Not just a New Year’s resolution Not just a New Year’s resolution

By Zita Székely

14.03.2018

On New Year’s Eve, some of us promise to get a new hobby, a better lifestyle, a better self, or some other improvement in our lives. More often than not, life gets in the way. By the end of January, our grand plans have faded and we simply carry on as before.

For me, becoming a software developer wasn’t a New Year’s resolution. In fact, at the time I was sure I could never become one, even though I had an unshakable feeling inside that I wanted to do it.

It’s all in the past

For 15 years, I worked as a software tester. It all started in 2002 when I moved to Tampere and started studying at Tampere University of Applied Sciences - International Business. As a student, I was constantly looking for a job to be able to support myself. That’s how I ended up working for a Nokia subcontractor, doing localization testing for mobile software. As time went on, I went more into functional testing, working directly with developers in very specific customer projects.

I remember asking the developer guys: How could I become a developer? But, because we were working on projects that were technically very demanding, it was a very unlikely path for me to get started in that domain.

In 2016, I had to make a decision on how to proceed forward. During the previous years, I was mainly working jobs on temporary contracts, and the uncertainty was extremely stressful. It was wearing me out as a person and affecting not only myself but also my family.

My husband is a software developer, and he had long thought that I would be good at programming and that I should try it out. I was certain I couldn’t do it. I was sure I would never become a programmer. Despite my inner doubts, my interest in coding never faded.

Let the journey begin

In spring 2016, I had the chance to attend Rails Girls Tampere - http://railsgirls.com/ - where I finally realized that coding was my calling. I was surprised and shocked by how easily I was able to get through the tasks and how much I enjoyed it! That was the start of my journey to become a developer and I never looked back.

At the same Rails Girls Tampere event, WebDev.camp http://webdev.camp/ held a presentation about the opportunity to become a web developer in just 8 weeks, living in the beautiful Finnish countryside where participants could fully focus on studying and learning how to code.

I applied, and I got in! I felt both excited and scared. I wasn’t sure if I could do it, but I knew it would be a real test for me. I thought that if I could make it through the course, it would open up opportunities to become a professional developer and also prove to me personally that I had what it takes to be a programmer.

The camp required my full commitment: it meant that I had to leave everything for 8 weeks, including my husband, kids, and my everyday life. Studying there was challenging, demanding, and intense, but simultaneously amazingly satisfying and enjoyable. I got a great sense of achievement from what I was doing.

“Are we there yet?”

However, after finishing the course I was only halfway. I knew getting a job as a developer would require a lot more work and quite a bit determination.

I started taking internet courses, one of which was provided by the University of Helsinki through mooc.fi. I also got some help from the Finnish unemployment office: they drew my attention to a software development program “Java coding” offered by the University of Tampere. Knowing the basics of Java was required from all the participants and the course itself was mostly about web development and getting familiar with different web development frameworks.

The most important part of the course was an internship period in a real software company. I was truly happy that my motivation, my character and my commitment led Intopalo to decide to take me in for an intern position in their web development team. The four-month period went by very quickly, and I learned something new almost every day. But more importantly, I learned about what it actually means to be a developer.

developer in the making

Reach the goal but never stop learning

After finishing the course and the internship period, Intopalo hired me full-time as a web developer. The moment I signed my contract marked the end of the test engineer chapter in my life, and I had reached my ultimate goal. At the same time, it was the start of a new chapter in my life – one of lifelong learning.

A big part of my journey in becoming a developer has been about women and coding. I probably wouldn’t have reached my goal if there hadn’t been a number of people who had taken their time and effort to organize events that advocated coding for women. I feel strongly about this subject, and I will be contributing to such events. In fact, I’m actually doing so already!

I have been both impressed and heartened that Intopalo backs me up in supporting not only these events but also in mentoring and supporting me in my career, allowing me to grow professionally. Far too often, companies fail to do that to men, let alone for women!

Changing one’s life in a short period of time is hard. For women, for some reason, it seems to be even harder. Maybe it’s our upbringing or social pressures that suggest “we can’t do it”. But it’s really about keeping the goal in your sight and being determined to reach it. Don’t contemplate the question endlessly, just go for it!

After all, in the not too recent past it was thought that women couldn’t do a lot of jobs, from fighter pilots to fire officers, and yet - ironically - the gender characteristic that women have been assigned to, that of being able to think logically under pressure, is EXACTLY what is required from a programmer!