It was grit, resourcefulness and boldness that landed Lauren her dream job as a Software Developer at The Guardian, one of the UK's leading news organization. Lauren's willingness to learn has allowed her to capitalize on her fears to propel her forward towards a tech career - one she did not even envision herself doing just months ago.
As it seems, Le Wagon Shanghai was only the beginning of an exciting coding journey for Lauren. Today, we invite Lauren to share with us her experience scaling the coding ladder and how it feels like to work with some of the best (and her favorite) journalists in the world!
Could you please introduce yourself?
I’m Lauren, I’m 24, from England and I was in Le Wagon batch 130 in China!
What motivated you to join Le Wagon?
I sort of fell into a career of sales after finishing university and not really knowing what I wanted to do. After my first job, which was a sales role, it felt like companies would only ever consider me for other sales roles. So I was gaining quite a lot of experience in a role I really didn’t enjoy doing and fell into a bit of a trap.
I knew I needed to find an entry point into different career and began to seriously think about what I enjoyed doing and the environments I liked working in. In the end, after a lot of self-reflection, I decided to give programming a go and started doing free online courses. I realized I really enjoyed it but couldn’t dedicate the amount of time required for a total career change. That’s when I looked into coding bootcamps and decided on Le Wagon.
What was the scariest part for you when you start to think about transitioning into tech?
Coming from pretty much zero experience, I was worried that I’d start the bootcamp and not enjoy it or not know as much as my classmates and fall behind. That’s really why I focused so much on the prep work before the course. I did the prep work twice. It was tough going but it made me feel more comfortable when I started the course and also proved to me that this was something I really wanted to get into.
What was your biggest challenge while being a student at Le Wagon?
My biggest challenge at Le Wagon was probably the stress of Demo Day. Our WeChat Mini-Program (GifMe) wasn’t approved by WeChat until the day we presented to the sea of people at the event. I am also petrified of public speaking and was so so out of my comfort zone.
In the end, we stopped worrying about what could possibly go wrong and instead came up with backup plans and an alternative way to present without the app being live. This was a much more productive way of managing our time on the last day. We also made sure to leave a whole day for rehearsals, which (combined with a little Dutch courage) helped us to deal with our nerves.
What was the transition out of Le Wagon like?
Finishing Le Wagon was a shock. I forgot how to operate like a normal human being and found myself at tech events and with my classmates constantly. I think we all found it hard to accept that it was over, and to go from spending 12 hours a day together to no time at all. I knew my move back to England was fast approaching so I decided to spend my last month in Shanghai applying for short term jobs or projects.
I quickly realized that with a work contract to finish, planning the move back to London and hosting all my family members who had left it until my last month in Shanghai to desperately plan a visit, I had no time to do a project on my own. Instead, I mentored a group of programmers on how to build Mini-Programs for a Shanghai-based start-up and started looking into teaching myself new skills that might be useful to combine with the skills I picked up at Le Wagon.
The first full-time job I applied for was with TheGuardian. I have always been a Guardian reader and, as a leading news organization in the UK, I was excited about the technology they use and what I could learn from the other programmers they employ. After my application was submitted, I got an email, followed by a call and arranged a telephone interview with a Senior Developer and a Software Developer.
The telephone interview was full of technical and non-technical questions. I didn’t really know what to expect and felt so unprepared. After the interview, I 100% thought I hadn’t got the job, but then a week later received an invitation to their offices for a paired programming exercise and a face to face interview. I ended up being there for 2.5 hours but fortunately, that week, they got in touch with me and offered me the job.
What was your biggest takeaway from Le Wagon?
My biggest takeaway was all the knowledge that set me up for my dream job. I still keep having moments when I’m sat at my desk and see one of my favorite journalists walk by and think about all that’s happened in the last 7 months in total disbelief. I am so lucky to be surrounded by such intelligent and ambitious people who are teaching me new things every day.
I am also so happy to have left Le Wagon with an expanded network of like-minded friends and the international support of the Le Wagon community.
In your opinion, what are the biggest advantages for women in tech today?
The application process for my new role was actually anonymous until the interviews, so I think it’s great, and very important, that more and more companies are taking measures to ensure diversity within the work environment. I know this isn’t necessarily the case for all companies, but there are groups and organizations in most big cities now normalizing and encouraging more women working in the tech industry.
Perhaps I’m lucky to have joined a company that is so liberal and forward-thinking but there are many extremely talented and intelligent women working here at the Guardian, and I don’t feel that they’re here for any reason other than the fact that they are great at what they do and I hope to be as good as them one day!
What do you love about your new job?
It’s a super steep learning curve - coming into the job and not knowing any Scala (the language used at the Guardian) as well as it being my first tech job and having to learn the deployment process of such a big company. It’s still terrifying making my changes go live, I am so worried I will break the site!
A lot of people at the company originally came in at my level though so they’re all really helpful and patient. That’s definitely something I am really enjoying. I have been pairing with lots of different people from different teams in the Digital department to see how the work of different teams come together and how people with so much experience approach and tackle tasks.
Any words of wisdom for other women hoping to make the switch to the tech world?
The same advice I’d have for anyone. Find a good course or bootcamp, take every opportunity to learn more and make sure your values and goals align with the companies’ you apply for. There is a huge demand for programmers, which puts you in an amazing position of being able to often choose the industry, or even product, you will be investing so much of your time in.
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