Hello Elle! 👋  How are you doing today? Let’s begin by giving a quick introduction to yourself and your background?

Hi! I’m doing fantastic, thank you! I’m Elle Townsend, I’m a Full Stack Software Engineer, a Computer Science graduate and a lover of all things tech.  

At Haystack, we want to inspire people of all ages and backgrounds to get into software development, and there are tonnes of organisations that support people getting into tech. How have organisations such as Code First Girls and GirlCode helped support you in your career?

I believe so strongly in the power of inspiring others. For me, organisations like GirlCode & CodeFirst: Girls are helping to bridge the gap in representation of women in technical roles that I experienced before I started my career in tech, and the gap I still see today with the low numbers of women in technical and management positions. I also think it’s really important to uplift others. As each one of us pave our own way in our careers, we should be looking out for the ones that follow in our footsteps, by paying it forward, guiding and leading other women wanting to pave their own career in tech.

What top 5 pieces of advice would you give to someone who was looking to get into software development?

1. Do what makes you happy, don’t try to force yourself to do something or be something that doesn’t align with you. You can’t put a square into a circle-shaped hole.2. If you have time, try creating some mini-projects that show off your skills. These are a great way to demonstrate your technical ability for interviews, and you can always refer back to them at any point to refresh your memory on a bit of tech / how to do something.3. It’s not essential to have a degree in Computer Science to become a software engineer. I know many fantastic and successful developers who do not have backgrounds in Computer Science. However, if, like me, you decided you do want to get a degree in Computer Science, that’s great too, and it is a valuable qualification to have when applying for software dev jobs. Both options are great!4. Practice, practice, practice. Unfortunately, when applying for software engineer positions, there are a lot of technical tests and hoops you have to jump through in order to even be considered for some roles (not all of them though!). If you are thinking of applying to software developer roles, I highly recommend getting in some technical question practice before-hand. Sites like LeetCode and HackerRank provide lots of practice activities that can help you get used to the types of questions you may get asked in technical assessments & interviews.5. Always be yourself, you are the best you there is!

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What technologies do you enjoy working with and why? What are you currently working on or studying to help progress your own technical skills?

I'm a full-stack web developer. I love creating fun, interesting and accessible experiences on the web using HTML, CSS or SCSS and JavaScript. Out of everything though, I think working with Node.JS is my favourite. If I’ve come up with a new idea for a project to work on, 9 times out of 10 it’s got a Node.JS API involved. In terms of learning, Cloud and DevOps is probably my weakest area and I’d really like to learn more about how all these cool cloud and automation things work.

What are your favourite tools or learning resources you’d recommend to other people looking to progress their skills?

YouTube is unparalleled in my eyes when it comes to learning resources. You can find endless hours of free content from subject-matter experts sharing their knowledge. Almost all of the self-directed learning in DevOps that I have been doing has all come from YouTube videos. Alongside this, I think blogs and blogging is a fantastic way to support your learning and progress multiple skills. Reading blogs is a great way to learn new things or reinforce learning as you are going through courses or tutorials, but I highly recommend writing a blog too. I have a blog where I have written about several topics while I was learning and it’s a great way to not only share what you have learned and pass on the new knowledge you have just gained in a way that may help others down the line, but it solidifies the ideas in your own brain and helps you to understand and retain that information better.  You don’t have to be an expert in something to write a blog post about it! The act of writing it can actively progress your understanding so much further.

Can you talk us through some of the most important learnings you’ve had during the first few years of your career?

Looking back at my years studying Computer Science at university and my first year in a tech career, the biggest thing I have come to realise is to not be afraid to be curious. There is never such thing as a silly question, and even if it isn’t immediately obvious, there will always be benefits in learning something new. In the same way, you shouldn’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Make a personal website, start a blog, get into public speaking, and get your voice out there!

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