History grad turned Software Developer

Hi, I’m Sharon, I’m a History graduate and currently an Academy Graduate Programme Scholar. In summary, this is a 2-year programme that consists of three phases:

  • The Mark Phase One: four part-time weeks of pre-course training
  • The Mark Phase Two: twelve full-time weeks of intense full-stack engineering, leadership and personal development training
  • The Track: 21 months in a full-time software engineering role, with further technical, leadership and personal development training interspersed

Where it all started

2 years ago, I wrote my first line of code.

Note: we will not be discussing whether or not HTML is a real programming language

I had completed a rite of passage and there was a real sense of triumph as the words “Hello World” appeared on my very first webpage. In my small corner of the world, I had overcome my first hurdle of programming.

At the time, I had just started the final year of my History degree; graduation was fast approaching and I had no idea what I wanted to do. Over the course of my degree, I had various internships that confirmed what I didn’t want to do but I still lacked clarity about what my desired career path looked like. However, in the preceding summer, I completed an internship that exposed me to the technology industry. This experience created an extreme paradigm shift and the technology industry and its potential captivated me. I signed up for a Code First Girls Introduction to Web Development Course and I’ve been ‘coding’ ever since.

Embarking on a career in software engineering without a background in a related university degree can be challenging. There isn’t an exact formula for making the transition which makes it even more difficult because programming can be conceptually complex. Therefore, trying to decide where to start can be like opening up a can of worms.

After graduating I was at a crossroads, unsure which path was best for me to fulfil my tech goals. I applied for various graduate schemes and I received many no’s. Most of them phrased like this: “You are a great cultural fit for the firm but you just don’t have the technical skill the firm is looking for right now”. Completing a bootcamp seemed like the most obvious approach to attaining the technical skill I needed but I was humbled very quickly when I discovered how much a coding bootcamp would cost. I simply could not afford to pay £7,000 — £15,000 for a 3-month training programme. So my resolve was to self-teach.

Visual representation of me discovering how much coding bootcamps cost.

I had accepted my fate as a self-taught engineer when I discovered the graduate programme at Academy.

The Academy programme is everything that I was looking for and more. It has become very clear to me that it is more than just a technical programme; rather, it is an investment into the individual. The programme is split into three pillars: technical, performance and leadership. It not only enables me to acquire the technical skills that I have long yearned for but also gives me the tools that enable personal development and increased leadership ability. To top it off, the program has given me access to the guidance and support I lacked when I was self-teaching and allowed me to go on this journey with a group of like-minded individuals.

When I got the offer from Academy.

I am now coming to the end of The Mark Phase Two and my experience so far can be summarised with the following word: Uncomfortable. Despite the initial negative connotations that the word ‘uncomfortable’ may induce, these 3 months have been extremely rewarding.

My biggest takeaway so far is this:

This is a journey of constant learning.

You have to be agile because you are ALWAYS confronted with something new. The first day of the week often starts with a completely new concept that you may have never come across before.

Your initial reaction might be:

Then you have an “Aha!” moment and together with your programming pair/group, you tackle the problem.

Over the course of each week, the number of problems you overcome grows, but the number of things you learn grows even more. You then compound that knowledge by completing more projects and by week 16 you have completed The Mark with a strong knowledge bank.

This is genuinely one of the hardest things I have ever done. Not so much because the content is hard, but rather because of what it requires of you. Regardless of how hard and demotivating things were, I had to show up, be present and remain consistent. In those tough moments, I reminded myself of the following: Never quit on a bad day. If you do decide to quit, do it on a good day.

If I could monetise how many times I’ve been lost or confused over the last few months, I would be very rich!

Visual representation of me looking at my code in confusion and my code looking back at me

I learnt very quickly to give myself grace and patience. I started to embrace my confusion as opportunities for deeper learning and understanding and soon I started to reap the rewards of the process.

Every moment of discomfort over the past few months has been key to my personal growth, proving the many quotes that speak of discomfort as the perfect enabler of growth to be true.

As my time on The Mark draws to a close, I’m looking forward to putting everything I have learnt over the past few months into practice in my first role as a software developer. There is definitely a part of me that is anxious about the next chapter of this journey for sure but it is curbed by a confidence that I have all the tools I need to figure out any problems that come my way.

If you are thinking about making the transition into tech and you want to explore your technical interest here are some platforms and resources that have helped me on my journey:

  • Codebar: Great space to get exposure to technologies and people on similar journeys. They offer free regular workshops and informative events.
  • Harvard CS50x Introduction to Computer Science: Great introductory course to core Computer Science concepts
  • Scrimba: Learning platform with a host of free courses
  • freeCodeCamp: Learning platform with a host of free courses. Also, hosts great blog posts and guides written by developers
  • Codecademy: Learning platform with a host of free courses
  • W3Schools: A great learning platform and reference tool that will support you at any stage of your journey

Find me on LinkedIn!

History Grad turned Software Developer| Academy Scholar