Engineer in training: My retraining journey into development 

Lil Corris is our latest Software Engineer in Training, and as she goes on her apprenticeship journey, she will be sharing monthly updates on what it’s like to retrain for a career in development.


How my retraining journey began


For women, returning to work after having kids can be hard enough, so the thought of pursuing a new career can almost seem selfish.


With plenty of transferable skills but little technical experience, I took advantage of the Skills for Life scheme. I started my journey to a career in tech with a 16-week development BootCamp. 


I knew doing so would benefit me and my family long-term. Once I decided to return to work, I realised that this was the perfect opportunity to retrain. After some extensive research, I decided that a career in tech would be the perfect fit for me. 


A leap of faith


I found that retraining in the hopes of a career switch into a new industry felt like a sacrifice for the whole family, and this was a decision we all had to be on board with. That said, if you can ride the wave of mum-guilt, and see the temporary sacrifice as a worthy investment, the leap will definitely pay off. 


Breaking into a new industry


Upon nearing the end of a 16-week bootcamp, the challenges of applying for jobs without the required experience became apparent. Many job ads seemed to target junior developers with 12 months or more of experience. 


How is anyone expected to break into the industry without the experience behind them? The catch-22 of needing experience to get into the industry without any opportunity of getting that first role and gaining experience makes it feel impossible. 


Having already come so far, though, I decided that I wouldn’t let this end my journey to retrain as a developer. Eventually, I found myself at J B Cole, who encouraged me to further build on my skills with a software development apprenticeship – but more on this later.


Navigating new priorities


Going back to work as a mother can be daunting. You can only hope that your employer will understand and sympathise with your new role as “someone’s everything”. You have new priorities, childcare to juggle, and monthly germs to combat! These challenges can be even more difficult to navigate for mothers looking to shift into entirely new careers. Many women are be held back by the fear of being seen as a disadvantage in the working world or having misplaced priorities.


The power of supportive employers


Not every business is looking to set you up for failure. They’re not there to laugh you out the door with your thirst for learning and little else. Some are waiting to give you a chance. To nurture the motivation and determination that drove you this far, and support you every step of the way until you realise you are worthy of where you are! That support is crucial for us newbies. (Although I’ve heard the imposter syndrome never really leaves). 


No trips ups, just a leg up


J B Cole went above and beyond to ensure I was at ease, which minimised the pressure I felt. Their friendly approach in every aspect of our contact, rather than formally, was like nothing I had encountered. I heard terrifying things about coding interviews and was extremely anxious going into mine, but I very quickly realised I was valued, and they were there to give me a chance, not to trip me up.


Welcomed with open arms


From then on, I was in regular contact with a few people at J B Cole to see how we could move forward together. It wasn’t a case of me having to jump through hoops or tick every box of an unrealistic job spec. They took a more empathetic approach that acknowledged my strengths and supported my weaknesses. 


I remained in the loop whilst picking an apprenticeship provider, and they asked my opinion on which course suited me and what I wanted out of my role! We decided on Manchester Digital, and the wheels were in motion. 


Embrace your background 


I was surprised to discover that I received a warm welcome and celebration for my motherhood from everyone I met on my journey, despite my lack of tech experience.


It is easy to let self-doubt cloud your mind and make you question your worth when feeling inadequate. However, as women and mothers, we need to stop putting ourselves down or feeling less-than for choosing to take time to be ‘unemployed’ for the benefit of our children.


Believe in yourself


The questions I have repeatedly faced regarding my background and work history trigger an element of shame and embarrassment. As well as the overwhelming feeling that I am out of my depth. I always received a positive response, however. Especially when touching on my career break to raise my children and my choice to retrain. The transferable skills we acquire as mothers are invaluable! These are something we quickly diminish in a state of self-sabotage.


Opportunities for women in tech


The resources out there are aimed at people like me. Someone ready for a new challenge, a passion waiting to be applied. And the call for women in tech has never been stronger. With all the current courses and apprenticeships, and amazing employers like J B Cole waiting at the end, there is no better time to go for it and retrain.


Watch this space, as I develop into my career and explain more about the things I’ve learnt along the way.


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