Meet Yana: Substitute Teacher Turned Software Engineer

Meet Yana Radenska! She was accepted into an apprenticeship program through WTIA’s Apprenti and completed her technical training at Code Fellows before starting her apprenticeship at Avvo.

She shares about what her apprenticeship looks like, how her background as a teacher helped her in her new career, and her advice for others considering a similar transition into a tech career.

Thanks for being willing to share your experience with us! How did you first hear about Code Fellows?

I initially found Code Fellows while researching bootcamps in the Seattle area. I ended up atttending Code Fellows, since they were the preferred partner of Apprenti—the organization that oversees my apprenticeship training.

Tell us more about the Apprenti program. How did you find out about it, and what was the application and interview process?

A friend of mine posted an article on Facebook in August 2016 describing this new tech apprenticeship, which was starting in a couple of months. The application process is in several stages—the first being an online questionnaire and assessment on the Apprenti website that covers math, logic and critical thinking, and soft skills. If ranked high enough, you are then called for a phone screen, then an in-person interview with the Apprenti staff. After successfully completing all of these stages, Apprenti works to set up interviews for you with their hiring partners who have open spots for apprentices. Interviews focus on potential success in the field, not existing technical knowledge—the point of apprenticeship is to gain skills you don’t have (though having prior experience certainly doesn’t hurt). Once accepted by a hiring partner, you are then sent to your training, which may vary greatly depending on the position for which you are selected, as well as the company that selected you.

What course(s) did you take at Code Fellows?

I took Code 201, Code 301, and Code 401: JavaScript.

Did you get to pick which stack to study, or did Avvo pick what they wanted you to learn?

I think generally speaking, the company would choose. However, Avvo utilizes Ruby/Rails, which wasn’t an option at Code Fellows. JavaScript was determined to be the best choice out of the available selection.

Were the courses (and Code Fellows in general) what you expected?

Yes, both the courses and Code Fellows were what I expected. Very intensive and a ton of information, resulting in learning a lot during a relatively short period of time.

What were you doing before applying to the program?

I was a substitute teacher and tutor.

Why did you decide to change careers, and why software development?

I decided to change careers because I didn’t feel like I was making enough of a difference as an educator, and the fruits of my labor were not at all tangible much of the time. I’ve always been drawn to activities that involve building things because of the tangible result, which is why I chose software development—the results are most often instantaneously tangible and very rewarding. I also really enjoy problem solving and challenges, which are both present in huge quantities in this field.

What was your favorite part of your time on campus?

I really enjoyed having instructors that are truly passionate and practical about helping people get into programming.

What are you doing now?

I’m doing my on the job training for the web developer apprenticeship (through Apprenti) at Avvo. Avvo has 80 employees on the engineering side, mainly focused on maintaining and improving Avvo’s product, which is a legal website. So far, I have been involved with some of our back-end services, which use Ruby on Rails, MiniTest, and MySQL. We have also been using Elixir (a fairly new functional programming language) for some of our new back-end services. I use a number of other tools at work daily, such as git, GitHub, Slack, Honeybadger, and Rancher (among many others). I used Atom as my code editor at Code Fellows and have continued using it at Avvo. Avvo uses the AGILE (something they teach at Code Fellows) workflow which, among other things, assures a lot of variety in my work. I have worked on building entirely new services, rewriting existing services to improve performance, and debugging existing malfunctioning code.

How has your job continued to mold your training as a software developer?

Lots of practice learning new technologies, new ways to do things, and solving problems.

What has been your favorite part of your new career?

My favorite part of my new career has been the continued mental challenge and growth. As an apprentice, I’m learning so much every day, but I’ve also quickly found that in this career, you never stop learning, regardless of how long you’ve been in the industry, which I find really satisfying.

In what ways did your education at Code Fellows (technical or soft skills) help you in your current job?

Code Fellows classes were great in exposing how programming languages work (or don’t work). Even though I don’t use JavaScript at work very much, the principles are all generally the same. I also really appreciated the pair programming and group projects as that is something I do at work quite frequently.

How did your previous work experience help you as you learned to code, and now as you start your new role?

My previous work experience helped me build “soft skills” that most jobs require, such as working efficiently with others, communicating with your colleagues and managers, being effective under stress, being responsible and reliable, etc.

Any advice for someone else starting to learn to code?

Learning to code is hard. It will be very frustrating. Don’t get discouraged by this. Sometimes it takes days to find a simple error. It will get easier eventually, but coding is largely struggling through problems, even for more experienced developers. The more experience you gain, the more effective your problem solving skills will become. Learn to embrace failure (which will happen a lot)—it is not a sign of weakness but rather an indication that you are pushing your skills and trying to learn new things.

If someone was considering learning to code at Code Fellows, what would you tell them?

I would tell them that Code Fellows is an excellent place to learn to code, assuming they can succeed in an intense learning environment. The instructors have a passion for coding as well as a passion to help their students succeed, not only technically, but also in terms of getting a job as a developer. There is a substantial part of the curriculum at every level dedicated in helping the students understand the career field and how to become hirable. Group work and pairing is strongly encouraged (and sometimes built into the curriculum), and TAs and instructors are available to help, usually both before and after the official class and lab hours are over.

Thanks, Yana! If you’re ready to see where a career in software development can take you, join us for an upcoming Code 101 workshop »

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