Hi Rachel (Techy Rey)! Nice to meet you and thanks for chatting with us. Firstly, want to introduce yourself and a little bit about your background, including how you got into tech?
Hi! Thank you for having me! My tech journey started just before I went to college. I really wanted to build a website for my hobby at the time and I was trying to write/understand HTML and I made a “wonderful”, one-page pink website, with my photo in the middle and the body of text all centred down the page in Times New Roman, can you imagine? I was proud of making it, but it wasn’t really the vibe I wanted for my hobby, and my grandad gave me a huge SEO book which completely went over my head at the time! Then, when deciding what I wanted to do at college, I saw a course on IT Software Development and figured it would help me make my website, then ever since that course I found myself more interested in building websites AS my hobby rather than the initial hobby! After that, I enjoyed learning and was eager to have more depth to my knowledge and went on to study BSc Computing at Leeds Beckett.
Why did you decide to move from being a software developer working hands on with code, to being a community manager/lead role?
When I graduated from university, I made the decision to go into development, because although the course was an umbrella of computing aspects, that was what I understood in terms of landing jobs and I enjoyed being creative with code, so naturally gravitated to a dev role. However, being in the industry vs studying it, is VERY different! I started to realise although coding day to day was what I wanted to do after university, a passion for shaping environments for technical people, digital transformation and culture was taking my interest rapidly. I wasn’t aware of this kind of role when I left university, I saw a gap in the industry which led me to build the experience and community role.
You seem to have always been very active in the tech community! Including being a volunteer instructor for Code First Girls. What sparked your interest in doing these things in your spare time, outside of the 9-5?
When I left my first developer role, I landed a deployment engineer role, which I enjoyed but I did miss the coding aspect. Whilst in that role, I started to reach out to people in the tech/dev community in Leeds to see where I could grow my dev skills and eventually move back into a developer role. I just loved and still love being around other technical people, and other problem-solvers. I think I knew early on how important the community aspect of tech is. My strengths lined up well with helping others, delivering talks, and teaching and hosting meetups, I feel fortunate I can bring this into my role now! I also have a blog/vlog and community on IG: Techy.rey where outside my 9-5 I post my learnings from my leadership journey and really all my technical interests! I set up my vlog TechyChats to share inspiring journeys and roles in tech that I needed to watch when I was coming out of university, to show me there was more to tech than coding!
What advice would you give to someone looking to switch from a technical role into a community management or developer relations role?
Being active in the tech community is important, like learning anything new it does take time, but it’s really rewarding to help people and build your rep. Figure out what you’re good at, what are your strengths and weaknesses, this will help to figure out when things aren’t going right or where to help you move to the next step and build your personal brand!
What elements (if any) do you miss about having a hands-on technical role?
Great question! There are some aspects I miss such as the hands-on training/using the latest tech, but I look to keep up to date with the latest tech and trends but just don’t use it every day.
You did a blog post on the non-technical aspects of breaking into tech - could you highlight a couple of those points that you’d say were the most important for people to know?
Absolutely! It’s really important that you have the full package of skills, a popular quote my team love and use is ‘Hiring for attitude over skills’ and having the right attitude revolves around willingness to learn, and help others learn and open-mindedness. This is centred with community, ways people can excel in tech is finding their community, find others who are on a similar path because there will be people out there. I’ve seen so many brilliant friendships being created through similar interests, and some have led to business building by learning and supporting each other! This will help with both technical and human skills needed to break into tech.
Careers change all the time - so I was just wondering where you saw yourself 10 years ago, and what you now see yourself doing 10 years from now?
10 years ago I wouldn’t have thought I’d be in the role I am today! Tech changes so quickly I think it’s challenging to look so far ahead as so much can change in both industry and your own self. There is also so much room to move about in tech, you often see people move around in roles a lot because the skills are so transferrable so, who knows!
What one piece of advice would you give to your younger self?
I’d probably say chill out a bit more, you don’t have to be stressed or worried about the future career path, just keep working hard and it will figure it’s self out. Also be curious about different roles out there, as I mentioned before it changes so much that there are roles in the future which you’d be great for that haven’t appeared yet! I believe the same applies now still. I’d also say related to worrying less and find a mentor, I waited a while before I got my first mentor and having one earlier on would probably have helped more.
What can people learn from your journey?
You must be your own number one fan, but you also need to find your support squad. These people are those who want you to win. These people got me through challenging lows and were there on the highs with me. Support networks and communities are one of the greatest assets you can have in your career. Another thing is, failure is a lesson, not a label of who you are. You need to fail to learn and to learn allows you to take steps on your career wall.