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July 1, 2022

How to start career in IT. Story of Aleksandra – Experts Zone Talks #18

Olga

Olga Vasylenko

Marketing Specialist
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How to start career in IT. Story of Aleksandra – Experts Zone Talks #18
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Transcription

Olga
Hi everybody. This is Experts Zone Talks. Today we will speak with Alexandra who is a frontend developer at Frontend House and talk about changing the profession from working in a museum to IT. Hello, Alexandra. How are you today? 
Aleksandra
I am fine, thank you. Everything is okay. So, yeah. Hello everyone. So today I will share my story of how I changed my career to IT. And I will add a lot of practical tips and advice for you in case you would like to do the same in the future.
Olga
Amazing. It's going to be an amazing talk, I'm sure. So let's go. Tell your story about changing your career from working in a museum and your cultural studies to changing into IT.
Aleksandra
Yes, in my case, I made a very sharp career turn because many years ago I studied the history of art and culture studies. So after I graduated, it was pretty natural for me to get my first job in the museum. I was looking after pieces of the past, curating exhibitions and from time to time giving lectures on art. 
Olga
Wow! What kind of lectures? 
Aleksandra
About different kinds of art, different art techniques.
Olga
Wow, that's amazing.
Aleksandra
We had a big collection of graphics. So quite often I covered this topic. I talked about different techniques and how these artworks were made. So it gave me a lot of satisfaction. It was really amazing. But after four years, I wanted to do something that would have more impact and that would be more in demand. So later I worked in the sales department of a production company and most of the time I spent working on enterprise resource planning software. And it had an extremely unpleasant user interface. You know, I think it was the first time when I thought that maybe creating programs might be fun and for. 
Olga
Sure, bad UI for your artistic soul was very painful. 
Aleksandra
Yes, it was very hard for me because I had to work on this software for many hours a day. And then I thought, wow, when the program has a nice and nice enjoyable user interface, it makes so much difference. And I thought that it's something important that can be something interesting.
Olga
When did you realize that you want to become a software engineer?
Aleksandra
Okay, so from this first idea to making a decision, it took me a couple of months because it appears to me in general as something very futureproof, as something that really sets you in the centre of our ever-changing reality. Plus, working remotely sounded like a plan for me. So there are two things from time to time, maybe I would be able to create software instead of just working with it. And I remember I saw some articles stating that people are able to learn how to code even without a computer science degree. 
Olga
…and become rich in three months?
Aleksandra
Yes, as I said, it took me a couple of months before I made any serious decision or commitment. And this is what I would recommend to everyone. To try our first and do not get influenced by any advertisements that say to buy their course and become rich in 3 months. It's better to try it out first to avoid any disappointment. So at first I just tried calling and treated it as something new but as fun. There are so many resources on the internet that let you do it. So I started on the Code Academy Platform and there are a lot of courses, like very basic ones, and there are for free. So I tried a couple of programming languages and I liked Python and JavaScript the most. Yeah, I just tried it out and it sparked a lot of joy. And what I liked especially was this focus that I had to be really focused on at the time. I was working under time pressure and I was doing many things at the time when I had to focus on a task or challenge, it was like fitness for my brain. Very nice feeling. Plus when I managed to complete something or grasp some new concepts, it always gave me a lot of satisfaction.  

Later I attended a workshop, it was Python and Django and we are creating our blog. It was very empowering to meet other people who learn, and who have the same goals. And later I attended workshops that were organized by one of the companies. And it was very nice to see the office, to see the chilling zone very well equipped. But what is the most important for me and what gave me really great motivation was the natural way that people communicated with each other and the whole atmosphere. And this can be an approach, which is, I think, something characteristic of the IT sphere and there's not something that you take for granted in other workplaces. So at this point, I decided, okay, I will try. It is something that I would like to devote some time to. And finally, I decided on frontend development. Yes, and another tip, one thing that I would recommend everyone to do as soon as possible is to check the job market. What's the situation? Because trends in IT change rapidly. But you have to remember that not every whole new framework turns into job demands, right? So do not choose technology based on some latest hype or et cetera.

Check what technologies are required for junior or intern conditions. And I think it makes sense to repeat this check every now and then because you will be able to see how your progress and how your skills relate to actual requirements. 
Olga
Alexandra, what did the process of changing your career look like? 
Aleksandra
It was very intense. My approach was rather careful because when I decided to change careers, I was already 30 years old and I had my full-time job, which I didn't want to give up, right? Because I didn't know if the whole plan is going to work, it would be too risky for me. So I decided to work and learn at the same time. I would like to share it as advice. Be reasonable and do not make any hasty decisions. Of course, it will depend on your situation and your possibilities. But do not decide based on success stories you hear or read because yes, many people without computer science degrees managed to start their careers in it. Sadly, no one keeps track of how many did not, right? Because they didn't have enough motivation or time. And it happens, it happens. And you have to be really prepared for hard work that will allow last not weeks nor months, but much longer. And what is, I think, worse about the whole thing? What made me very anxious was that no one can give you any guarantees, right, that in the end you will get hired. Okay, but enough pessimistically. Yeah.
Olga
So what was it? Boot camp courses or maybe university post-degree studies or something? 
Aleksandra
Before I answer, maybe one general thought about learning how to program. Is it true that you're able to find all the needed resources on the Internet and they are free when they start? Sometimes it's really hard to access the quality of these materials. And also at the beginning, it really helps to have a kind of a roadmap kind of curriculum, so a set of skills or technologies that you have to learn. Also, at some point, it is nice to have a person that will help you. They will check your code, which will give you some tips. It can be a mentor or it can be as well a programming community because most of the time it's really awesome and it will give you all the help. In my case, I decided on a boot camp which lasted six months. It was a web developer boot camp and even though I had no problem with keeping up with the timeline, it was too fast, really. I had no time to digest the material to get a good level of confidence in the topics that we covered. But overall, I had the feeling that I touched upon most of the skills that will hopefully get me hired one day. And I had a few projects like they were working on, so it was a plus. Definitely.  
Olga
It was working on your machine or maybe on others too? 
Aleksandra
Yeah, I think on other machines too. I checked it's also on my mobile phone. So it was already a small success. Yes, and later I was extremely lucky because I got accepted on a scholarship. Google financed a number of frontend development courses organized by Udacity, they offer a lot of different online courses but most of them are focused on technology. The quality of materials and this course was really amazing and they were prepared and presented by top experts. For example, React was covered by one of its creators but of course, normally these courses are costly so I was really very lucky to get the chance to follow this course totally for free. 
Olga
I think that you're not lucky, but talented. 
Aleksandra
And that is why maybe it's because I had to apply, I had to answer some questions and in order to get full access to the course and to graduate. I also had to be active in the community so I had to help other people and at first, I was like I have full little time for my own learning and how do I find more time to help others? But it turns out that it's very helpful because when you have to explain something, then your own knowledge gets more solid. 
Olga
At that time you had full-time jobs at the same time, right? 
Aleksandra
Yes.
Olga
That is crazy. I had a moment in my life when I had a full-time job and full-time studies and I thought that I would die and you just as changing your career. My God, that's amazing. 
Aleksandra
Yes, it is very hard. I will tell you a bit about this later on and now I want to go back to learning. So these two courses were the core of my learning. Of course, there are many more courses, especially in JavaScript and I wouldn't say that the way I did it in boot camp and course was a perfect way, but different things can work for you. Yeah, and in fact, I covered similar topics twice, right, both in the boot camp and in the course. But for me, it was a good thing to go a bit deeper and to discover some more layers of the same topic. And maybe here I will give you some tips about no matter what technology you're going to choose, start using Git as early as possible because no matter what will be your first task at the job, you will have to be able to commit your changes to open merge requests. Plus using Git has a huge benefit because it lets you showcase your projects and in fact, it was one of the things that got me hired in my first position so it can be really crucial. So yeah, just start using it as early as possible. 

And there is one more nontechnical thing. I would recommend everyone to read a bit about Agile because then you will get an idea about how work is organized in most It companies. For me it was also additional motivation because I thought, wow, it is great to work in an industry that has this kind of awareness that the way we work and our processes are something we should be constantly improving and changing and we even have tools for this. We have even a special methodology for this. So this was something that gave me this extra motivation that this is the place where I want to be. 
Olga
Cool. That sounds really optimistic and inspiring, but how did you organize this process of studying and working and this crazy tempo of your life?  
Aleksandra
Yes, so unfortunately I don't have any secret tips again. 
Olga
No?
Aleksandra
Just hard work. Yes. But I will share some little behind the scenes with you. So yeah, organizational wise it wasn't very sophisticated. I simply spent all my free time learning. So no matter if it was night, or a shiny afternoon on a beautiful weekend, I was sitting there and trying to finish my task and improve my technical skills. So sometimes it was really like each code repeats, every day the same. It was very exhausting, but at the same time very exciting. And I think this is what kept me going. And from Fun Facts I used to spend so much time in front of the computer right in my job and then learned that I had to use a lot of eye drops. 
Olga
Maybe you can recommend some. I’m joking, we can’t advertise drugs. 
Aleksandra
It was physically hard at some point just to keep up. And I remember I had to give up my hobby for some time, but I didn't give up some fitness or yoga classes to stay healthy and to stay balanced, at least to some extent mentally and physically. Not to ruin my health. And another thing that was very important is that I had the support of my nearest and dearest. They totally accepted my choice and gave me a lot of support. So yeah, it was very nice, so.
Olga
That’s nice to hear such stories. And how long did it take? 
Aleksandra
Okay. For me, without counting this introduction, every month when I was just having fun with the code, it was almost a year and a half from starting boot camp until finding a job. So it was this boot camp course, but then I had to polish my project to make sure that everything is perfect and everything works. Then the whole process of preparing for the interviews. So I had to fill in any gaps that came up at this time and I was doing a lot of coding challenges, so it was also some extra time that I needed. 
Olga
Fronted development needs constant studying. So I'm sure that you're just diving into coding materials too. 
Aleksandra
Yes, that's right. You have to stay up to date. 
Olga
What do you think is the most important in the whole process for starting working and becoming a front-end developer? 
Aleksandra
Basically in this whole learning process, I think it's a good idea to do even a bit, but every day, because long breaks will definitely slow you down and it's a good thing to kind of surround yourself with all this knowledge. You can do the course, but you can also subscribe to newsletters to stay up to date with your it career, which is, like we said, very important. You can read the articles and then when you are too tired to sit at the desk, you can listen to podcasts, right? So try to be surrounded all the time by this knowledge, by the news and this whole topic. And when you have a chance, attend workshops. Because it's a very empowering experience. It can give you a lot of extra motivation. You will have a chance to meet developers, and to ask questions. So it can be a really important part of the whole process. 
Olga
How did you find your first IT job?  
Aleksandra
Okay, so when I finally realized that it might be time to do this first try, I had this mixed feeling. Because I already had some skills but I still had this feeling that I'm not good enough. But to be honest, this feeling is with me still until the day.
Olga
Impostor's syndrome. We all know this.
Aleksandra
Yes, that's true. But going back to what I did, I started to look for internship offers and I managed to find one where I was familiar with all the technologies that were listed and that were used in this project. It also mentioned some maybe a little bit more advanced things like Redux. But fortunately, I covered it as well, so it convinced me to apply. Of course, I was extremely scared because this is the point when you confront your dreams and check if they can become a reality, right? But at some point, you have to do it. And another thing is that I was a bit afraid about the reaction of interviewers that there is a person who is not a computer science graduate and she's trying to get this internship. But I was very surprised because the people that interviewed me were interested in how this happened and they were very nice and in the end, really what was most important, was that I did well on the technical interview.

So this is what counts most and what is the most important. And it is good to gather feedback from many interviews because it might be very helpful for you to realize what is missing, and what are the things you still have to work on a bit. But in my case, I didn't have the chance because my first interview was successful. Okay, so let me share some tips about getting your first job in the software development field and information technology. Some of them might be obvious, but yeah, let's cover some of them. So when you have more experience, what you do is that you list your project and add the links to your CV, add links to your repository. This way you can showcase your skills. Another thing is interview questions at the start of career paths. So on the Internet, you will find a lot of them and it's really worth going through these questions, they do happen during the interview so you can be prepared. Plus if you find something that you are not sure about or you don't know how to answer, probably it's a thing that you should revise or you should brush up on a bit. Also, it is very useful to do coding challenges before software engineering interviews.  

Sometimes they are very specific and yeah, it's better to be prepared. Another thing, not technical this time is to be nice and to be natural. Because people who are interviewing you, of course, are choosing a skilled professional, but they're also choosing a colleague, someone they will be working on every day. Another thing is, it's really nice when candidates show that they're interested, right? So when they ask questions, when they know something about the company. Yeah, because I took part in some interviews for software developers. And when this interest is lacking, then it's a shame.  
Olga
Alexandra, thank you so much for your inspiring story about your career in it as software engineer and your positivity and attitude toward computer science. I'm really feeling very good right now. Thank you so much for your answers and see you next time. See you next time, too. You can watch other videos on our channel. Bye.

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Olga

Olga Vasylenko

Marketing Specialist

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