International Women’s Day Spotlight: Anca Toma

This International Women’s Day, Revoke is celebrating women in the technology industry, and what better way to do this than with one of our own? Anca is a vital part of the company and works with us as a software developer. Here she is sitting down with Digital Jersey & Skills Jersey, outlining how she started out in this sector:

She also spoke with us to discuss women in the tech industry, and why she made the move over.

 

Q: Hi Anca, thanks for sitting down with us to talk women in tech! Could you start off by telling us a little bit about yourself?

A: Hi, my name is Anca, I am originally from Romania but have been living in the UK for almost 10 years. At first, I lived in Birmingham while studying for my bachelor’s degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management, and once I finished university I moved to Jersey, Channel Islands. I worked in a prestigious 5-star hotel on the island until I decided to change my career and started learning to program.

Long story short: I studied Web Development on my own through online courses and built a portfolio with projects using the latest, most in-demand technologies; in just a few months, I got hired at Revoke where I have been working as a Software Developer for more than 3 years.

During this time, I have learnt a lot, especially on the job, thanks to my amazing colleagues, as well as through additional courses such as the Digital Jersey Coding Course.

I have won a tech award and a Hackathon (second place 😊), I have become a mentor and a programming teacher for 10-year-olds, and I have recently started to study for a master’s degree in Cyber Security Technology.

Q: What first sparked your interest in working in the tech industry?

A: I worked in the hospitality industry for about 5 years, advancing in my career from an internship in a luxurious hotel in Dubai to Events Supervisor and then Assistant Restaurant Manager in Jersey. I was really enjoying the work environment, learning about different cuisines, wines, customer service, the novelty of each day in events, meeting new people, travelling, and making connections.

However, because of the nature of the industry, I was working a lot of hours per week, late nights, as well as all the weekends and holidays and I, was feeling like there was no work-life balance in my job, as well as receiving very little appreciation for my effort and dedication.

Therefore, I started researching other career options and tried a few different things (including opening an online shop) until I eventually came across a great Web Development course online and the article that Andrei, the course tutor, had written about learning to code and getting hired.

That article was life-changing for me; it described a programmer’s career so well, emphasising on industry growth, the high demand for developers in the future, the need to always learn and stay up to date with technologies, as well as the freedom that comes with a job in IT, for example through the ability to choose where you want to live (since you can find a job anywhere in the world, or work remotely).

Q: What advice would you give to women just starting out in Software Development?

A: This is a great time for women to get into the technology industry as everyone is realising the importance of diversity. There is a lot of advice out there for women who are just starting to code, no matter if they have a degree or not. Most of these I’ve heard or read when I started this journey myself and I found them to be very valuable and helpful.

Probably the best advice I got was to not give up in the first couple of months while it feels like climbing “an insurmountable mountain”, to stay strong and keep learning until it all clicks, because it will. If you remember that, then you are halfway there, here are a few more tips that worked for me, to keep you going:

  • Make a plan – spend some time planning what you want to learn and in what order, rather than aimlessly following tutorials or reading books. Find out what are the most relevant technologies will get you hired and aim to learn those.

If you have a plan, it’s less probable that you will get distracted from your goals or that you will go down a dead-end by learning outdated technology. You should start with the basics of how the internet works, how the web integrates with HTML and CSS and reacts to your code, how to use the command line and a suitable text editor, and then choose one programming language and stick to it.

  • Find a mentor or a supporting community, or both – in my opinion, it’s very important to surround yourself with women who have the same goals as you as well as others that you can learn from. Join a coding challenge such as #100daysofcode or Hacktoberfest or a Discord community where you can ask for help, offer help to others, collaborate on projects and many more.
  • Ask a lot of questions – once you’ve found a mentor and a supportive community, don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. I know it sounds like a cliche, but there really isn’t such a thing as a silly question when you are learning to code. Whenever you are stuck on something or there’s something you don’t understand, try to Google it first and if you don’t get an answer to your question, ask your peers.
  • Be organised! – set some goals for yourself and do your best to achieve them. Give yourself a time limit to learn HTML and CSS, build your first website, complete a module on a course, etc.
  • If you have trouble staying focused for a long time, especially when you’re struggling to understand, try using the Pomodoro Technique (You focus on what you’re doing for 25 minutes with no distractions, then take a 5-minute break and repeat the cycle 4 times before taking a longer break) – this was a massive help for me at the start and I am still using it sometimes when I am learning something new, there are many mobile and web apps for it.
  • Don’t get stuck on the basics, it will all make sense – when you first learn how to code, you might get stuck trying to memorise basic things such as HTML elements or CSS syntax, but you shouldn’t waste your time on these.
  • You should build your first basic website within a couple of days and then move on, as you will always be able to find all the keywords and syntax online when you need them.
  • When you get to the actual programming language of your choice, make sure you understand the fundamentals such as data types and structures and variables but don’t waste too much time trying to memorise a certain syntax, you can always Google it later.
  • Build a portfolio – this is very important especially if you don’t have a CS degree or any related work experience, since it’s your opportunity to showcase your work to potential employers, to prove what you can do and show how you have evolved. Having an active GitHub profile where you contribute often to personal and public projects is also a great advantage when applying for junior or mid developer jobs.
  • Apply for jobs – if it’s your goal to get hired, start applying for jobs as soon as possible. If you have already 2 or 3 projects in your portfolio, if you have a clear learning path that you are following and if you show that you are motivated to develop further, you might find a company that is willing to take you on and teach/mentor you themselves. Even if you might fail in some interviews, you don’t really have anything to lose, but you will have gained some experience and you know what is expected of you for the next ones. But once you succeed, you will get paid to learn.

Anca is an inspiration to us all and has shown how strong women are in the tech industry. Learn how Anca and Revoke can help you in taking back control of your personal data today!

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