I'm one of a small but growing contingent of people over the age of 40, who've made significant career changes to break into the UK tech industry. My first developer role at the start of 2018 was also my first ’employed’ position in 22 years. This made me a firm advocate not only for women returners but also career changers looking to make the switch into tech.
There was never a grand plan to become a developer, it just happened. I was juggling being mum with working from home at the time when small businesses really needed to have an online presence to survive. We needed a website for our home business and we didn't have a budget to pay a professional. So I sat at the kitchen table, ploughed my way through tutorial after tutorial and built my first website. It seemed a pretty good fit to upskills my graphics background and I actually enjoyed pulling my hair out night after night just for that one moment when finally, the code would just work. Over time I started building sites for friends and local small businesses, winning two awards for a responsive website.
Then I watched the BBC Girls Can Code and that changed everything. I wanted to be working in a tech startup. So I formed food tech startup TreatOut in September 2015 bagging a place on the Google Campus for Mums Startup Programme.
The startup gained attention very early on, and with it an invitation to go pitch at the Seeds&Chips food summit in Milan. A judge asked me "Why is it that you can build websites, but you're not building the app?". It was a damn good question that wouldn't stop niggling and pushed me to go apply to a fullstack coding bootcamp at Le Wagon. In summer 2016 I joined the first London cohort batch #36, and became the technical co-founder at TreatOut.
I spent the next 6 months back at home building out an MVP. But I missed being at bootcamp and decided that the only way to really step up to a technical co-founder, was to go and get a job as a developer. So I did.
It was hard work getting that first junior position at Skills Matter, the recruitment process was and still is very broken. But just at the point of giving up, the offer came through for my first (what recruiters would consider) commercial role in over 20 years.
I've now notched up three years of working in tech. I've stepped away from working fullstack to focus on Front End development and I'm enjoying life as a Software Engineer at Zoopla.
Lockdown and a return to working from home gave me extra time to keep learning. I've become an accessibility advocate, and with a little influence from some of my colleagues, I've started looking at web performance too.
The startup journey was not easy and I made the difficult decision to resign from TreatOut in May 2019. I gathered my thoughts rebranding as myFeastOut and gave myself time to recover from burnout. Perhaps I'll pick up the project again, but I'm not there yet.
In the meantime, I write about the journey of making the transition from a solo, self-taught coder to professional software engineer and who knows, maybe even a startup founder with a day job again too.