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.
It’s hard to know where to get started when wanting to career switch. With no knowledge of the industry, almost being on the outside looking in, it can seem like it’s an overwhelming challenge from the very first step.
Researching your options
My first point of call was Google, which I found completely overwhelming. With such a broad search return, I didn’t know where to start. I felt like I needed to be more specific with my research; however, with no idea of what I needed to know, or how to start my journey, that seemed like an obstacle in itself.
Also, a lot of the results Google returned were predominantly American. Obviously, America is a huge player in the tech industry, but I was expecting a lot more UK-based articles or blogs to guide me on my path. I quickly realised that I needed other ways of finding the resources I thought would aid me on my journey.
As there had been recent articles by the BBC crying out for women in tech and claiming there were endless resources for getting beginners into code, I reverted back to that initial article that sparked the fire in me.
From there, I booked an introductory course into code to see what it was all about. Although, it turns out I booked a course for children, and so was not eligible to take it, which I found out once on the teams call.
So, with a minor setback, I was again back to the drawing board, this time with a direction. I now knew there were online coding courses that could be done virtually, some even at your own leisure. So from this, I had a more concise search to approach Google with.
Although, in hindsight, all the most valuable information I got always came from word of mouth. So before I get into the online courses, I will give you my first tip.
Be vocal! If you’re anything like me, you will want to keep your new career move under wraps. In the past, when I’ve gone for something, I’ve usually kept quiet, protecting my new venture, whilst protecting myself, mainly for the fear of failing.
However, for some reason, upon taking this massive leap (with no sight of the ground), I casually voiced my interest in tech to whoever would listen, and luckily for me, roughly 50% of people who did listen developed into a networking opportunity in one way or another. Whether they worked in tech themselves, had a friend or relative in tech, knew where to learn, knew of meet-ups… the list goes on. Each and every conversation was the door opening even more.
In this industry, networking is the most powerful thing, so tell everyone you can, even if it scares you!
Finding the right training option
But back to the online courses.
You can go as full throttle as you like with these. There are websites you can play around with code on and be taught along the way, or at the other end of the spectrum; there are bootcamps!
I ended up on a bootcamp which fell into my lap through word of mouth, thanks to my ‘networking’, but before this started, I had been self-teaching on Codecademy.
Codecademy is one of the amazing free resources out there, making it so easy to get into tech without taking the traditional educational route. Obviously, you have to know about it to benefit from it, and that’s the hurdle I had to overcome. These resources are luckily a lot easier to find on Google, and they can take you as far as you want to go.
People have self-taught for 6-12 months using these resources and walked into their first Junior roles, from absolute beginners learning what HTML stands for. There is a free version and a premium version. The premium version gives you certificates on completion, which you can add to your LinkedIn profile.
Udemy has great courses which you can buy and keep, and they often have sales, or courses on offer. These are great as they are a one-off payment for the specific course you want.
FreeCodeCamp is exactly that: free. There is an option to donate to support the website, which I hear many people do out of pure gratitude for their free courses being such a great resource and helping so many on their way. All these are great as stand-alone options, or to support you through a more intense course, like a bootcamp.
The 16-week bootcamp I completed was listed on directGov under the Skills 4 Life scheme. Looking at it now, you seem spoilt for choice, so there are definitely plenty of opportunities, and different options to suit different needs. Some are part-time while others are full-time, Mon- Fri 9-5.
My bootcamp’s part-time hours meant that it was perfect for career switchers already in employment. Our class hours were Tue-Fri 6-9pm, with an assessment set on a Friday to complete over the weekend each week. These courses really are a catapult into the industry, and they prepare you to be job-ready for a developer role by the end of it.
The great thing about bootcamps is they also give career advice, interview prep, and potential job opportunities. I was also given a lot of help with creating an effective LinkedIn and had a tech community already through my course.
Ultimately, I ended up on an apprenticeship with a different provider as I didn’t feel ready by the end of my bootcamp so make sure you do your research as the content you learn is not regulated in the same way that traditional qualifications are.
The top tips I was given about LinkedIn were:
- Have the open to work banner
- Have a professional picture, headshot if possible
- Add a background banner; you can find LinkedIn banners on Canva
- Get on the job boards
- Have a clear description listing relative hard skills, with industry-specific buzzwords. Avoid vague titles
- Add the job title of the role you want; this makes you visible to recruiters searching for that job role
I spent many hours watching code-along videos, as well as short descriptive explanations to help me understand something better, or get unstuck on a project. After enough videos, you will find your favourite people to watch, and find a style that works for you. For me, it was Programming with Mosh and Web Dev Simplified.
I would suggest you surround yourself with tech and let the algorithms do their job.
Follow people on the same journey as you, or inspirational people in tech, whether that’s businesses or the CEOs. It’s much more casual content on Instagram as opposed to LinkedIn. I made a new Instagram account specifically for my coding journey to keep things separate from my personal account.
Listen to podcasts
I found it hard to find UK podcasts, but there are some great ones out there in general, although mostly American.
I listened to Code Newbie most days while at home. It’s so inspirational to hear about the journey of successful names in tech, but so motivating to find out that their journey into tech was also ‘untraditional’ and similar to my own. Some had only been in tech a few years or stumbled across it accidentally.
The same goes for blogs. Find people who you can relate to, who inspire you, who have already walked your path and see what they have to say about it.
Also, keeping up to date with the latest tech is a must throughout your career in the field, so blogs are your new best friend.
Don’t forget to check back next month for more advice about retraining as a Software Engineer and the latest updates on my apprenticeship journey.