A quick intro before I get onto the main event; My name is Emma, on Twitter you can find me at @britnorcodes . I'm a Software Engineer and I've been coding for around 5 years - 3 years studying at University and 2 years in the industry. After years of wanting to start a blog, it's finally happened, Emma's kicked imposter syndrome to the curb...for now 😬
This is my personal journey from no knowledge of the tech industry to finding my passion and getting a job 💪
I am originally from Manchester, however, I was born in Dubai and lived there until the age of 18. I'm not going to lie to you, I haven't always had a passion for computers and software engineering, I kind of stumbled into this world, with no prior knowledge that it existed. There is a common misconception that all Software Engineers have lived, breathed and typed code since they were very young, I can confidently debunk. You really can start at any age.
I went to a school where we were educated and encouraged down one of a few routes, namely Medicine, Law, Economics etc. None of which appealed to me in the slightest. What bothers me the most, is that no one actively encouraged me to pursue a career in tech at school. I did this off my own back and managed to keep ploughing on till somebody noticed me. It wasn't a joyous ride, at points discouraging, especially following a route which was so foreign to my parents and friends, even now explaining what I do, their faces are puzzled.
At school I took ICT (Information, Communication and Technology), Maths, Economics and Art for my A Levels. I really had no idea what I wanted to do, I thought I was going to go on and do Art, but I was such a perfectionist that doing one drawing took me DAYS, I thought to myself - this ain't sustainable or good for me. I then began exploring my creative flair with ICT and designing websites in Serif WebPlus, I remember vividly thinking this is cool, my Justin Bieber website pinned up on the wall in the classroom, Mum I've made it! I spiced up my database module in ICT by making a One Direction ticketing spreadsheet. It got me thinking of what could be possible for me by combining art and computers. I loved to push myself out of my comfort zone and surprise people, especially those who thought I wasn't capable.
My pre-uni brain was a little lost, I had the course I wanted to do in my head but I wasn't sure what it was or if it even existed. I remember going onto UCAS and typing in the subjects I studied and it returned a list of courses that fitted with them, that's when I spotted the Digital Media course at the University of Leeds, it's a match! It allowed me to live my creative dreams, alongside exploring my curiosity with computers and technology.
My very first module in web development was 'Interface Design' where we covered only HTML and CSS, I got really stuck and a nice person from StackOverflow screen shared with me for about 4 hours to explain everything to me. Humans are nice! 💓 Don’t be afraid to reach out to people for help, I promise you people are willing and the absolute worst outcome is they say no. Or they tell you how angry they are for your overuse of the
<br> tag, not that I'm talking from experience or anything...
During my final year of University, I had to pick between a dissertation or web project, it was a no brainer for me, opting for the web project I built a Progressive Web App called myPlan. It was built for those diagnosed with young onset dementia to break down daily tasks into sub-tasks and help organise their day, with a catalogue of tasks to pick from but also the ability to add custom ones. I did a lot of reading into the condition and a lot of the choices I made were supported by my research.
That year was tough but I learnt a lot and it was incredibly rewarding to build a product which benefited people, it had a niche use. There were times where I felt so overwhelmed, late nights in the library banging my head against the wall trying to solve the many bugs. Those on my course were either doing a dissertation or web projects which included film and animation, or building an app with Swift so I struggled on with no one at arms reach to help with JS. But that independent learning route which I was forced down has really shaped the skills I have today.
Even now I'm still studying, I have a specific note on my computer called 'Learning' I add to it pretty much daily of terms I hear someone mention or cool things I see online that I want to know more about. I add to it more often than I tick things off, but it's my way of keeping track of my current interests. I would highly recommend doing something similar, if you hear a term which is alien to you, google it then or write it down to read up on later. You will learn so much this way.
In January of my final year I came across a 3 day development workshop called Work In The Web, ran by a digital agency in Leeds called Mixd. I applied without thinking I'd actually get a place, lo and behold - an email came through and I'd been picked.
The workshop was one of the best things I have ever done, I would not be where I am today without it, both personally and professionally. I recommend it to anyone in the UK at the beginning of their web dev career, to gain a better insight into the industry - and to network!
Mixd exuded enthusiasm and passion, and for the first time I felt like there was other people who saw and valued my skills and actively encouraged me to pursue web development. I left the 3 day workshop feeling inspired and motivated, I was so ready to show those people that me, yes me! could become a web developer. I got home and saw they had an opening for a Graduate developer. I applied and 2 face-to-face interviews and 1 tech interview later - I was offered the job! 🎉
I spent 1 year working as part of a small team with the most incredible colleagues, building custom WordPress sites - putting my PHP skills to good use. I was lucky enough to have an incredible mentor during my time at Mixd, I learnt invaluable skills from him and put a lot of my confidence now down to the time he invested in me. If you ever find yourself in a situation of being offered a mentor - take it, it might not always work out, and that's fine, you tried. But a good mentor is priceless.
Our clients were heavily public sector which meant they were being used by the public and accessibility had to be tip top - after that accessibility is kind of ingrained in me now. A lot of engineers see accessibility as an afterthought, but if you pledge to writing accessible code from the get go, you'll thank yourself later, and so will your users! Semantic markup is more important than you think.
Since starting my current role, I found myself spending less time on side projects as my day-to-day got busier, but recently, I've taken a pledge to myself to invest more time in my personal interests - outside of work. Hence - @britnorcodes was born!
Em 💫Took the plunge and made a twitter specifically for all my tech needs 🤓💫19:12 PM - 02 Jul 2020
So, where do I see myself in 5 years? I hate this question, like with a passion. I find it so hard narrow down all the grand plans I dream of for myself into practical plans for the future. But at the moment I'm interested in connecting with other people like me! The best unexpected perk of being in tech is the incredible community online, everyone is so eager to help and that really helped me when I was starting out. I don't like the thought of anyone not doing something because they're too intimidated to ask questions, or fear they're not good enough. Those leading the tech industry were once beginners too, they weren't born with all the knowledge - although, that would be pretty great wouldn't it?
I'm aware the tech community is great but it can also be scary because it can often feel like everyone knows a lot more than you, or you don't know where to start. But I can guarantee that no one knows everything, nor are you expected to. My goal is to encourage as many people as I can to pursue a career in tech, especially women. Self directed learning can be hard because you have to trudge through all the online resources to find the ones that work for you, but I promise you they are out there. Create your own path. ✨
People learn at different speeds, this took me SO long to actually process and accept, don't feel defeated because people around you are moving quicker, your time will come, keep at it. I've had my fair few blockers and days where I was ready to give up, but looking back I'm so glad I didn't because now I get to do what I love and I get paid for it. I'm really keen to get involved in Open Source Software so if you have any experience with this or where to start - get in touch.
If you made it this far, come say hey! @britnorcodes 👋