Although I studied Software Design and Development in high school, it never occurred to me to pursue a career in IT. My fantastic teacher, Mr Zavone (or ‘Danny Z’ as we jokingly called him) had this incredible passion, and we all enjoyed the classes, but I still didn’t really know what a coder was.
Looking back, gender may have played an unconscious role in shaping my decision.
At university, I pushed hard to combine my two loves – Music and Physics – but eventually my focus shifted to music as my future in the arts began to take shape.
And I loved my career. As a musician / composer / teacher / occasional DJ, I was well and truly following my passion.
But then life got in the way.
Glandular fever and chronic fatigue caused the development of severe asthma. This meant that singing and talking for multiple hours a day while teaching was no longer an option.
And so I had to reconsider my career.
For anyone who has faced a career impasse, I did what most of us do: I felt sad, then mad, and drank lots of tea with friends. Then I made space for reflection, researched options, and called on trusted friends and mentors to help guide me through.
And that’s when I rediscovered coding.
I started by dipping my toe in gently. Amongst my circle of friends, many are coders or developers and were able to share direct experiences to demystify coding as a career. There are also fantastic local code communities who run meetups and events for beginners, which is where I discovered MYOB’s Developher program – offering a 6 month scholarship to study full-time at Coder Academy, followed by a guaranteed full-time paid role as a Protégé Developer in MYOB’s Future Maker’s Academy.
For me, it wasn’t a question of STEM vs STEAM.
Musicians and developers have much in common, but most importantly, it’s a sense of curiosity and a commitment to the process of discovery. We both uncover through analysis and focus, following a trail of clues, where a line of code – or a melody – will eventually unravel with patience.
Disregard the stereotypes: development is for people who love people. If you like collaborative environments and making things for people, coding may be for you, too.
Just like great musicians who practice for themselves but play for the audience, a good developer has to be able to see the user (their audience), to respect them and to turn up to work to deliver what they need.
This is why more companies should be considering ways to attract diverse tech talent. Not just because only 20% of technology workers in Victoria are women – compared to 46% among the broader Victorian workforce (Australian Office of the Chief Scientist) – but because if technology is going to play an increasing part in all roles, we know that diversity creates better product and better outcomes – for all audiences.
In our grad team, for example, we’ve created a highly engaging learning environment that is reflective and appreciative of everyone’s prior experience. For the career changers in particular, our backgrounds and experience make our products so much richer.
Our ex-teacher shows us how to share clear, kind, effective feedback; our ex-marketer identifies our unique value proposition; and our ex-retail specialist keeps us focused on the customer service – at all stages of the journey. We’re an eclectic group and we’re celebrated for that.
Throughout both Developher and the Future Maker’s Academy, the environment has been super collaborative and I’ve felt supported and challenged. At the outset, we were assigned both Technical and Mindset mentors: Tech mentors to troubleshoot our tech issues and Mindset mentors to help manage the mental load of a career transition. From how to adjust to working in a large organisation to dealing with the pressure of a full-time, intensive bootcamp (and the added pressure you put on yourself being a scholarship recipient), the support was customised and the timeline built around our individual goals. As for my fellow Develophers – Fiona and Emily – we connected from the beginning and continue to learn and share together – even as we progress into new teams at MYOB.
If you’re looking for a change and you think coding might be for you, I’d recommend applying. Take the leap. Embrace the change.
MYOB is on the lookout for women who want a career change and would like to upskill in STEM. There are three scholarships available in Victoria for women returning to work and looking for a new challenge. Applications close Friday 7 June. For more information, click here.