How I learned to code over lockdown and changed my life

talentandskills

Recently Huddle took on a new web development intern named Stefanie. Here, she tells her story of the chain of events leading her to the UK and what motivated her to pursue a career in digital.

Moving to the UK

In the spring of 2019, I got the sudden inspiration to move from Canada to the UK. I had no commitments at home, so it seemed like the perfect time for an adventure! Two of my oldest friends had ended up in Leeds, so that’s where I decided to go.

I officially started settling in in late September, after a couple of months of travelling. Being in my late 20s, I felt that the days of working in a bar or shop were behind me and I was motivated to make career advancements.

I wanted to take advantage of the cheap flights around Europe, so I wanted a set schedule that I could plan my life around.

The first few months

I spent my first six weeks here applying for jobs in photography and communications nonstop. I also sent speculative emails to every digital marketing agency in Leeds, as I was really drawn to all the creative possibilities that seemed to exist in that industry.

I didn’t have any luck, so I gave up and applied for a bunch of restaurants. I got a job in no time, and while it wasn’t really what I wanted to be doing, I appreciated the money and I loved the people I was working with!

Over the following few months, I was so exhausted by work that I didn’t have the energy to look for other jobs or improve upon my photography. I spent all my time either working, recovering from work, or seeing my boyfriend, who lived in Manchester.

I did have the chance to take quite a long trip in January (and thank goodness I did!!), but I wasn’t doing as much travelling as I had wanted to do.

COVID

Image by Nathan W. Pyle

When the COVID lockdown started and I was furloughed, I was actually quite grateful for the time to rest and to spend more than a rushed 12 hours at a time with my boyfriend (about four months more–that’s one way to get to know someone!).

About a month in I started doing some research on what technical skills I could learn from home that would make me more employable. Someone suggested I learn Python, and that sent me down the coding rabbit hole!

I started researching all the different types of coding one could do and the different jobs that were associated with each. I thought front end web development seemed just like my sort of thing, so I started focusing on that and became absolutely obsessed!

Learning to code

I was really excited to find out how accessible all the online learning tools were for coding courses in general. There’s such a wonderful community out there of people willing to share technical knowledge and industry knowledge through blogs, videos, and even one-on-one conversations.

The courses I found were affordable and thorough. I could almost always find answers if I was stuck, whether from other students or elsewhere online. Every day I surprised myself with how much I was managing to learn on my own.

I was doing courses, working on personal projects, listening to podcasts, and doing research all day every day.  Something I never thought I was smart enough to do became something I really loved.

The more I looked into it, the more I realized just how common it was for self-taught developers to find work within quite a reasonable amount of time.

Knowing I only had limited time before I was un-furloughed, which would mean losing the freedom I had to study, I quite literally could not stop building my web development knowledge. I didn’t want to work at a restaurant during a pandemic for long!

Applying for jobs

When I got a return-to-work date, I figured that it was time to take some action and try to get a job or an internship using my new skills. I started spending about half my time working on web development and half my time applying for jobs.

I applied for jobs that were a little more technical than I would have previously thought myself capable of doing, and I also started emailing digital marketing agencies in Manchester to see if any of them would be willing to take me on for an internship.

I posted in a local Facebook group to see if anyone could suggest any agencies I may have missed that would consider taking on an intern, and someone referred me to Huddle, so I added them to the list of companies to contact.

This time around, I got so many more responses! I got four interviews, and even a ton of places that couldn’t interview me were kind enough to send really positive feedback and words of encouragement. Some even invited me to apply for junior developer roles once I picked up more skills.

I was really surprised that I had a significantly higher response rate during the pandemic than I had before it! I’m quite sure that the skills I learned are what helped push that forward, because I don’t believe my way of approaching companies changed very much, if at all.

Landing the job(s)

I was extremely lucky in my second week of being back at the restaurant to first be offered a part-time role as a marketing assistant for a web hosting company. This role requires some knowledge of web development, as I have to write social media and blog posts about it.

A few days later, I was also offered a web development internship with Huddle! I was lucky that they were willing to be extremely flexible and let me come on part time so I could do both jobs.

I’ve had jobs I’ve enjoyed before, but I’ve never had a job that I’ve enjoyed AND that I want to do long term and actually grow into. I’ve never had the opportunity to learn and move forward as much as I have now in both my roles. It’s amazing to be in environments that are so supportive and that are contributing to my professional growth.

I still can’t believe that I’m getting paid now to do what I was doing over lockdown out of interest and for fun!

Follow Stefanie on LinkedIn here

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