How I went from fashion writer to software engineer in test

“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.” 

Joseph Campbell

Life can be strange. A year ago, I was giving a presentation on FW17 fashion trends. Now, I am writing functional tests as a QA engineer.

When I tell people that I am a software engineer, they often ask, “Do you have a CS Degree or a technical background?”

The answer is a resounding “no”. I have one Bachelor’s degree in English Education, one in Translation & Interpreting, and a Master’s degree in Translation & Interpreting. I spent most of my 20s in literature studies and I could give a simultaneous interpretation of your talk on Big Data, but I knew nothing besides a textbook definition. I was the classic literature graduate who is NOT technical at all.

They continue, “So why and how did you do it?”

Realising I wasn’t enjoying working in my previous role, I took a turn at coding. I quickly found myself caught up in the excitement of solving coding challenges and creating projects, which soon became a nightly routine after work. Eventually, I wanted to take on tasks more complicated than basic HTML and CSS, so I signed up to online courses to learn JavaScript and Python, such as Udacity’s Full-stack Developer Nanodegree. It was also around this time that I joined meetups and workshops, including those hosted by Ladies of Code London, Node Girls and Codebar. Coaches and other students at these events provided me with a lot of help and support. After almost two years of this practice, I decided to transition my coding from passion to profession.

By this point in time, I had already become friends with a few people who had either made the career change to coding or were planning to do so, and they all recommended Makers Academy to me. As I sought out more people to speak to and read every blog post I could find about the course, I became convinced that this was something I wanted to do. I passed the interview and started my life-changing journey: three months later, I had completed a 12-week computer programming bootcamp and got a job at ECS Digital as a software development engineer in test.

Every Makers’ alumnus would tell you that they enjoyed the ping-pong time, but only a few will tell you how intensive and stressful it could be. Here are a few tricks that helped me during the career-changing experience and I hope they can be of help to you.

  1. Growth mindset

If you are thinking about learning something new, I would recommend reading this blog post by Allison Kaptur: Effective Learning Strategies for Programmers. It’s definitely worth reading more than once.

  1. Own your past

If you look at this survey, you will realise that coders come from different backgrounds, studied various majors and speak different languages. They may be career-changers or university graduates, have a military background or working parents. Your past is not a barrier, it is your strength.

  1. Look for role models

Since joining ECS Digital, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some extremely talented DevOps and software development engineers. They’ve mentored me on everything from testing, cloud computing, Docker, and Linux commands. They’ve also talked me through their intuition about particular coding problems and recommended books and talks by expert programmers. At ECSD, we are encouraged to use pair programming, so I frequently work with people who are able to mentor me. This gives newbie engineers a model to learn from and a standard to aspire to. I feel lucky to be working and learning in an environment where a community of engineers inspire each other.

This is my journey so far. If I can change from a fashion writer to a software developer engineer in test, you can too.

Ever wondered what a year in the life at ECS Digital looked like? Explore our recent blog to find out.

Xin WangHow I went from fashion writer to software engineer in test