Hi, I’m Sophie! I am currently working as a Graduate Software Engineer at Experian in Nottingham.
It has been a long journey to get to where I am now! Back in 2011, I studied a Psychology at Loughborough university, and subsequently went onto train as a Mental Health Nurse at the University of Birmingham. I practiced as a registered nurse for 2 years, and worked during the first year of the pandemic.
In my spare time, I had started a web development course which I really enjoyed; it was my first exposure to coding. I went to an all-girls school before university, and although Maths was my favourite subject and I spent my life on my PC growing up, a job in the tech industry was never a suggestion. Doing this course, I soon fell in love with coding!
I was looking to leave nursing at the time due to burnout and mental ill health; I first applied to a Psychology research masters, got rejected (thankfully!). Instead, I took a leap of faith and applied for a Computer Science conversion course instead; a complete U-turn on everything I had known so far, all because I enjoyed coding and had recommendations to complete the course from friends. My partner really pushed me to apply, although I had my reservations and felt embarrassed to leave behind everything I had done up until now.
The rest is history really. It was a lightbulb moment. I got on the course, and I threw my all at it. It truly is the best decision I have ever made, and really wish I knew about pursuing tech as a career sooner.
Try not to panic too much about your career decisions; it is normal that you might not end up in the ideal job/career straight away. There is always time to change things up and try something else. Different job experience is valuable, and I think my past work experience in an entirely different field has been really beneficial to my role so far.
Do the things that make you happy, not the things that are ‘expected’ of you by other people.
I knew from the conversion course that I wanted to be a developer. I looked for graduate schemes while coming to the end of the course, as I felt I needed the support to learn more from a grad scheme, rather than being thrown straight in at the deep-end as a junior developer.
I am focusing on becoming a full-stack developer currently, doing additional training in developing in Java. Full-stack developers are a hot commodity in the job market!
During my conversion course, for my final major project, I developed a menstrual cycle tracking mobile application. I wanted a way of putting two passions together: my research interest in menstrual health and mental health, and technology. I built the application for Android, using Flutter, and Firebase.
In my current job, as a graduate software engineer at Experian, I started off learning C#, .NET, for API and backend development, then moved into working with the Cloud, learning AWS and dabbling in big-data processing using Scala. I am currently developing a User Interface for a project, and have been developing this using VueJS, which I have really enjoyed learning and using.
Really proud of how far I have come in such a short amount of time. The team I work in, I work independently and have taken ownership of the UI I am developing. I had no prior knowledge of the framework I am using in November last year, so I am pretty proud of where I am now!
Our team works in 2 weekly cycles, called sprints, so every 2 weeks we plan all the work we want to do in the following 2 weeks. A day would start off with a team meeting, discussing work we have completed the previous day, and what we hope to achieve that day. We raise any issues or blockers we are experiencing and have follow up discussions to get work progressing.
I’ll spend most of the day working on the ticket I have picked up, which might involve coding, testing, reviewing code or documentation, but I might have other team meetings scattered through the day. I also like to get involved in external projects, which are not development related, so if I have any additional capacity, I will allow some time for those. Finally, I am currently working towards some AWS certification, so again, if time allows, I will spend time studying 😊
I love learning new stuff and I really enjoy finding the solution to a really tough problem. It might be a frustrating process, taking numerous days, but finally cracking it is so satisfying!
I did struggle at times feeling like the only woman amongst a sea of men. It felt hard to get my voice heard at times and was a culture shock coming from a career which was instead female-dominated.
I dealt with it by talking to my line manager at work, who I was lucky enough to feel comfortable talking to. I also have an external mentor, who is a woman in business who had experienced similar feelings to me, so having someone that can empathise and understand how you feel is important. Couldn’t recommend getting a mentor enough!
(I unfortunately didn’t ☹)
But I have been inspired since. I’ve listened to Reshma Saujani, who founded Girls Who Code, and her story, the work she has done towards closing the gender gap in tech is really inspiring!
I started doing couch to 10k this year, which has been a huge challenge to me – I’m almost at the end goal! It’s tough to get out the door but the feeling after a good run is great! Great to be outside, push my body and listen to a good podcast 😊
I like to game when I have time, I love to cook, and I am currently ploughing through reading the Game of Thrones books.
I am currently experiencing it as I am nearing the end of the grad scheme! I finish in September, and will no longer be a grad, and I am currently having trouble thinking of myself as ‘good’ enough to be a developer!
Knowing that other people also feel this way helps; this is a normal feeling to have. To deal with it, I keep reminding myself how far I’ve come, that I am a developer now, my team don’t consider me a ‘grad’ anymore, and that I am great at picking up new skills quickly. I am also lucky enough to know people who have experience in the current tech job market, who are reassuring me that hirers don’t need you to know everything (despite the long list of tech skills required on a job advert), and that the ability to learn is really valuable!
It is really important to me that we get more women into STEM, and I have previously volunteered for Code First Girls in delivering training programmes to people like me! I am going to look for another opportunity to do this in the next couple of months, as I really want to help the cause and give back 😊
Being a woman in STEM makes me happy; I have found a job that I love to do 😊 It can be hard at times, but it will only get better for us !