From a Barista to a Frontend Developer. Brenda is a self-taught developer without a CS Degree. She actually has a background in Classical Music. This is her coding journey how she made a career transition into tech.

Please introduce yourself

Hey I’m Brenda and I am a Junior Front End Developer at Square Enix.

What was your background before learning to code?

I actually studied Classical Music specialising in piano performance at the University of Manchester but ended up working in hospitality in my 20’s.

I worked in loads of different roles in the London coffee scene ranging from barista, coffee consultant, barista trainer, coffee shop manager, freelance barista and head roaster. I even started up a coffee pop up bar.

What got you interested in coding and how did you learn to code?

I was teaching piano to an adult student and I needed to introduce some theory. I researched some online resources and felt that the content wasn’t fun or engaging for beginner adult learners. I felt that I had the knowledge in music theory so I thought it would be easy to make a website. I started looking up HTML and I was such a fool to think web development was easy!

I began learning on and but wanted something more in depth and with more structure. I researched coding bootcamps and signed up for one. National lockdown hit in the UK so before my start date I bought a Java course on Udemy and learnt fundamentals from that. The bootcamp was pretty much all front end so I haven’t touched Java since, but it helped me a lot in the beginning.

How did you get your first job in tech?

A lot of different ways, but ultimately I believe it was time, studying and networking. I don’t think I would have gotten this role had I been interviewed straight after I graduated the bootcamp. My code six months ago was so messy and unorganised.

I coded pretty much everyday and tried to upskill myself with hiring trends. I noticed Jest, Redux and TypeScript a lot in job ads and subsequently learnt the fundamentals in each of them. I challenged myself to make at least one project each month with the new framework I had learnt. Another focus was to implement more complex functionality in React as well as what was happening under the hood.

In terms of actually getting this role, I was told about a junior role opening up from a mate and ended up being recommended. I would still be in square one had it not been for networking.

How did you prepare for an interview?

I had an ‘interview’ notebook where I wrote down answers from questions that might come up. I always researched the company and stalked a few people on LinkedIn. I was always honest with questions about my background, why I wanted to be a software developer, what I learnt and most importantly what I didn’t know.

For the technical interviews I tried to practice on codewars every day. I only started to learn data structures and algorithms towards the end but wish I had learnt them sooner!

How coding changes your life?

The appreciation that goes behind tech. I’m always thinking about how something is built and what the code would look like. Learning data structures and algorithms has given me a lot of food for thoughts as well.

Any obstacles that you have to overcome in learning coding?

  • It’s ok to Google! I couldn’t believe it at first and refused to because I thought it was cheating. lol.

  • Asking for help - I’ve found that people are willing to share knowledge and help out.

  • Learning fundamentals is so important. It’s more important having a strong foundation rather than dabbling in a lot of things.

Tips for newbies?

  • Leave your arrogance elsewhere.
  • Always ask for help.
  • Concentrate on one language at first and have a good understanding of it. I tried to do too much at once and retaining that knowledge is hard. If you’ve got a coding challenge in JavaScript for example, study JavaScript. Don’t distract yourself and learn new frameworks and languages - they’re not going to test you on that.

What are your plans for the future?

My goal is to ultimately pay it forward. I’ve been incredibly lucky to know a network of senior developers from a range of backgrounds specialising in different languages and frameworks.

They helped me a lot in terms of what to focus on, what current coding trends are and have helped me debug my code well after their working day.

One day, once I know a lot more and I’m more confident in my code, I’d love to mentor and share my knowledge.

Thanks Brenda for sharing her coding journey! If you like to have inspiring story like this straight to your inbox, please subscribe to newsletter below!