Four years ago, Carmen was starting a new job in AO’s contact centre. She was after a new challenge and spent the day handling customer queries and chatting to them on social media. Fast forward to now and she’s ten months into a Junior Developer role in AO Tech. Interested to hear how she made the journey? Well here’s what happened.
Tell us about your first 6 months at AO
I started at AO in October 2016, after working for my local council for 9 years. I wanted a change and set my sights on AO because I knew someone there. So, I applied for a job in the contact centre and got one! I think I was there for about a year, then I was part of the team that managed the social media responses and the call centre quality team for two more years before I moved into my current role now.
Did you ever think becoming a developer was part of your career plan?
I definitely never imagined I’d be doing this in a million years! I’d never been IT-focused, but I’ve always been doing qualifications in my spare time. Even working full-time, I went and did a masters, I’ve done some law qualifications after that and I’ve always wanted to study.
While I was in the contact centre, I wasn’t doing anything like that, so I fell into development a bit by accident. My little brother was doing some coding at Uni and I thought it looked interesting, so I started learning myself. I was doing free online coding courses and it just became a hobby for myself really. I always thought that to do a job like this you’d have been working with computers for years. Then I went on a coding workshop that AO held for people all over the business and I got asked if I’d be interested in making a career out of it. I learnt about some apprenticeships and expressed an interest to go through a coding bootcamp.
Can you give us a little overview on the bootcamp you went on?
It was a pretty intensive 12-week course and I’d say there were about 30 or 40 of us. You learn so, so much and get stuck in from day one. You do a lot of front and back-end stuff, so I did some React, Node and JS so you get to cover a lot. You do a final project at the end that could potentially be used for an actual business so it’s a good bit of experience. Then on the last day, I had to present the website to the business with a morning to prepare for it! It was really helpful because I got to work on something real for a business, instead of just practicing in my spare time.
One day a month I came into the AO office as well and did my Codenation work there. Everyone was really helpful giving me a new perspective into what I was doing, and I got to know my future colleagues there too.
What were the top things you got out of Codenation?
They teach a lot about the ways of working in a tech office, so I quickly got used to agile teams. I got used to the different coding languages too and being able to put them into practice. They gave us real tasks to do, like a cash machine app.
AO have partnered with Codenation 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 and give talks around different topics from the IT world.
So tell us a bit about your role now?
So now I’ve been working in front-end development for about 10 months on a Marketing team that looks after everything customers see on site like the homepage and manufacturer branded pages too.
How are you being supported with learning while you’re still in lockdown?
I was nervous about it at first but I’m really not any more. We’re screensharing a lot talking about what we’re doing, and our managers have been really good, as well. We’ve got little social breaks built in where we have a chat and a coffee. Codenation have been checking in making sure we’re ok too. Don’t know why I was nervous in the first place!
What would you tell your younger self about this job?
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 and bigger. I’d tell everyone to get involved as much as they can, I’ve loved it.
What do you enjoy most about being a developer?
There are times when you can go around in circles, there for hours on end trying something that doesn’t work. But when it does, it’s just the best feeling in the world. It’s really satisfying to make something happen on the screen in front of you and seeing the logic you’ve applied work. Time really flies doing this too, I can just sit and work away and next thing I know hours have passed!
Have you been involved with anything to do with how AO is dealing with Covid-19?
I’ve not done anything customer-facing, but I’ve been part of a team of volunteers to become Engagement Champions, where we’ve done a survey of how people have been finding working from home and we can put together an action plan of how to help people in the current situation. We’ve all been allocated different teams to look after so I’ve just been getting thoughts together to see how we can make improvements to our new day-to-day.
Carmen has also recently written a great blog post for AO Tech, where she speaks really honestly about her struggles with imposter syndrome and gives tips to anyone that might be feeling the same. It’s well worth a read. (https://tech.ao.com/post/what-am-i-doing-here-a-story-of-imposter-syndrome-by-a-junior-developer)
Thanks for reading!