International Women's Day: Connecting the dots during career change

Tami Reichold 9 Mar 2020

How a former Avast HR associate returned the following year as a junior software engineer.

When I was 13 years old, I was shouted at by my school teacher for not having a computer at home. My mum couldn’t afford one at the time, and it was only through a generous donation by a headteacher from a different school who caught wind of this unpleasant experience that we managed to acquire one. Little did I know that this event would end up influencing my professional future and career in technology.

Like most kids, my first experience with a computer was an unstructured one. A click here, a click there. I became scarily proficient at the pre-installed game of mini golf, and even adjusted a file that I ended up corrupting. I was hooked, and my interest in the IT Communications course I was taking at school skyrocketed.

At the age of 16, I finished secondary school and made a conscious choice to become an office administrator so I could work on a computer full-time and experience business life. However, I quickly lost interest. Personal computing was a far cry from professional computing, or so it seemed, and there were only so many documents I could scan and letters I could write before I felt unchallenged. So, after spending some time re-evaluating my options, I left the role and went to study social sciences as an undergraduate at university.  

The four years that followed were busy. I moved from my home country Germany to the UK to study Human Resources at Edinburgh University which I would later practice in the industry with various employers in London. This was a calculated decision. I saw the advancement of tech in HR as an opportunity to combine an interest in people with my lifelong interest in computing.

This transition led me to an HR role at Avast, where everything changed. I was immersed in a high-tech culture for the very first time, surrounded by programmers and software engineers developing, innovating, and problem solving on a daily basis. And the more time I spent with my colleagues listening to the projects they were working on, the more preoccupied I became with the idea of programming. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my job in HR, but I felt like something was missing. It wasn’t long before I decided to take the concept of coding more seriously.

In January 2019, the journey began. Evenings and weekends were consumed by inspiring coding literature and free online courses. I found myself developing ideas as the concept of programming became clearer, and eventually started writing my own code. The thought of one day being an inventor, following in the footsteps of my fellow Avastians, was too strong to ignore. I took advice from friends and family who encouraged me to take a leap of faith and turn a hobby into a profession. So, I set myself a goal: By 2020, I would be a fully-fledged developer.

In September 2019, I signed up for a full-time 12 week coding bootcamp at Flatiron School in London after reading a catalogue of positive case studies from like-minded men and women looking to change careers. After a nerve-racking selection process, I was accepted. Stage one was complete. I left my HR role at Avast so I could dedicate myself to the course.

The bootcamp, as the name suggests, was tough. As soon as one project ended, another would begin. My fellow bootcampers and I would lock ourselves away in the school labs to build upon the concepts discussed in the lectures. There were individual projects followed by group projects and finally the mother of all tasks which was to build an application’s entire front and backend from scratch on our own. It was an emotional rollercoaster filled with self-doubt, stress, fulfillment and ultimately happiness. Thankfully, in January 2020, I passed the course. Stage two, the accreditation stage, was complete. Now all that I needed to do was find a job. 

At Avast, people always come first. That’s both employees and the customer. It’s this ethos that makes it a perfect environment for women to thrive in technology-focused roles. Collaboration, cooperative behaviour, and a people-oriented approach to all disciplines, including programming and other high-tech positions, are ingrained in the company’s culture. Inclusiveness and equality of opportunity are not just intentions, they are conditions.

In February this year, I was lucky enough to return to Avast as a Junior Software Engineer Intern where, for the next few months, I will practice the skills I have acquired and contribute to the company’s mission to keep people safe and secure online. At the same time, I will be joining other Avastians at tech events throughout London as an advocate for women in tech, hoping to encourage more women to consider a career in tech while discussing non-discriminatory ways to reduce the gender gap. 

Tami’s top tips for anyone considering a career in technology:

  • Connect with people in tech and use their success stories as motivation to set foot on your own path towards a career in the field
  • Make use of all the online resources that are out there: courses, blogs  and informative videos. These are great tools to get started and for the most part are free
  • Surround yourself with the right people; those who understand and/or support your interests, and celebrate your successes
  • Take your time. Set realistic goals and actionable next steps, but at the same time dream big
  • Be an ambassador for others. Success is rarely the result of one person. Find the support you need, but also support others in need. As the Women in Tech community grows, so will you
  • Choose wisely. When you’re ready to start looking for jobs, shortlist those which take diversity and equality of opportunity seriously 
  • Don’t give up. Learn how to negotiate and know your worth. This will help when you start applying for positions and throughout your career

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