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How AO helped me start my career as a Developer

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Carmen is a highly valued and skilled Front-end Developer at AO. But a career in Tech wasn’t even on the cards when she joined us as a Customer Service Specialist in late 2016.

Tales of people joining AO as one thing before exploring other areas aren’t uncommon here, and this is it played out for Carmen…

Tell us about your early years at AO

After nine years of working for my local council, I was hungry for something different. A friend already worked at AO so I’d heard plenty of positive words about the place. I landed a job in the contact centre and moved into the call centre quality team after a year before making the leap to Tech as a Junior Developer two years after that.

So becoming a developer wasn’t part of your career plan?

Never. I wasn’t into IT, so I never imagined I’d be doing this – not in a million years. I always thought that to be a Developer, you’d have been working with computers for years. I went on a coding workshop that was open to people throughout AO and I got asked if I’d like to make a career out of it. I learnt about some apprenticeships and expressed an interest to go through a coding bootcamp.

Give us a bit of insight into that coding bootcamp

It was called Code Nation. It was an intensive 12-week course and it covers a lot – front and back-end stuff – so I did some React, Node and JS. You learn so much and get stuck in from day one. You do a final project at the end that could potentially be used for an actual business so it’s great experience.

On the final day, I had to present the website I’d produced to the business. Rather than just practicing in my spare time, I was working on a genuine project for a real business.

One day a month, I came into the AO office to do my Code Nation work. Everyone was really helpful, providing a new perspective on what I was doing, and I got familiar with my future colleagues too.

What were the top things you got out of Code Nation?

They teach a lot about the ways of working in a tech office, so I quickly got used to agile teams. It allowed me to get my head around different coding languages too, put them into practice and get stuck into real-world projects.

AO has partnered with Code Nation before – Can you tell us a bit about how they’ve helped apprentices in that?

We had a lot of lunchtime talks from AO. Nothing too technical, but members of AO Tech come in to give talks around different topics from the IT world.

So tell us a bit about where you are now

Since Covid kicked in, AO Tech has been working remotely, so I’m usually at home but we dip into the office occasionally for team building or a change of scenery.

I sit within the Digital Shopping Experiences team these days, dealing with the customer-facing website. That means everything from AO’s homepage, to the product and lister pages, as well as the category pages.

Despite being a Front-end Developer, I get involved in everything, which is great for building experience. I have been completing more back-end tickets, getting involved with AWS and the infrastructure side of things, and I am now on call out of hours too.

Front-end is my passion though. We are currently working on some exciting projects to help our customers choose products that suit them more easily, which will be written in React – that’ll be really fun.

What do you enjoy most about being a Developer?

There are times when you’ll be going around in circles for hours, slogging away on something that doesn’t work. But when it does click into place, it’s the best feeling in the world. It’s so rewarding to make something happen on the screen in front of you and seeing the logic you’ve applied in action.

What would you tell your younger self about working in Development?

I said this the other day, I’d love to have been able to learn this stuff when I was a kid. When I was at school, this field hadn’t taken off, I didn’t even have internet at university! Now though, it’s everywhere and it’s only going to get bigger. I’d tell everyone to get involved as much as they can, I’ve loved it.

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