Like A Girl

Pushing the conversation on gender equality.

Code Like A Girl

How I learnt I was born to be a Software Engineer

This is me

Why doesn’t anybody say that engineering is a creative profession? I believe engineers are the artists of technology and I can prove it!

Two years ago I decided to leave my job in online marketing and find a job that allowed me to create and design things. I absolutely had no idea what I should be doing, so I started asking friends and strangers for suggestions on creative jobs. Should I be an artist? A seamstress? A craftsman? All sounded very good, but I had a computer science degree and worked with computers all my life so I was not sure that I could work with my hands and still get paid. “How about being a web designer? A writer?”, others suggested. It didn’t matter that I only used the text editor…practically I was working with my laptop. I had my concerns about each of these options and they didn’t seem well suited for me. No one suggested I become a software engineer or developer, partly because they didn’t consider the engineering profession to be a creative one and partly because it had a high barrier to entry. I felt lost.

Was I born to code?

One day I bumped into the School 42 website, which claimed that if you were under 30 and wanted to know if you’re “born2code”, they could help. They offered an “eligibility test” which consisted of some puzzles and took approximately 2 hours. This is intended to help you understand how talented you are and if the result was positive they would offer you a one month program of studying in Silicon Valley. If you passed the one-month program with flying colours then you would be eligible for a full-time study program for two years. They promised this would open doors to any tech company in the world. I had nothing to lose and I was curious. So I took the test and… passed! They invited me to Silicon Valley to attend “Piscine” — their one-month program.

Thinking back, I enjoyed School 42’s introductory test, as it pushed me to look for irregular solutions. It was not just a regular test with “do you know x?”, it was more like puzzles with multiple solutions. I was absolutely shocked as I never considered engineering seriously in spite of my Computer Science degree.

They said I’m “born2code”, was I?

Before travelling to Silicon Valley, I decided to try coding myself, try different languages and frameworks: JavaScript, Python, Ruby, Rails, etc. So I created two web apps: a Chrome extension City Project and an aggregator of London theatres. This real coding experience gave me enough confidence in myself and also confirmed that programming is a very creative thing. I also had a feeling of achievement as I created things with my hands.

To see what it was like to work with engineers, I started attending the Codebar programming workshops. Codebar is a non-profit initiative that facilitates the growth of a diverse tech community. They helped me meet beautiful creative people, who were keen on developing not only apps, but themselves. There were people there from all professions: animators, filmmakers, game creators, electrical engineers, and more. All of these things benefitted from coding skills, but were not necessarily their full-time job. This confirmed to me, again, that software development is a creative field with wonderful people, and I realised that I would like to be one of them.

I knew that software developers were in high demand, but I was still not sure that I could ever find work as a developer and as a woman, having a background in marketing. I decided to try out some interviews to understand if I can make it in the future. So I needed to create a strong CV which would convince companies to hire me.

Writing my CV: work experience instead of engineering skills

I created my first CV with links to Github projects and sharing how driven I am. I sent it to about 20 companies looking for Junior Developers. But nobody got back to me. I wasn’t sure if that was because of my background or my resume. I just moved to London and I didn’t have any friends who could help me with that. I wrote to one of the Codebar organizers, Jo Franchetti, and asked for help. Despite all my fears, she agreed to help me organise my CV. Her advice was to demonstrate that I have work experience (even if it’s outside of engineering!) instead of focusing on engineering skills. She helped me to not only improve my CV, but also work on my self-presentation skills.

Happily Ever After

Right after the session with Jo, I sent my CV to five companies hiring for junior positions. Each of them replied! It was my small victory!

One of these five companies was Pusher. Pusher provides communication and collaboration APIs for developers to build interactive features for their apps. As they are a company that provides tools for developers, it was important for them, that a candidate understands their product well. I spent time studying how the APIs work and even built a real-time chat solution! One of the interview challenges they gave me was to study one of their libraries and present a summary of how it worked.

After the interview, I was impressed to receive personalized feedback on how it went, something that most companies never do. I really liked the people I met during the interview. Out of all the places that I applied to, Pusher seemed a good fit for me and the best place to work.

In February 2018, I started working as a Junior Software Engineer at Pusher. I now feel happy to be able to create things daily and work in a team with creative thinking people, which I absolutely love.

I am grateful that School 42, Codebar and Jo helped me during my journey to becoming a software engineer. Even though I didn’t attend the School 42 short program, after creating some apps, I felt confident enough to continue the journey on my own.