After living all over the world and dipping her toes in graphic design, finance, and entrepreneurship, Dafne Olca was looking for a career where she would always keep learning. She eventually tried a free coding course, loved it, and decided to enroll in Ironhack’s web development bootcamp in Barcelona, Spain (taught in English). Dafne tells us how learning to code was both very difficult and very satisfying, how supportive Ironhack was (and still is) for her career, and how much she is enjoying being a Front End Developer in her new job at Everis, a European consulting firm!
What’s your career and education background? How did your path lead to a bootcamp?
My career path has been very diverse so far. I’m originally from Austria and I did a bachelor’s degree in multimedia in London and Honolulu, with the aim of working in graphic design and video production, but I found the job opportunities were not the kind of jobs I imagined them to be. Then I did an MBA in Vienna and San Diego to increase my career options and ended up in finance in Barcelona.
After three years, I got bored with finance and wanted to figure out what to do with my life. I had always been interested in technology and worked for a while on a family business focused on the Internet of Things. I enjoyed researching technologies, philosophical aspects of the business, and looking at the direction in which the world is heading.
I eventually came across Free Code Camp and enjoyed it a lot. My friends who work in web development told me if I became a web developer, I would be learning for the rest of my life. At first that sounded intimidating, but it made me realize that’s exactly what I want to do with my life – it’s a way to make sure I won’t get bored, I can keep learning, and getting better at what I do. It goes hand-in-hand with my personality because I love to learn and do new things. I think that’s why web development is the right choice for me.
You’ve traveled a lot – what made you choose Ironhack in Barcelona, rather than another bootcamp in a different city, going back to college, or teaching yourself?
I considered teaching myself, but going to university wasn’t an option – it was between teaching myself and going to the bootcamp. As a beginner, the best way to change careers was to go full-on, and be around professionals – the teachers at Ironhack are very talented, and are professionals who have been in the field for a long time.
Also, the course I did was taught in English. In Barcelona, Ironhack offers one full-time cohort in English, and one full-time cohort and one part-time cohort in Spanish.
What was the Ironhack application and interview process like for you?
The first part was a personality interview to see if you’re really genuinely interested in doing the course and pursuing a career in web development. After passing that first interview, I was given some very basic coding exercises. After those exercises, I had a technical interview with a teacher assistant, which I passed before getting accepted into Ironhack.
What was the learning experience like at Ironhack? What was the teaching style?
I have to be honest, it was very very tough for me. This was the first time I had done a course in web development. Ironhack was split into three modules. First we had the basic front end module, which was pretty doable. The second module was back end, which for me was very difficult, then the final module was back end with the Angular framework, which was also demanding.
The hours were very intense. Officially, the hours are 9am to 6pm, like a full-time job, but I don’t remember many days when we actually finished at 6. If you’re at Ironhack, then it’s in your best interest to get as much out of the program as you can.
The teaching was also quite intense. I’m 30 now so I had been out of school for many years, and going back to lectures was a lot more demanding than I thought it would be. But as intense as it was, it was also very satisfying. Your character really shows when you’re learning web development – you have to deal with daily frustrations and a lot of challenges, but overcoming those challenges is really rewarding.
What was your cohort like?
Ironhack was one of the most diverse experiences I’ve ever had. Some of my classmates were 18 and had come straight out of high school, and the oldest guy was in his late 40s. The average person was somebody who had decided to change their career.
We were very international. There were around 22 students in my class – four of those students were Spanish, and the rest of them were from all over the world, including Europeans and Latin Americans.
What was your favorite project that you built at Ironhack?
How did Ironhack prepare you for job hunting?
When I was researching bootcamps, it was really important for me to be able to land a job as soon as possible, and Ironhack pretty much guarantees that almost all alumni who want to find work will find work in the field. Right after bootcamp, we had a hiring day where more than 20 recruiters from tech companies came to the campus to see our work. It was a quick interview where we show them our project, they ask questions, they get to know us, and we get to know the companies.
Sonia, my Careers Adviser, was always getting in touch with companies, and getting my input about what I’d like to do. On top of that, I thought it was amazing that after I landed a job and needed some guidance, one of the TAs still gave me advice and input. Even now, I feel like I can go back to Ironhack and get support any time I need it. I try not to milk it, but they are just so helpful and so caring.
So you’ve been working at Everis for 7 months now! Congrats! How did you find the job?
Everis did come to Ironhack for the hiring day, but I didn’t get a chance to talk to them because there were so many companies there. So the next day, I contacted them and told them I had missed them, but I wanted to get to know them – I was quite active about reaching out to companies. They replied immediately, I went into the office that same day for an interview. Within two weeks, they called me in for a second interview, and shortly after that I received an offer. I was exhausted after graduating from Ironhack, so I took a month off over the holidays, but about a month into my job search, I was working at Everis.
Can you tell me about Everis and what you work on there?
Everis is a consultancy, so we work on projects with different clients. I’m a Junior Front End Developer, and I work with Angular and Typescript. It’s a purely front end job, which is what I wanted.
I’m on my second project since I started at Everis. The first project was a web app to help organizations apply for governmental loans. It was a very small, global team – two people in Barcelona, two people in Zaragoza, Spain, and the project manager was based in Brussels, Belgium. For my current project there are four of us and we’re all based in Barcelona, except for the project manager who is based in Zaragoza.
It’s a huge company, I think there are about 3000 people in Barcelona, and they have branches around the world. The company is very diverse, and the teams are very diverse as well. They have an emphasis on hiring very gender-balanced teams, which is nice; Everis is definitely more gender-balanced than other companies.
Are you using the technologies and programming languages at Everis that you learned at Ironhack?
I’m working in Angular, which is a framework we covered in the third module of Ironhack. There are always new things to learn in Angular, because Angular is quite complex and always evolving. So I haven’t learned any new languages or frameworks, but I had to learn more about Angular on the job.
Ironhack provided us with the tools to be able to teach ourselves new technologies more easily. In the future, I will inevitably need to learn more languages and frameworks. But now I have the right tools to be able to teach myself a lot more easily than before the bootcamp.
Since you joined Everis, how do you feel you’ve grown as a front-end developer?
In 6 months, I feel like I’ve become a lot more independent, and I’m less afraid of touching the code. In addition, I’ve developed a passion for problems! As weird as that sounds, I enjoy running into problems because I enjoy solving them. It’s very fulfilling. Honestly, I think Ironhack is the best decision I’ve made in my life in terms of academia and career development. I haven’t regretted it once.
How has your background in graphic design, finance, and entrepreneurship been useful in your new job as a Front End Developer?
Graphic design is very much about trends, and it’s been a long time since I studied it. While there are some aspects of design that still apply, a lot has changed. At Everis, when we get a new project, a lot of the design is given by the client – my job is more about implementing the logic and functions rather than the design itself.
My experience working in finance has definitely been useful at Everis. Having experience in a huge corporation definitely helps you work with other people and clients in a professional environment.
What’s been the biggest challenge or roadblock in your journey to becoming a Front End Developer?
Sometimes you can get stuck on a problem for a really long time, and you start having to deal with your own frustrations. The more you get frustrated, the more you block your brain and the less you can really think logically. That’s a challenge that I’ve had to learn to deal with, and I’m really learning how to be calm and patient. I wasn’t a patient person before, and I’m now really seeing the results of patience.
It sounds like Ironhack has stayed involved in your career – have you kept in touch with other alumni?
I was just at Ironhack last week actually and I’m going again soon. A lot of people from my cohort have left, but I’ve gotten to know people from the cohorts before and after mine, and we’ve become quite tight. It’s a very strong community. Whenever Ironhack hosts events, I prioritize them – it’s a very good atmosphere and a great network, and every time I go there I feel like I’m at home.
What advice do you have for people making a career change through a coding bootcamp?
Just do it. My best advice is to stay calm and be aware that you’re going to reach your mental limits. You’re going to have a hard time, but it’s really worth it and it’s very rewarding. There are going to be times when you’ll want to feel very stupid – don’t! If you can be a master of your emotions, then you have a good path ahead.