Hello Laura! Could you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about you?

I’m just starting out in Tech, trying to find my first Frontend role. I’ve been coding for around 2 years now, mostly working with JavaScript and React. For the past 10 years or so I’ve been working for design & build companies but decided a while ago to step back from that and pursue a career in tech.

How did you first get into software development, what led you to taking an interest in it?

Up until a couple of years ago, I’d never done any coding at all but I’d always really liked finding ways to streamline and automate my work - often that would come in the form of building spreadsheets. It felt like learning to code was a natural progression from that and a way to create programs and apps that could be useful in everyday life.

What are some of the key challenges you found when starting to learn different technologies and frameworks?

I have a habit of trying to run before I can walk - I just want to learn everything at once. So there have been times when I’ve had to go back and really get to know the basics before moving on to more complex things. Particularly when I started learning React, I found that my JavaScript knowledge wasn’t as strong as I’d have liked so I went back and revised it.

One of the main challenges I had was not knowing any other developers personally. Although there’s a lot of online resources, it’s tough trying to learn on your own - sometimes you’ll spend hours trying to find the answer to something that another developer might be able to answer straight away. It can also be difficult to find direction and know exactly what you should be studying.

As someone looking to land their first role in development, how have you found  starting your career? What have been the key challenges or gaps in your journey?

It’s definitely difficult to break in - a lot of junior roles ask for a couple of years commercial experience so it’s hard to get a foot in the door.What’s nice about tech is that even when you’re not employed as a developer you can still be developing and working on your own projects as well as upskilling. So even if you don’t have that job right now, when you do get it, you’ll be better prepared and might even have been able to put out some of your own apps in the meantime.

Where do you see your career in 5 years time? Do you have an industry you want to get into, or dream companies to work for?

Most of us want to do something meaningful in our work and I think technology can be instrumental in limiting our impact on the environment so I’d love to work on something which helped with that in some way.

Up to this point I’ve mostly been focusing on frontend so that I can really get to know the technologies before moving on but I hope at some point I can learn more about backend. With any luck this would enable me to move into a Tech Lead position further down the line as well as giving me the abilities to create a couple of apps I have in mind!

What would you like to see companies doing to breed more young tech talent?

It’s obviously a difficult thing to do, but it would be great to see more companies employing people in junior roles and allowing them to learn on the job. When you get involved in the tech community, it’s incredible to find so many experienced developers who are so generous with their time and happy to help out those with less experience. It makes me think that, were companies to offer it, there’d be a lot of employees who’d be happy to become a mentor to a junior developer.

What are some of your favourite learning resources?

Wes Bos has some great courses and hundreds of useful videos on his youtube channel covering a variety of subjects.One of the best learning resources I’ve found is Scrimba. The courses tend to be split into bitesize chunks, they’ll give you regular challenges to do and their set up means that you can jump right into the video and start coding. That style of learning just really clicks with me because I don’t learn unless I’m doing.

Twitter can be very useful for keeping your ear to the ground about different tools and technologies. I’ve discovered a whole lot of tools and tips since starting to use it more.

What advice would you give to people considering to start their journey into software development?

If you don’t already know other developers, try to get to know some. This is something I found really difficult when I started out - there are no meetups or anything similar near me. Eventually I ended up asking about on Twitter if there were any Discord groups I could join for people in the same situation. I got loads of responses and was able to join a few groups. Some were better than others but I landed in a small Slack group with a really great bunch of people from different backgrounds and at different stages of their careers. It’s brilliant to be able to talk to people who can give you advice and support when you need it.

Secondly, make use of GitHub. I came to GitHub quite late but now, I put everything I work on in a GitHub repo. It keeps your work organised, allows you to create different versions of your project and you can share it with employers so that they can see what you can do.

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