Getting a CS degree is the new black and is the key for access into the cool club of creators, designers and developers. Computer Science degree, is perceived as the genesis for a career in software development worldwide, with most people running into the field for various reasons; to provide better services, to cause positive change, to bless the universe with the beauty of technological gadgets, to get that money or a fulfilling career. Well if you happen to be one of most people- and truthfully everyone wants to- looking for a way to get into this new world, here’s some good news for you.

Joan Ngatia from Andela opened the year for us in our Bi-Monthly ‘Meet The Boss’, sharing with us insights into the life of a female software developer and transitioning to software development without a traditional CS.

The misconception of a CS degree being the only way has been cleared. So now you can also get into the cool kids club without this key card. Joan did this- starting with a degree in Geomatic Engineering and Geospatial and the desire to provide better GIS services- and it worked perfectly for her. Now let’s take a look at how we can also do this and get it right;
Lessons learned in transitioning to software development.

Newbies: Start with the basics and move up. As a total newbie, take time to figure out what you want to do. Research around the various fields in technology and software development. Find a community of people that are willing to help you. Interact with people on social media. No need for a paid course, take one of the many free courses available online, there are lots of them.

Portfolio: Join a community, put the various codes and things you’ve built as well as any boot camp you’ve attended and participated in on your resume,. Don’t hold back from applying just because you don’t have that CS degree, show your competence and expertise and it will be chosen over that degree when applying.
Further education: if you’re interested in getting a CS degree, then you need to know the masters program you’re looking for and the requirements. Find out how eligible you are to get into the course of study. However, with some experience working in a tech company, as a developer or product manager stated on your resume is a nudge in the right direction to getting admitted.

Trouble shooting: Never give up! Know that once it has been done, you can do it too. Take a step back, relax, evaluate, and ask for help if you have to and be intentional about asking for help. Don’t shy away from asking for help. It’s okay to not know so ask somebody. Be intentional about figuring your next steps don’t wallow in place of not being able to figure it out.

Gender inequality: Getting intimated by our male colleagues happens but don’t let it get to you, rather, use it to your benefit. Turn that intimidation source to a resource. They’ve been exposed earlier thus are a walking source of information whenever we need it. Don’t stay in an intimidating environment; walk away if you can, keep mental notes of what you want always, keeping a learning goal and objective of things you want to learn.
Now that these have been stated, make a conscious effort to build your brand as a developer and be intentional about it. Start by building a portfolio, either with personal websites or available platforms like GitHub. Doing a lot of freelance increases your expertise and knowledge with the perk of that extra money, this never hurt. Put your code on GitHub and contribute to Open Source Software (OSS). Participate in Hackathons, this allows you to learn from others. Refine your resume every step of the way. Never hold back from asking for help. Keep a positive affirmation that yes you can do it, you have started this journey and you have to finish it.

Being female in the world of software development comes with the hurdle of combining family and the job. However, finding the right partner and community relieves the stress and helps you deal and joggle. Relegate duties whenever you can. Pay if you have to, to get things done for you. Network, network, network, remember, your network is your net worth, and make sure to leverage on your networks. Make coding a habit; eat, live, sleep code. Follow industry news to stay updated, ours is a fast paced and developing industry. You can’t afford to slack behind. Find a cause you are passionate about and build on it. Practice by explaining, start small, the gains are always huge.

All the best as you set out to achieve your goal to become a software developer, better late than never. Don’t be afraid to fail and always make time to learn new concepts, learning maketh a man.

~Joan Ngatia