Katie Raby

Changing Career from Marketing to Software Engineering


tags: career

In 2019, I was in an established marketing career, with no tech degree to speak of, and was convinced that switching to a career in tech would be nearly impossible. Less than a year later, I landed a job as a junior software engineer 💻 Here’s my story.

From the first time I dabbled in code at the age of 12 to learning the basics of HTML and CSS, I found that there was an unmistakable pull and magical feeling about coding. It was a world where I could create anything I wanted.

While at school, I never thought a career in coding was even possible for me, and I never thought of studying computer science an option. At many points in my life, I went back to coding “bits and bobs,” but I never fully committed myself to changing careers.

I graduated from university in 2015 with a degree in international business and French and soon took an interest in marketing as a career because it was interdisciplinary and would allow me to be creative. I eventually got a job working in communications for a global engineering consultancy — the beginning of my marketing career.

Once you’re fully embedded in a career, it can be difficult to make a change — especially to tech. You face all sorts of questions: How will I translate my previous experience into the tech world? Will my resume be impressive enough to land my first role? In the past, I’d worked a stint at a recruitment agency, so I knew how challenging a career change could be. But I was determined. I wanted a job that I would love and look forward to every day — working towards that goal became my focus.

I attended a two-day workshop led by the Django Girls, a non-profit created to inspire women from all backgrounds to get interested in technology — and interested I became! I learned some Python and Django, and I created my first web application. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and was curious enough to ask questions and learn more about each step of the process. The workshop reignited my love for code. At work, I took every opportunity to code when I could — like editing email templates —and I developed a real thirst for solving problems and making things work.

I began coding in the evenings after work, learning through online platforms such as FreeCodeCamp, where I started working through the Responsive Web Design Certification. I also developed a love for coding pure CSS images — a digital expression of art through code!

Coding every night after work was difficult, but I made it a daily habit via the #100DaysOfCode challenge. I would recommend the challenge to anyone who wants to have fun, learn a lot, and hold themselves accountable to regular coding. I found out about this challenge at a local coding meet-up, and it felt fantastic to immerse myself in a community of coders.

It wasn’t long before I started looking at ways I could get into coding full-time. I was determined to make it happen. One day, enough was enough. I took the plunge and handed in my notice at work. I was in a comfortable role, and something I could have continued doing for many years to come. But I wasn’t content with living inside of my comfort zone anymore when my true passions lay elsewhere. I knew how big a risk it was to leave relative comfort and safety to pursue my dreams — but I knew I had to at least try.

I looked around at different options to start my career in tech. I settled on going to an in-person coding boot camp called Northcoders, in Manchester, U.K. I also stayed active on LinkedIn. So, while I waited for my course to start, I managed to secure myself some work at a digital agency working as a junior front end web developer. This fantastic experience solidified my decision to pursue a career in tech. It gave me the confidence that people believed in my skills, and that I could really make it into the industry.

When I attended the intensive Northcoders boot camp full-time, I learned everything from the ground-up, finishing with building a group project: a full-stack mobile application to help people with their shopping during the pandemic. Though there are many different routes into the coding industry, a boot camp worked really well for my learning style and gave me the skills to be able to build projects independently.

After bootcamp, I continued to learn and found ways to differentiate myself in the industry and build my brand, writing blog posts and interacting with the developer community.

When it came to job searching, I had a portfolio of projects that I had built, and a CV showcasing my development experience. It also included transferrable skills from my career in marketing, such as project management, design, and communication. Even though you may be looking to change career, don’t underestimate the value of skills you have developed thus far in your life or career. There is more to a career as a developer than just the coding!

It’s important to remember that this is only my story — and that everyone has a different one! There are many paths into development: a computer science degree, bootcamps, online degrees or courses, apprenticeships, part-time study, and more. Here’s my advice if you are seriously thinking about transitioning to a career in tech:

  • Look into the different paths into development and find what works best for you and your situation.

  • Get involved in the tech community. This could be through local meet-ups in your area, events such as Django Girls, or the online developer community via Twitter or Linkedin.

  • Find things that spark your passion for code.

  • Take advantage of the free resources online, such as FreeCodeCamp, where you can try out a range of languages like JavaScript or Python.

  • Always keep learning and never give up on your dreams!

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