My Spartan story: Jakub Matyjewicz

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I grew up a small town in Poland, and since both of my parents are PE teachers, I played all kinds of sports – football, volleyball, basketball – and was a competitive swimmer until I turned 13. I went to middle school in Poznan, where there were more opportunities to study and train, and I met a coach and got into athletics. I sprinted competitively for Olimpia Poznan, training for three hours after school every day. I ran solo and relay, but found my times were always faster when I competed as part a team. I guess I have always been a team player!

I was interested in computer science and loved fixing things – I was always unpaid IT Helpdesk for my friends and family! – but I was never the best student, and studying didn’t interest me. I got an athletics scholarship to study Technical Physics, but I quickly realised it wasn’t for me. I then enrolled onto Finance & Accounting thinking it would be more of a direct career route, but again I didn’t enjoy it. I really like maths and physics, but I didn’t find the work itself interesting. Around this time, I badly injured my ankle so stopped being able to compete professionally. Things were not working out how I’d hoped, and I decided it was time for a change.

My cousin had just begun studying in Oxford, so I left Poland to find my fortune in the UK. Oxford was full of tourists and students, but I found British people to be more open-minded, and kind. I didn’t speak a lot of English, so I got a job in a warehouse, and then eventually in hospitality, to help me practice my language skills.

In time it became clear technology was the field I wanted to work in, so I spent six months completing a paid Java bootcamp. Whilst I learned a lot technically, it didn’t cover business or interview skills, and didn’t promise a role at the end. I got myself a few interviews for technical roles, but despite my training, found that they were looking for previous work experience that I just didn’t have. I found myself in a never-ending loop of applying for junior roles but needing the experience of a senior. I got fed up, stopped applying, and continued working in Pret a Manger… and then covid happened.

I was furloughed for six months. At first, I spent my days playing computer games, but eventually I started playing around in Java. I used a repo that was tracking cases of the virus by country and built a web application that extracted the data and displayed it in various charts. I reformatted my previous projects using Bootstrap, and bit by bit, my passion for technology returned.  

My enthusiasm back, I returned to the job market, and that’s when I found Sparta Global. I saw they were recruiting for Java roles, so I applied and was contacted by the Talent team who talked me through how the Academy works. It sounded like a great opportunity; their client base sounded amazing, and Spartans were being assigned to really interesting roles.

Even though I’d studied Java intensely, the Sparta course itself was really helpful, especially the business skills as I’d not focused on them before. It helped me develop a more consistent way of introducing myself and gave me the confidence to talk about my technical and non-technical experience in English. It’s challenging not working in my native language, and I know my limits; sometimes I lose myself and can’t find the word I need, and I was worried that it would go against me in interviews when explaining tech topics. Sparta’s interview preparation was invaluable, and it became obvious why I wasn’t getting hired before! My first client interview was with a global consultancy – a role I really wanted - and I would say my preparation worked as I got that role!

Now at my client, I’ve met great people that I’m learning a lot from, and I feel really involved and important. I didn’t expect to be able to showcase my skills so early on, but six months in I’m the main database tester for a proof-of-concept front-end test automation framework, and I’m about to present it to 200 people! I feel really proud of my contribution, and how we overcame obstacles by working together.

The best thing about my project is that I’m spending all day doing things I like – coding, problem solving, being part of a team of super smart people – and I enjoy going to the office regularly to get to know my colleagues better. I’m still active – I can’t sit at my computer all day! – but my client empowers us to organise our own days, so that we can take breaks and exercise when it suits us. I’m very happy I found Sparta Global. I develop myself and learn new things every day – including new words! – which is a nice feeling.