How She Codes helped me discover my tech talent

Kate Kirwin, She Codes Founder

On International Women's Day 2021, the Robert Walters Group and She Codes were proud to launch the #IWDCodingChallenge, a global virtual coding challenge designed to give women without coding experience a taste for a technical career. 

Supporting this initiative, #IWDCodingChallenge judge, and She Codes graduate, Sarah Levins, shared how She Codes helped her kickstart a sucessful career in tech, why she enjoys mentoring others and her advice for women considering a career in the tech industry.

How did you get involved with She Codes? 

I first got involved with She Codes in early 2019 at one of their free 1-day coding workshops. I saw it advertised on social media and thought it would be a great way to find out if coding was the right fit for me. The fact that it was in person appealed to me also, as I wanted to get a feel for the industry’s culture in Perth. 

Of course, I had an amazing day and loved it, and subsequently applied for the Plus program later that year. 

What was your experience of the program? 

It has been the most amazing experience with the She Codes program. After the 1-day workshop, I went on to complete the She Codes Plus course. Doing this while working full time was exhausting, but also amazing, as I was spending time with passionate people. Everyone in the program was so encouraging and had a great attitude towards the joy of coding. The structure of the course and the community behind She Codes really made learning how to code fun.

A year later, I was back at a 1-day workshop in a mentoring capacity, followed by being invited to mentor in the second She Codes Plus program later in the year. I loved being able to come full circle and give back to the program that gave me so much. Seeing other women become empowered by learning how to build their own programs from scratch is really inspiring and mentoring them is so rewarding.

Did you have a background in tech?  

When I decided to look into a career in tech, I had no experience in it whatsoever (besides some HTML and CSS on my MySpace page when I was a teen). I had been a travel consultant for six years at that point and had decided that I had learned everything I wanted to learn about that role. I wanted to earn a living contributing in different ways. 

I decided to learn how to code because I wanted to know how to build my own solutions to problems. Instead of complaining about an application not being able to do something, I wanted to be able to build exactly what I needed. I could apply this in the workspace and build from scratch or improve on programs that really make a difference in people’s day-to-day lives.

I loved my time as a travel consultant. I met some truly amazing people, been a part of some extraordinary stories, and I have travelled to places I never thought I would visit. My time in that role gave me the ability to connect with my customers and find out what is truly important to them, which is an invaluable skill to have as a tech consultant. Even when they are asking for something completely different, I am able to identify my consulting client’s core needs and ensure they are met. My clients are happy because they get a solution they can really use, and I am happy because I feel like I’ve made a difference.

What does your day-to-day role involve? 

As a Data and AI consultant, my day-to-day role involves architecting and delivering solutions to a wide range of client needs. Since starting this role a year ago, I have had seven different client projects ranging from implementing data warehouses, to creating ETL pipelines, to building Power BI reports, to training chatbots. 

A typical day would involve me completing smaller tasks that contribute to the completion of a bigger project, meeting with clients to ensure their needs will be met with what is on track to be delivered and upskilling myself on the latest tools to offer the best solutions to my clients. Every day I learn something new, and I’m doing something different – it’s great!

What excites you most about Data and AI? 

There is still so much opportunity in Data and AI. There is so much being built, and there is new technology coming into the picture all the time. Just having the opportunity to be a part of that excites me. Having the opportunity to contribute and be at the forefront of new technology is something I don’t want to miss out on.

What career challenges have you faced? How did you overcome them?

One of the biggest career challenges I’ve had to face has been imposter syndrome. It’s something that I find is spoken about quite freely in the tech industry – which is good, because it really is the only way to overcome it.

Every day I think ‘I don’t belong here, and soon everyone will find out’. Not letting that thought stop me from doing my job is a struggle but knowing that nearly everyone I work with goes through the same thing makes it easier to shut that thought down and get on with life.  

Do you think there are any myths we as society can challenge about women in tech? 

One of the biggest myths I feel I’ve come across is that you need a tech degree to start a career in tech. I’ve met lots of women who are discouraged because they feel as though they need to get that piece of paper to get a foot in the door, and they don’t have the time or means to pursue a qualification. Many companies hiring juniors are just interested in how you learn, not what you’ve learnt.  

What advice would you give to women considering a move into the tech industry? 

To women considering a move into the tech industry I would say, just do it. There is nothing to lose and so much to gain. 

With practice and perseverance, you can learn anything. Three years ago, I couldn’t run for the life of me, and now I’ve completed two marathons and run every day. Two years ago, I didn’t know how to code, and now I work full-time in tech. If someone else can do it, why can’t you?

Curious about coding? Try the #IWDCodingChallenge, a fun, free virtual coding challenge for complete coding beginners. Join in before 29 March 2021 for a chance to win a tech prize bundle. Find out how to take part here