Amina Aweis is a writer, content creator and Software Engineer. She is also an ambassador for London Screen Academy which is a sixth form founded by names in the industry behind the production of the Harry Potter series, James Bond and Paddington. She is also 1/3 of The Black Muslim Girl Podcast (TBMG) which is a space for Black Muslim girls to vibe, elevate, educate each other.
It’s been just over a year since starting my job as a Software engineer and almost 2 years since I began my journey into the tech industry.
To give some context about my background, I am 22 years old and I did not go to university. At 18, I decided to explore my creative side which led me to take a digital marketing & business apprenticeship course for a year and worked for an agency helping small businesses and charities build and grow their online platform/presence.
My curiosity led me to research these things further before I was accepted to a 4-month boot camp in 2018 with CodeFirst:Girls. It was due to this boot camp that I was able to learn to code and land my first tech role as a software engineer. I talk more about my tech journey on my YouTube channel.
Transitioning into this industry has been an exciting yet turbulent experience and I have learnt so much in such a short space of time. Switching careers can be daunting, especially when you don’t have a lot of experience in the field you’re getting into. The tech industry was no different and here are some of the things I wish I knew before starting my tech career.
Programming is hard and that’s OK.
It’s very easy to get sucked into the hype and excitement about learning to code in a climate where technology plays a large part in our day to day life. There are so many courses on offer that can teach you a lot and so it can be quite confusing as to where you should start. Coding is a skill that has become far more accessible to learn, only requiring your time and an internet connection to start. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s something that comes easy to everyone. It was certainly a steep learning for me and it took quite a while for things to start making sense. Do not feel disheartened if basic concepts are not clicking for you straight away. You’re not the only one and it doesn’t make you less competent.
You don’t have to know everything about the language you’re learning to start building projects.
There is this misconception that you have to be an expert in the language you’re learning in order to start making something when in fact, you actually learn more by building. This is why courses and videos that have fun projects to do are more helpful because by implementing what you’re learning, you are reinforcing the learning you already have done and you’re also going to run into errors to your code that will help you understand why a certain approach doesn’t work.
Coding is a lot like Maths.
While you don’t need to be a maths whizz to be able to code, there is a lot of logic and structure in programming that lends itself to having a similar approach to Maths problems. Additionally, the two are similar in the sense that you have to keep practising in order to get better at it. Therefore, practice what you learn, even if it means re-writing the same code you were following along to while watching that tutorial. It’s a mundane process but it helps build up a sort of muscle memory that you won’t get by simple staring at your screen and getting flustered. I would also recommend going through basic concepts of Algebra and Maths problems just so you can get into the habit of breaking things down to get to a solution.
Have a basic understanding of how computers and the internet works.
If you don’t come from a very technical background like myself, setting some time aside to understand how computers work and how the internet works. This can help you with understanding the wider context of how the work you do, contributes to the product you’re building or the page/website you’re viewing. It also saves you a lot more time when you start learning more complex concepts that require you to understand networks.
Not all tech jobs require coding.
The tech industry is HUGE and so is the demand. There are a plethora of roles that aren’t necessarily technical or coding related that is still required. Don’t feel pressured to learn to code so that you can get a role in the tech industry if it’s not something you genuinely want to do. Work with the skills and passions you have and build from there because the reality is, there is likely to be a role within the industry that suits you a lot more than you think.
You’re going to learn the most on the job.
While there are some great resources to learn about different aspects of the tech industry, when you are in a working environment you really get the hands-on experience and opportunity to collaborate in a team, implement concepts and solutions in real case scenarios. However, don’t let this discourage you from self-studying as that doesn’t stop even when working full time.
It’s OK to feel overwhelmed
When you first start learning to code, you’ll find that there is a lot of information to take in and understand. This is a completely normal feeling and it’s one that will not go away very easily. You’ll always be learning new things no matter how far you are in your tech journey. The sooner you can come to terms with this, the easier it’ll be to get over the breakdowns (there’ll be a lot of this!) you’ll face when learning.
For the most part, having to adapt to a new industry in such a short space in time has been quite a ride and there are moments where I still feel lost. However, I’ve accepted that it’s going to be this way for a while and that as long as I put in the work and stay curious, I will go far. I hope that my experience so far will serve as wisdom to you so that you don’t get blindsided in avoidable situations if you so choose to explore the tech industry. Do not let age, race, ethnicity, gender or religion hold you back from learning such a valuable skill like coding.
Sometimes, the best thing you can do is just start.
I am passionate about getting more underrepresented women into the tech by sharing what I learn as I continue to progress in my tech career. I have created a Google Doc which breaks down my current job role along with resources I use to learn and upskill myself.