Left school at 16, worked in a bakery and restaurants, here she is, a Developer Evangelist at Twilio. Please meet Valériane! If you love french bread and pâtisserie, you don’t want to miss this article! Read on! There is a recommendation of a nice bakery in France too!
Please introduce yourself.
Hello, I’m Valériane, I’m a French Developer Evangelist. A Developer Evangelist’s role is to raise awareness on it’s company tech products towards the developer community. I currently work at Twilio and I’m based in Paris.
I mostly address French developer needs as I’m the only one speaking French fluently in my team but can serve all developers in Europe and in the world. Our work has changed a lot because of the pandemic but before (and I really hope it will be too after it!) developers were mostly seeing us in conferences or meetups speaking about tech, demonstrating live code or sponsoring these events. This part is mostly virtual now and we are on Twitch, Youtube and other virtual platforms. We also write technical blog posts and contribute to open source code. We can also answer questions regarding the tech products on StackOverflow, produce educational resources, mentor for hackathons. It’s very diverse, I love it.
What was your background before learning to code?
I hated school so I ran away from it at 16. I switched to a professional cursus and worked in a bakery while having business classes two days a week. I literally was selling croissants and sandwiches before! When I had my professional degree I started working full time in restaurants and other food related shops. I actually kept a student’s job in the food industry while I was in coding school because I already knew the job, was able to work at night in restaurants and had free quality food at the end of the day. A student’s dream!
I kept this love for food and my expertise in French bread and pâtisserie and I’m very proud of this skill! If you ever go to a bakery in France, take a Paris-Brest, you won’t regret it if you love butter and hazelnut - wink.
What got you interested in coding and how did you learn to code?
At 20 I moved to Paris with my best friend because he got into that cool coding school that had no teachers. He came back home each day speaking about what he was doing and that’s how I realized I was interested in code. It seemed mysterious but exciting. I wasn’t even a real geek at the time, but already was a nerd on non tech topics and he was showing me cool commands in the console and how to run his own simple executables. This was nerdy AF and immediately had me want to do the same.
So two years after - I really was impressed by the school, it teaches you in 3 years what is usually learned in 5 in France - I tried myself and got into school 42. I had no coding skills at all but the way 42 is has permitted me to learn in an progessive but intensive way. For personal reasons I had to pause my scholarship there but then I did Le Wagon, a Ruby On Rails bootcamp. I know most people don’t do bootcamps after a coding school but for me it was a great experience as it also teached me some realities of the industry I would never have learned of at school.
How did you get your first job in tech?
Community really is a big part of my life and once again, it helped me in having my first job!
I can thank both the Wagon and Linkedin here I guess. The Wagon is a big community of alumnis and some of them become startup founders after the bootcamp. So I actualized my Linkedin profile and had the chance to have my profile seen by an alumni who was hiring for internships. I did a few months like this, then I became a freelancer for them.
I know this isn’t the dream path where you got your degree and get hired as a software engineer at a trending silicon valley company but I knew having a first experience would open me bigger doors. And there I was, lucky to work with the programming language I wanted to so I took the opportunity.
How did you prepare for an interview?
I do not really prepare but I think this is because I know myself, my strengths and weaknesses. I like to go as I am, because this is how I will be day to day in my work. But the part of knowing myself and keeping this knowledge up to date is the most important in my opinion. I know what I want, what I don’t, what I’m able to do and what I can’t. If I’m asked a technical question I don’t know the answer for, I will tell the interviewer I can’t give him the correct answer for sure, but I try to think about what it can be.
I believe you are not hired for all the stuff you already know, but for the way you think, solve problems, your learning abilities and for who you are - ideally a great coworker and peer programmer!
How coding changes your life?
Girl, it’s empowering!!! I feel as if I can code everything. And If I can code everything, I can do everything. Of course coding a new OS or a blockchain would require time and failures, as this is not my expertise area at all.
But if I really want it, I can. Being aware of this made me realize it applies to life too. Anything I want to accomplish I can, with time and failures. And spending this time and facing these failures, in both life and code feels hard. But when you finally did it, it’s a path you are so glad you took, you learnt so much about yourself and your abilities in the process. It’s so worth it.
Any obstacles that you have to overcome in learning coding?
The greatest obstacle probably was - and in a way still is - the lack of self confidence. It took two years to convince myself I was able to get into this coding school, that I was able to learn it.
Once again, it applies to life too, and taking this deep breath before diving into a new project’s code or a new public speaking engagement is crucial for me. I know we are a lot in the industry to face impostor syndrome but fortunately there are great resources on the web regarding this issue, especially in tech. I know this seems in opposition to what I said in the previous answer, but the way I see it, the lack of self confidence is a life problem that coding made me realize I could overcome. But I had to code to realize it.
Tips for newbies?
The tech community is vibrant and amazing. Many experienced developers share their feedback, knowledge and tips on various topics. Either on Twitter, Medium, Youtube, Reddit, StackOverflow…. The community is everywhere, so it is on your favorite platform. Connect with your fellow developers, we are stronger together !
What are your plans for the future? (Optional)
I want to keep on serving the developer’s community.
I took a decision when switching from a full time coding role to Developer Relations positions. I became a Developer Advocate at Clever Cloud two years ago and again when I decided to stay into this role when starting at Twilio.
I want to help humans, to be helpful to the community that made me feel like I belonged. And I will keep on walking this path. I feel like I’m just at the beginning of my journey. Covid changed things for a while but the best is to come in the future and I want to be a part of it, with you all.
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