From drama to tech in just 12 months

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This article was orginally written for Medium, by Bruno Silva

For those of you that may not know me, I’m a Drama & Theatre Studies graduate who is now working in the technology industry. After graduating in 2019, I began learning to code, and for the past 3 months have been working as a software engineer.

The transition from the arts was not an easy one — it took a lot of time and hard work to get to where I am now — but I want you to know, that if I can do it, so can you. When taking such a big leap, dedication and passion is key. In this blog I hope to show you that with the right mindset, anyone can make the leap — whether you have a tech background or not!

ACT ONE: THE LEAP 

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? Upon graduating from Royal Holloway, my entire knowledge of coding came from people who were studying Computer Science. I had always assumed that someone like me couldn’t possibly code — it was an aspect of life I deemed unattainable and unrealistic. But yet I thought why not give it a go? I was nearing the end of my degree and had some time on my hands. So I set out an afternoon for myself, and a friend, to learn how to code. All I needed was a laptop and Visual Studio Code. I remember to this day, the very first line of code I ever wrote in JavaScript:

console.log('Hello Word'); - MIND BLOWING

The sheer excitement I got from being able to output ‘Hello World’ to the console was a sight to behold. At the time, I had my mind set on pursuing a career in performing arts, and this afternoon was chalked up to just a bit of fun. However, those first few months after graduating — looking for a job, meeting with recruiters, having auditions — I started to feel like this wasn’t what I wanted for my life. The more recruiters, interviews, and auditions I did, the more I felt like I was lying to myself.

It was around this time that I began to think back to that afternoon, and decided to dedicate another afternoon to learning to code. Quickly an afternoon turned into a day, and I found myself learning to code from youtube. But still, at this point, it becomes more of a hobby, something to do, a way to enjoy myself while unemployed.

I knew that I enjoyed learning to code, but what I knew paled in comparison to what I needed to know to become a software engineer. It was nearing the end of summer, and I started looking at articles and blogs about becoming a software engineer as a self-taught programmer, when I came across a ca web-developing Bootcamp that teaches you how to code. I knew I was nearing the leap when I came across the Bootcamp but I was scared. I was worried that it might be too difficult and doubted my ability to adapt given my non-tech background. Despite these feelings, I followed my passion and enrolled into their January 2020 class. What had previously seemed like a dream had just become a reality.

It’s now the beginning of a new year and I had been given a pre-start package to learn everything I needed for the course. It had starter packs on Ruby, JavaScript, HTML, CSS, and the MVC design pattern. This is where it started to get really hard, mentally. The sheer amount of new information felt like a mountain to climb. I was learning new language syntaxes, Object-Oriented Programming, Data Structures, the DOM structure, Variables, and Data Types. I needed to know the mere basics before I started. Although these packages felt overwhelming and difficult at the time. I kept reminding myself that this was expected and I’d just have to work hard.

ACT TWO: CODING CAMP

It’s now the end of January, and here I am, learning web-development and delving into the first module of Object-Oriented Programming with Ruby. It’s surreal to think only a couple of months ago, I only knew how to write one line of code. Not one day, did I feel like the learning process would slow down. There was always something to learn.

I found myself looking at classes that were a couple of modules ahead of me — the students were developing websites and games, something they didn’t know how to do a couple of months ago. Knowing that they had come so far in such a short space of time gave me the encouragement to know that my hard work would eventually pay off.

Having completed the lessons in the first module, I would pass my first Code Challenge test in order to progress. Everything I had learned was finally being put into practice, and upon passing I started to believe that I could do this course.

Now here is where my coding skills took a serious boost. I was starting to learn frameworks such as Ruby On Rails, and React.js, building upon the Ruby and JavaScript languages. I was able to create websites/games using these frameworks utilising everything I had learned. I felt really proud of myself and what I had achieved. It was at this time when the first lockdown in England was introduced, but I still had one module left. For my final module I had to complete a solo project of my choosing using the Rails/React stack.

Naturally I was wondering how the lockdown would affect my project and learning proccess. I had 3 weeks to create a project from scratch with little to no support. Even after everything I’d learned and the time I’d spent I still felt like this was too much to handle, and I even contemplated pushing back the module. However, with the support of my friends and those closest to me, those doubts quickly faded away.

I decided on my project: creating a website for my friend’s music label, SCNE. I knew that failure to complete this project wouldn’t just be failing myself, I would also be letting down my friend. I spent nearly every day of the week coding, for 3 weeks straight. At times I would find myself stuck implementing a feature, but it wasn’t the end of the world. I knew what to research and was able to quickly learn on the go. I never let myself think that I couldn’t do it no matter how hard or frustrating it got because I genuinely believed the end product would pay off.

Here I was, at the end of my coding camp experience, showcasing what I’d created to my peers, friends, and strangers. The feedback I got exceeded my expectations and I finished my FlatIron experience with a sense of joy, wondering what would come next as I go forward.

It's now the end of March 2020. I dreaded the idea of trying to break into the tech industry with the amount of uncertainty going around. As getting a job during a pandemic is much harder than usual, I knew I would have to work even harder than before.

For the months after my coding camp, I made sure I kept on top of my work and the job searching process. I spent every morning networking with people on LinkedIn, talking to recruiters, and in the afternoon I would spend time developing my skills. What I had learned with the coding camp was the ability to create websites and games, but there was still so much more to learn. I knew that I preferred React to Rails, so decided to learn more about React and any new features, such as Redux. I would look at Udemy to help me learn Redux and start creating mini projects to practice.

ACT THREE: SPARTA GLOBAL

Despite doing all of this, I couldn’t combat the daunting feeling of not knowing what will happen during the lockdown, but all I could do was keep positive, and learn more. No matter how far I would get in an interview process before being rejected, I would just move on to the next and keep doing what I was doing. I knew it was only a matter of time before I got something. As June approached, I found Sparta Global and decided to enter into a new chapter.

Sparta Global was offering me an extensive training program where I would learn a new programming language in C#, and so much more. Unlike FlatIron, this training was to lead to a job with Sparta Global. It taught me about the tech industry, the Software development Lifecycle, working in an Agile environment, and how I would be working in a software engineering role.

I felt like being able to learn a new language, whilst also developing my industry knowledge would be the key to me beginning my professional career. It was a training program, but it was also a stepping block towards a full-time position with Sparta. Upon completion of the training course, you begin the process of being interviewed for various roles by Sparta’s clients. Knowing this, my career path became clear and I was inspired to work even harder. With the knowledge I had gained from Flatiron, I was able to pick up C# quite quickly, but that’s not to say you need any experience to join. The training is intended for all backgrounds.

That said, most of the people in my class were from a Computer Science background, but there were also a fair amount of people who had no tech background. It really is down to you to put in the work, and Sparta will help you with every step along the way.

The entire training program built up to the final project — a team project utilising the Agile methodologies. This project was by far the most invigorating task I’ve worked on as it drew upon every aspect of my learning in the past year. It certainly helped me to be in a position to start my career in software engineering. By this time it was September 2020, and with the training at Sparta complete, I was ready to embark on client interviews. After two months, I landed a role with Sparta Global as Junior Software Engineer and now represent them on client engagements with one of the largest financial services firms in the world! What started as an unattainable aspiration became a reality, and I was able to completely turn my life around in a matter of a year.

CONCLUSION

This was my story, but for anyone who’s thinking to make leap, I want you to know that your dream can become a reality. It may be a long process and feel challenging at times, but as long as you keep believing in yourself, you will succeed. I went from graduating with a Drama Degree thinking I’d work in the performing Arts, to starting a new career and even now I’m just at the start of my tech career and there is still much to learn, but I’m excited about what’s to come.

PS:

Who you were before the change no matter the degree or profession, just because you’re changing doesn’t mean it was all for nothing. Those experiences lead you to where you are now and have shaped who you are as a person to some capacity. Your experience before changing is not a burden or disadvantage but an advantage. No one will share the same experience as you have and that will let you view things from different perspectives. If you like doing something take that leap and give it a go.