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Katie Raby
Katie Raby

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How I Changed Career from Marketing to Software Engineering

Last year I was in an established marketing career, with no tech degree to speak of, and was convinced that making the switch to a new career in tech at this point in my life was near enough impossible.

Less than a year later, I started my career in tech as a Junior Software Engineer 💻 So here’s my story.

From dabbling in code for the very first time at the age of 12, and learning the basics in HTML and CSS, I found that there was an unmistakable pull and magical feeling about coding, a world where I could create anything I wanted.

Whilst at school, I never thought that a career in coding was even possible, nor had I thought of studying computer science an option. At many points in my life, I had tried to go back to coding ‘bits and bobs’, but had never fully committed myself to changing career.

After graduating from university in 2015 with a degree in International Business and French, I took an interest in marketing as a career as it would allow me to be creative and work across a broad range of disciplines. After a few jobs doing other things, such as a retail supervisor and recruitment consultant, I got a job working in marketing and communications for a global engineering consultancy, which marked the beginning of my career in marketing.

Once you’re fully embedded in a career, it can be difficult to make the change. You face all sorts of questions; how will I translate my previous experience into the tech world, or will my resume be impressive enough to land my first role. I had seen first hand working in a recruitment agency after university how challenging a career change can be, but I was determined. The focus for me ultimately became wanting to do a job that I would love and look forward to every day.

So what changed?

Over a year ago I attended a 2-day Django Girls workshop. Django Girls is a non-profit organisation created to inspire women from all backgrounds to get interested in technology, and interested I became! I learnt some Python and Django and created my first web application. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and was curious to ask questions and learn more about each step of the process. The workshop re-sparked my love for code. At work, I took every opportunity to code when I could, by editing e-mail templates, and I developed a real thirst for solving problems and getting things to work.

I then began coding in the evenings after work, learning through online platforms such as FreeCodeCamp — where I started by working through the Responsive Web Design Certification. I also developed a love for coding pure CSS images, a digital expression of art through code! Coding in the evenings after work was difficult, but I developed a daily habit of coding via the #100DaysOfCode challenge, and would recommend it to anyone who wants to have fun, learn a lot, and hold themselves accountable to regular coding. I found out about this challenge at a local coding meet-up, and it felt fantastic to immerse myself amongst other coders.

It wasn’t long before I started looking into how I could get into coding full-time. One day, enough was enough. I was determined to make it happen. I took the plunge and handed in my notice at work. I was in a comfortable role, and something I could have continued doing for many years to come, but I wasn’t content with living inside of my comfort zone anymore when my true passions lay elsewhere. I knew how big a risk this was, leaving behind comfort and safety to pursue my dreams, and I had to at least give it a try.

I looked around at different options to start my career in tech, and settled on going to an in-person coding bootcamp, Northcoders, in Manchester, UK. During this time, I was active on LinkedIn, and whilst waiting for my course to start managed to secure myself some work at a digital agency working as a Junior Front End Web Developer. This was a fantastic experience, and solidified my decision to pursue a career in tech. It gave me the confidence that people believed in my skills, and that I could really make it into the industry.

What happened next?

I attended Northcoders bootcamp full-time, where I learnt everything from the ground-up on an intense course, finishing with building a group project, which for us was a full-stack mobile application geared towards helping people with their shopping during the pandemic. Though there are many different routes into the coding industry, a bootcamp worked really well for my learning style and gave me the skills to be able to build projects independently.

After bootcamp, I continued to learn and found ways to differentiate myself in the industry and build my brand, writing blog posts about things I had learnt and interacting with the developer community.

When it came to job searching, I had a portfolio of projects that I had built, and a CV showcasing my development experience and transferrable skills from my career in marketing, including project management, design and communication. Even though you may be looking to change career, don’t underestimate the value of skills you have developed thus far in your life or career. There is more to a career in development than just the coding!

What advice can I offer to you, looking to change career to development?

Having read my story, it’s important to remember that this is only my story — everyone has a different story! There are many different paths into development, whether this be a computer science degree, a bootcamp, self-taught, online degrees or courses, apprenticeships, part-time study and more.

  • Look into the different paths into development and find what works best for you and your situation.
  • Get involved in the tech community, whether this be through local meet-ups in your area, events such as Django Girls, or the developer community online via Twitter or Linkedin.
  • Find things which spark your passion for code. Take advantage of the free resources online, such as FreeCodeCamp, where you can try out a range of languages such as JavaScript or Python.
  • Always keep learning, and never give up on your dreams!

Stay up to date with my articles, and feel free to connect with me over on Twitter, or Github. ✨

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