Chloe WilliamsMy name’s Chloe and I’m a Software Engineer at DWP Digital in Leeds. I joined the department in January of this year. Initially I was nervous about starting a new role remotely but the onboarding process was great and the team use a whole host of collaborative tools to keep us connected.

I’m what you would call a career switcher. My background is in marketing but 18 months ago I decided to make the leap into the world of tech. I’ve always worked closely with teams who have built digital products and when the opportunity arose to give coding a go myself, I jumped at the chance.

Now I’m the one that’s building digital products and services, most recently for the Restart Scheme (launching 28th June). The scheme is one of many government initiatives launched under the Plan for Jobs umbrella, focused on protecting, supporting and creating jobs across the country. It’s exciting to think that features that I have built will be used to help more than 1 million Universal Credit claimants who have been directly impacted by coronavirus.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

Like most people, the typical workday has looked somewhat different over the last year. For one, my commute to the office is a lot shorter. I generally start my day with a cup of tea, give my cat a cuddle and then jump on MS Teams to dial into my team’s stand-up, a daily meeting to check-in and catch up on what we’re all working on.

At DWP Digital, we manage our own hours with flexi-time. This means that sometimes my day finishes at 4pm and others 6:30pm. Typically at the end of the day, I’ll make sure the coding I’ve done is ‘saved’ and then try and motivate myself to do some form of exercise, whether that’s going outside for a walk or playing netball.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not really. When I was younger I wanted to be a PE teacher, but then when it came to choosing a university course I picked marketing. I’m not much of a planner, and as you get older and gain more life experience your interests and priorities naturally change. I think it’s important to get some form of satisfaction from your job. I’m not saying you have to enjoy every single hour you spend in the office, but if you don’t find your work interesting it’s probably a sign you should move on. That’s not to say everyone needs to switch careers. Even small internal moves or changes in responsibilities can make a big difference.

What do you love about working for DWP Digital?

There are many things I love about working at DWP Digital, but the thing that brings me the most joy is the fact that every day I’m reminded of stories where a feature I’ve helped build has helped someone find work.

I also feel empowered at DWP Digital. I’m involved in conversations with other areas of the business, and I can have my say on how a service should look and behave.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you overcome these challenges?

A personal challenge I’m regularly dealing with is imposter syndrome. In each of the roles I’ve had, at some point I’ve suffered from the feeling – “I’m not good enough”. I cope with it because I know I’m not alone, and the more I speak about it, whether that’s with my manager or with friends, the easier it is to manage.  I also find it helpful to look back at my successes, even things I perceive to be small achievements.

Have you benefited from coaching, mentoring or the sponsorship of others?

I’ve worked with Code First Girls a couple of times to deliver their ‘Introduction to Web Development’ course. Even though I was relatively new to software development myself, I found that teaching the material helped cement my own knowledge. It also helped keep my imposter syndrome at bay as I gained more confidence.

If it’s available to you I’d recommend seeking the guidance of a mentor or coach. Even if it’s informal, it generally helps to speak to someone about their experiences, you never know what nuggets of wisdom you might pick up.

Do you believe in the power of networking? If so, where do you network?

Absolutely.  I think it’s important to speak to others and share experiences. In-person networking has been made more difficult because of the pandemic, I really miss speaking to people face-to-face.

That said, there are still plenty of online meetups and because they’re online they’re generally more accessible. Over the last year I’ve attended a couple of interesting ones run by Northern UX and Leeds JS. A quick Google search will return a whole bunch of tech meetups in your local area.

What advice would you give to those who aspire to have a career in tech?

Don’t be scared to dip your toe, there are so many great resources available, a lot of them free. Try out an online coding course like FreeCodeCamp, CodeFirstGirls or CodeAcademy to name a few.

Read blog posts from your favourite tech companies and learn about their ways of working. DWP Digital have a great one – which I found really useful before I joined the company. And remember, you don’t need a computing degree to work in tech. Don’t let the jargon put you off, once you start to dive into it, you’ll soon see it’s not as scary as it seems.

What does the future hold for you?

Hopefully a holiday in a nice sunny country!

As I said before, I’m not really a planner, so I don’t like to look too far into the future. But what I do know is that I’d love to continue teaching others about software development. If I can help a few people on their path into tech, then I’ll be happy.

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