Is learning to code similar to learning a new language?
“I don’t think that analogy even does it justice,” says Anna Smith, Tech North Northern Voices participant, and now junior software engineer at the BBC.
“Throughout the world, there are people who don’t speak the same language using the same programming languages, so it seems to me like a fundamental skill to me.
“It opens the whole world up, because you’re able to communicate in a whole new way.”
Anna began her career as a solitary criminal defence lawyer, but fearing her job security in an industry reliant on government aid, she began to look for other opportunities.
Just 18 months ago, she was representing clients in the witness box. Today, she’s helping to build digital products for one of the world’s biggest and best respected broadcasters.
Anna’s first contact with coding was with Code First: Girls and she immediately noticed a change from her previous, rather isolated way of working.
“With Code First, you are working together with other volunteers on a project, so at the end of the course, you have something to show.”
Committing to her career change, she decided to undertake a paid-for coding bootcamp at Makers Academy.
“At Makers Academy, they put an emphasis on the practices that the industry expects, such as pair programming and agile working.”
Anna got the first job she applied for, but she doesn’t think her story is particularly exceptional.
“The more you integrate with lots of diverse people, the more stories that are similar.”
Anna frequently gives back to other people that want to learn to code. As well as working for Code First: Girls, she also spends time teaching prisoners with Code4000 at HMP Humber and helping refugees build new lives as part of Code Your Future.
“I recognise that I was able to change my life quite considerably that I could take the time off work, could support myself.
“I recognise that for many people, the bootcamp model can be prohibitive financially – which is why I love Code First: Girls and other free initiatives – that’s why I’ve invested so much time into them.”
So what are Anna’s top 3 tips for getting into a coding career?
- You can get started with a free course, which you can find on the National coding week website at https://codingweek.org/?edition=GB
- Learn the different ways of working and kinds of tools used in the industry such as pair programming and jira
- Do plenty of research on the kinds of companies you want to work for and be a little bit selfish – you’re making a big sacrifice and you want it to pay off
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