cram in lots of coding challenges and some app-building. Two months after attending Rails Girls, I was offered my first tech job, where I’ve happily been for the past five months. There’s so much to learn, it’s overwhelming. I love it, and I’m ridiculously excited about where it’s taking me.