For years, Debora dreamed of being a digital nomad working in web development. The shutdown caused by the pandemic gave her the time and space to commit to making her career change from IT to web development. Debora was able to learn from her home in London by attending Ironhack’s remote bootcamp, which quickly taught her React, Node, and everything else she needed for web development interviews. Now, Debora is embracing her new job as a Full Stack Engineer at Guider and the digital nomad lifestyle she had always hoped for!
What inspired you to pivot from IT to web development?
Web development had always been in the back of my mind, but I was never brave enough to do it. I was working in IT for an international financial institution (IFI) when I took a trip to Costa Rica to recharge my batteries. There I met many digital nomads, most of them were web developers. One of them, now a dear friend of mine, happily answered all my questions about programming and the necessary set of skills. He gave me a better idea of what coding really involves and inspired me to start looking into it. Once back in London, I was still unsure if abandoning a stable career and a secure job was a smart move. I shared my concerns with my very supportive manager who backed up my decision to learn how to code while working full-time.
There are so many coding bootcamps — what stood out about Ironhack?
Ironhack published a post about the gender gap in tech that resonated with me because when I was working at the IFI, I was the only few women in IT. I chatted with an Ironhack admissions rep who had great energy and responded to all of my questions. Most importantly, Ironhack offered me a Women in Tech discount, which was 10% off of the tuition — that was the deciding factor.
What was the Ironhack application process like for you?
The initial interview was followed by a technical challenge that assessed basic skills, like logical thinking. There's nothing about code in the challenge, so anybody can get through it, even if they've never coded before like me.
Did you have to complete any pre-work at Ironhack?
There was a pre-work where I learned the basics of coding, including variables, loops, functions and getting used to how programming works. It was structured in a way that you couldn't fail. With the knowledge they shared in the theory section, you could always complete the basics of the assignments. Plus they gave you extra resources you could look into if you wanted to study on your own and excel. Whether or not you excelled in each exercise depended on how much effort you put into it. The way it was organized made me think, "Okay, I can do this,” which gave me a confidence boost before day one of the bootcamp.
The online bootcamp was very much like an in-person bootcamp, just without the commuting! I did the part-time bootcamp, so my cohort met up in the virtual classroom after work. We would play Kata to warm up our brains before diving into the lessons. At the beginning of each class, the instructor explained new concepts and we reviewed what we previously covered. At the end of the lesson, we had time to go over questions about our exercises. On Saturdays, when we had class all day, we spent the afternoon doing group labs and working on assignments.
Did the teaching style at Ironhack match how you personally learn?
In the beginning, the teaching style didn't necessarily match my own. Our cohort was a mixture of levels; some people hadn't finished the pre-work and everybody had their own pace of learning. I moved through the material more quickly, so sometimes in the beginning I felt that the classes were slow. As soon as I brought my concerns up with my instructors, they reconfigured the class so faster students like myself got extra lessons and gained the opportunity to delve deeper into topics with TAs.
What is the online community like at Ironhack? Were you able to connect with your cohort?
My group was constantly in touch, especially when completing labs and exercises. The teachers and TAs were always available, too. I didn't have much time to connect with the worldwide Ironhack community because I was busy working, but I did get some help from alumni when I was completing the pre-work exercises. Also, I was lucky enough to build a solid long-distance friendship with one of my classmates and I’m so grateful for that.
What kinds of projects did you work on at Ironhack?
For the first project, we built a game from scratch. For the second project, we worked in pairs on a full stack app in React and Node.js. My team created a travel app where users could drop pins with photos and descriptions to share their travel moments and advice with others. For the third project, I built a full stack dog-sitting app using React and Node.js. What I liked the most about my last project is that the TA was feeding my desire to learn by giving me hints about features I could build once my MVP was ready, the project became a fabulous opportunity to exponentially increase my expertise.
At the end of each module, we could present our apps using a presentation outline that our instructors provided. This support helped introverts like me structure our presentation in a timely and engaging way. On the last day, we all presented our final projects and we had an award ceremony.
Did Ironhack prepare you for the remote job hunt?
The most impactful career service that Ironhack offered me was learning how to sell myself at interviews. At Ironhack, I was able to do mock interviews and the careers team helped me with my CV and cover letters. I had one-on-one meetings with a career coach who gave me the tools to understand the market, read industry trends, and communicate with recruiters and companies.
What is the tech scene like in London right now?
London is an excellent place to launch your tech career if you know where to look. Companies are looking for good web developers, which are in high demand but hard to find. I receive a job offer every couple of days from different recruiters. I focused my job search on startups, but many big companies based in London are looking for tech hires, too.
Congrats on landing a job as a Full Stack Engineer at Guider! What was the remote interview process like?
At Guider, we fully believe in the power of human connection and conversation, and have built this platform to try and make that more accessible to more people. Companies use Guider to connect relevant mentors and mentees, creating global networks and more connected workforces.
I don't know that anyone can ever feel fully prepared for an interview, but I was lucky because I found a team looking for someone who had the right attitude more than experience. Guider uses an entirely different stack than what I learned at Ironhack, but they saw that I was passionate about coding and learning, and they gave me a chance. During my first interview, I shared my elevator pitch with the PO. Afterwards, there were two technical challenges. The first challenge required me to build an app. For the second challenge, I had to review someone else's app and my own to merge them together. The final interview tested whether or not I was a good culture fit for the team. I got to meet other people from the company and share my app with them, too.
During the interview process, the Guider team reviewed my portfolio that I developed at Ironhack, and they were very impressed. My portfolio is one of the aspects that landed me this job!
Is this career as a digital nomad what you expected?
Yes, my lifestyle is far different from the nine-to-five career that I used to have working in IT. Every day is different, so I never get bored. I found a company that aligns with my values, puts people first and allows me to work from home, wherever home is. I am still based in London, but spend a lot of time abroad exploring new countries while working from my laptop.
Working at a startup, you are thrown into the wild, which means you have to learn quickly. This kind of approach matches my learning style, especially when I was just starting out after Ironhack.
What is the difference between IT and web development?
Based on my knowledge and my previous job, I would say that the IT department ensures that the organization's systems, networks, data and applications all connect and function properly. I was an Information Manager before my career pivot, which is a highly specialized profession in IT.
Web development, instead, refers to the work that goes into building a website. This could apply to anything from creating a single plain-text webpage to developing a complex web application or social network. Attending Ironhack’s bootcamp, I became a full stack developer, which means I work with the back end (or server-side) of the application as well as the front end (or client-side).
At this point in your career, was Ironhack worth it for you?
Ironhack was worth it because I was able to change my career as soon as possible. I started the bootcamp in June, finished by November, quit my job in December, and launched my digital nomad career as a web developer by February!
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