Case study

Software engineer — Nadia Pavelin

Nadia felt lost in her career, until a coding boot camp changed her prospects. She now works as a software engineer at Jisc

How did you get your job?

I didn't pursue a university degree and left school with two Ds at A-level. The last two years of high school were challenging for me as a neurodivergent student, but I took a different path that built valuable skills, where I discovered my resilience and work ethic.

After high school, I gained experience working in a local pub. I built friendships with people from all over the world, learned how to think on my feet, and talk to anyone. My friends inspired me to travel, and I took a working holiday abroad in Canada, where I worked for a call centre doing campaigns for non-profits, while visiting neighbouring cities.

Upon my return, the sales experience I gained proved its worth. It paved the way for a recruitment position that not only offered a much higher salary but also rekindled my career ambitions.

The pandemic prompted me to re-evaluate my career path. Seeking a more stable field and career change, I enrolled in a coding boot camp with Northcoders. This programme proved to be a turning point, and it changed my life.

What's a typical day like as a software engineer?

To kick off the day, we hold a brief meeting to discuss ongoing projects and priorities. Following this, we focus on our individual tickets, either working independently or collaboratively to address any challenges. We also have periodic team meetings to plan future work.

What are you most proud of in your career?

The decision to retrain for this career was truly transformative. It's provided me with financial security, a stable industry, and most importantly, fulfilling work. It's hard to imagine a better fit.

What qualities do you think are important for this role?

It's important to have a curious and questioning mind and to thrive in collaborative environments. My neurodivergent perspective brings a unique approach to problem-solving, allowing the team to consider diverse solutions and a different way of thinking.

What are the challenges?

It can be incredibly discouraging to face colleagues who don't seem receptive to your ideas. While self-doubt can creep in (often called imposter syndrome), it's important to remember your value.

My biggest challenge was working in an environment where my contributions were consistently dismissed. Whether it is interruptions, being ignored, or being excluded from meetings, it can make you question your abilities.

A turning point came when a senior manager recognised my contribution during a meeting. This validation helped me overcome self-doubt and move forward.

If you find yourself in a similar situation where your colleagues constantly undermine you, consider having a conversation with a trusted manager or exploring other opportunities within the company. Ultimately, a healthy work environment should encourage open communication and value diverse perspectives.

How do I get into software engineering?

  • Bootcamp options - several bootcamps, including Northcoders and Code First Girls, offer free or low-cost options.  Remember, prior experience isn't always necessary, but boot camps can be intensive depending on the length.
  • Graduate training programmes - companies will have internal bootcamp style courses for graduates or bootcamp graduates, or people who have self-taught. You don't always need code experience to apply, check the requirements - but you can self-teach some code beforehand to get in.
  • Build a support system - no matter your path, having a support system can be invaluable. This could be a mentor, a friend who can coach you, or even people who have learned to code independently - all can provide encouragement and guidance.
  • Events - keep an eye out for developer mentoring sessions happening in your area. These events often occur in the evenings and can be a great way to connect with experienced programmers.
  • Build a portfolio - include some small projects that showcase a range of skills on there. The code should be linked and publicly available on your github profile, and something you're happy for prospective employers to see.
  • Stemettes Mentorship - if you are a young woman or non-binary person aged 15-24 and interested in coding, Stemettes is a fantastic organisation that offers sponsored mentorship programmes to help you enter STEM careers.

Find out more

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