Yulia Barannikova is a finance major who noticed that the jobs she wanted required programming knowledge, so she enrolled in Byte Academy, a FinTech coding bootcamp in New York. Motivated by the fact that Byte teaches Python and that women are automatically eligible for a $2,000 scholarship, Yulia is now the first female graduate of Byte Academy. Yulia gives us the scoop on her experience transitioning from Finance into FinTech, her experience as a woman (and non-US citizen) in the tech community, and her future plans for a career in programming!
How did you become interested in coding?
If somebody told me a year ago that I would become a developer I would tell them they are crazy. My secondary school in Russia gave me with a very strong math background and I always enjoyed problem solving. When I was picking my major, I never considered Computer Science or IT. I thought that students in those majors would be all techy guys who are crazy about computers and have been programming since they were kids. I decided to get into Finance since I thought it was a quantitative field. I was quite upset that my financial coursework was not very math heavy. Last year when I was looking at jobs postings for non-sales related positions in Finance I was surprised that most of them require programming knowledge. I decided to take a C++ course as a free elective at school and I just loved it! I completely loved learning introductory programming concepts and solving problems by applying those concepts. I just knew that programming is something I want to associate my life with. Since it was too late to change my major I started looking for non-traditional ways of becoming a programmer. I found Byte Academy fit my objectives just perfectly.
What was the reaction from friends/family/peers when they heard you were going to a coding bootcamp?
I will be the first one in my family with a technical career. Everyone in my family are accountants, doctors and teachers. My parents always support me and they approved my decision especially after hearing how excited I was about programming. However, some members of my family said: “Programming is super difficult, how will you be able to do it?” Most of my friends were surprised by such sudden decision but impressed that I decided to learn coding.
Why did you choose Byte Academy over other bootcamps?
The main factor that contributed to my choice was definitely the fact that Byte Academy is a FinTech bootcamp. That way, I could apply my educational background in Finance with coding. Byte Academy teaches mainly in Python which is widely used within Financial Services industry. Also, Byte Academy seemed to be more back-end oriented than the other bootcamps that I was looking at. I actually did not know I was going to be the first and only girl in the program until one week before I started. The fact that Byte Academy supports women by giving a $2,000 scholarship towards tuition was another important factor.
Has the experience been like you anticipated?
I was a little scared that I would not like coding as much as I thought. The program is very intensive and requires a substantial commitment of time and energy. I have never had to spend eight to twelve hours a day in front of a computer before and I was not sure if I such lifestyle is for me. My experience at the bootcamp exceeded my expectations. Most of the time I am so interested and involved in the process that I lose track of time. I have to admit that it has not been easy and some days I swear I could feel my brain hurt the same way my muscles do after an intense workout.
Learning to code turned out to involve more independent work than I expected but it was fair - programming is a skill and involves a lot of self-education.
You’re the first woman to go to Byte Academy- did you feel accepted by your classmates right away?
Yes, I have never felt unaccepted by my classmates. I connected with every member of my group in the first week and never had any issues.
All my friends thought that it was cool that I was going to be the first girl in the program. Some friends said that I would be getting special treatment because I am a female. I can say that I wasn’t getting more help than other fellow classmates.
I interned at the New York Stock Exchange for a couple of months right before I started the program at Byte. The floor is also male-dominated and there I did feel uncomfortable. I think the tech community is very different when it comes to this topic. I feel very comfortable within the tech community.
Everybody knows that there are not a lot of women in tech, therefore people are usually impressed by women that code. I think that I gain an extra amount of respect in the eyes of people after I tell them that I code. My friends that are programmers also all have a very positive attitude towards female developers.
Are you involved with other hobbies/extracurricular activities? Please describe and list.
Passion is my biggest passion. I couchsurfed for a couple of months last summer. I try to take every chance I get to see a new place. I do yoga on a regular basis and have a goal of becoming a certified instructor by the time I am thirty. I have trained as a dancer for ten years when I lived in Russia. Now, I take classes in New York City’s dance centers once in a while. I love cooking and have a cooking blog that I abandoned since I started the program.
Do you participate in GirlDevelopIt, Railsbridge or other women-in-tech organizations?
I don’t participate in any groups yet but definitely plan on doing so in the future. At a Northside tech fair that I went to in June I spoke to the representatives of Girls Who Code. The organization was created to promote programming among teenage girls. They are always looking for volunteers who could teach various programming languages. I think it’s a great organization and would definitely like to get involved in the future.
What are you planning to do after the bootcamp?
I have one semester left at school so I won’t be looking for a job until December. I decided that I would like to do a Masters in Computer Science to broaden my programming knowledge. Since I don’t have a degree in CS, I will be taking courses such as Data Structures, Algorithms and Computer Architecture online from Harvard and UC Berkeley Extension Schools in order to satisfy prerequisites requirement. I am also planning to improve my portfolio. I have a Social Media/FinTech project in mind that I will start working on as soon as I graduate.
What are your career goals?
To get first get experience from larger, more established institution. I realize I maybe having less responsibilities doing this then I believe it is important to learn from the big players. My long term plan is to have my own company. The experience at a larger institution will be invaluable.
How do you think the industry can get more women involved in tech and in coding bootcamps?
The stereotypes around this industry are what stopped me from learning to code earlier. These stereotypes should be broken. Programming creates access to an endless number of opportunities, and there is definitely a place for women in technology. I think a lot of girls tend to think that programming is boring. I personally find programming to be very exciting and creative. Programmers create patterns just like artists or musicians. I encourage girls to give programming a try- don’t think you can’t do it just because there are more men than women in the industry!
Attracting women to Byte Academy specifically could be a challenge since it incorporates both Finance and Programming. I believe that targeting girls who is studying or working in Finance could be a good strategy for Byte. This way, they would still stay within the industry but be able to get more technical jobs.
Gender discrimination is an issue that affects all industries, but in technology, it is all about how good your programming skills are and your ability to work in teams. I believe that I will become a successful developer if I write good code, meet deadlines on time and am pleasant to work with.