Who I am
Hello! I’m Helen. I’m 35 and I’ve been an upper key stage 2 primary school teacher for 10 years. I come from Sutton Coldfield but moved to Tamworth in 2017 and live with my fiancée, Laura, who is a forensic assistant for the police. Aside from playing around on computers and learning to code, I enjoy going to the cinema, playing board games (not monopoly!), gardening (in the summer), reading books and falling asleep to Netflix. In October I applied for a place on the School of Code bootcamp. I was lucky enough to make it through the rounds that whittled down the 1500 applicants and I’m one of the final 24! I’d like to explain how I got here and why I’ve decided to undertake a very exciting complete career change.
How I got here
I used to love teaching, but over the last 2-3 years I’ve begun to feel worn down with the politics and I’ve been searching for a route out. I felt sad that I’d fallen out of love with something I’d been so into. However, I found something new…or rather, I rediscovered an old hobby.
During my teens, I spent all my free time playing on the giant computer that my Dad brought home one day. I remember the day we first got the internet at home. I couldn’t wait to get onto the ‘Friends’ website! I spent hours making my own drag and drop geocities websites. However, I never stumbled upon anything that introduced me to code.
I took ICT at GCSE and A-Level and studied Computing and Management at Loughborough University. During my degree we had a unit on Java that was taught by a tutor who could only speak very little English. I did not understand a thing, completely switched off and assumed coding wasn’t for me.
Due to my computing background I was made the subject leader for computing at my primary school. The 2014 national curriculum change brought in a renewed focus on computer science. I began to learn basic HTML & CSS so I could teach it and I ran an after school code club. The more I learnt, the more I enjoyed it and I started learning on Codecademy in my spare time.
I began to think that a career change from teaching to web development would be perfect, however it was quite disheartening to think I’d have to self-teach for at least a few years whenever I could fit it in before I’d be anywhere near ready to take the leap. I researched local bootcamps and was shocked at their huge prices. Realistically, I then gave up as I thought it’d be near impossible to make the change.
Why choose the School of Code?
Fast forward a couple of years to September 2019. My girlfriend (now fiancée!) mentioned that her friend had done a coding bootcamp and it was free. I was immediately super keen to find out everything about it and how it was free, so I bombarded her with so many questions. I remember stalking the School of Code Twitter feed, reading every word of the website and watching all the YouTube videos. There isn’t just one answer to why I’ve chosen the School of Code. The fact that it is sponsored and is free to attend makes it accessible. There is no way I could have afforded the extortionate price tags of other bootcamps. I think the curriculum that the School of Code offers is perfect. I know I’m interested to learn advanced front end, but I’m really pleased back end is included too, as I know nothing. I’m also really excited about all the extras that the School of Code offers. The team work and projects will give us a chance to really test our skills and make us more ready for our new roles. We’ll get paired with mentors that can help to expand our industry networks. I’m also quite excited about the location – I’ve never worked in a city so being at the heart of things in the Custard Factory in Birmingham is quite exciting. Also – did I mention that it’s free?
Giving up a fairly well-paid teaching career in a lovely school full of colleagues that are my best friends is quite a daunting leap! I’ve felt the need for a change for a few years now and this feels like the right time to make the move. I’ve gone as far with teaching as I’d want to and I felt so excited to learn about a free full stack web development bootcamp. After learning about School of Code I went back to Codecademy, revamped my Twitter feed and followed all the devs I could find. I created a budget spreadsheet to check I could actually afford to quit my job for SoC and started attending Codebar meetups, where the lovely Matt and his teacher volunteers helped me learn about the terminal and GitHub.
I was so thrilled when the applications opened for cohort 3.0 and I applied straight away. It was exciting getting through each of the application rounds and I really enjoyed the interview day. I must’ve checked my email so many times in the days that followed and I couldn’t quite believe it when I received one to say I was in! I handed in my notice at school the next day.
What I thought of tech before
For years, the world of tech has felt like the place I’d like to be, but that it was just completely out of my reach. I thought I’d missed the boat after not getting to grips with coding at uni and my time was done. I also think I subscribed to the idea that it was a bit of a club reserved for the brainiest of people and it all came pretty naturally to them. However, after learning more and specifically listening to a few different podcasts I’ve gotten the idea that it is a club I can actually join! It feels like there are so many developers out there that are going out of their way to welcome newbies to the industry. It’s good to know there is a wealth of information and resources for new developers focussed not only on teaching tech skills, but also how to deal with imposter syndrome: I think that knowing so many others experience the same things will really help.
I’m so excited about starting the School of Code in January. I can’t wait to be surrounded by like-minded people, all keen to learn. I’m really looking forward to being a student again and I can’t wait learn how to build loads of exciting things. I feel very lucky to be part of cohort 3.0: the curriculum that Chris and his team have put together is more than ideal and I’m very grateful that they will clearly put so much effort into helping us all find jobs at the end of the course. I’m so excited for all the new experiences that 2020 will bring. Roll on January 20th!
I'll be blogging and tweeting about my journey through bootcamp and into the world of tech. Please let me know if you're doing the same or if you've done the same and if you have any tips!