From an early age, AO’er Emily Walker knew she wanted to work in tech. After working through an apprenticeship, a bootcamp and a few other coding jobs, she’s landed at AO. We sat down with Emily to talk about her journey, what about tech makes her tick and what she thinks about the different ways to get into the industry.
What was it about development and tech in general that made you want to get involved?
It started off as something on the side, I always wanted to know how computers worked and ended up studying Computing as one of my A-levels. I learnt how to code there and just thought it was really fun. It was cool to write up something and say that I made a website that was on the screen and it was a way for me to be creative.
You took part in an apprenticeship and a coding bootcamp after college, what can you tell us about those?
My mum made me apply for the apprenticeship, she saw the advert and told me to actually do something. I was doing that for a while, but that company actually went under while I was there, so that enabled me to pursue a bootcamp.
They were offering a scholarship for women at the time, which was a big factor, but that was where I really started to understand coding. It was a lot more hands-on and I got to do my own projects where you get real experience with modern tech and I enjoyed that a lot more compared to theoretical kind of studying.
What happened after the bootcamp?
I did bits of contracting work but after about 6 weeks, I got put forward to work for one of their hiring partners. Turned up half an hour late but still got the job! After a while I ended up at booking.com and then came to AO.
How long have you been at AO? Enjoying it?
I’ve been here about 6 months but really liking it so far. The management and culture has been really nice as well.
In terms of learning new skills and the way you learn in particular, what is the environment at AO like when it comes to learning new skills?
No matter what, I think you need confidence to ask if you don’t know something. Previous companies have sometimes made me feel bad if I don’t know something but it’s nothing like that around here. I do ask a lot of questions and I’m a bit of a loud mouth, but it’s encouraged in our team as well.
People say that they appreciate me asking questions because there are others around that might not know either, but they haven’t asked. So, I think AO is really supportive of that, and the culture makes a really big different in how you feel comfortable with that.
What would you say are the benefits of going to a bootcamp over being a University graduate?
I’d say there’s still a bit of prestige to being a grad, and you do tend to learn about the underlying concepts of coding like internet protocols. I think you get a deeper understanding of how programs work, but you rare to get a chance to use that knowledge.
With bootcamps, you can do it full-time or part-time so it can fully fit it in to your life. My bootcamp was full-time and took 3 months, so it takes a lot less time and the stuff we got to work with was a lot more up to date with what real businesses were using.
How do you think Computing has changed in schools since you were there?
I stayed away from those classes when I was in school because it was all about learning office skills, like using a Word doc and things like that. I wanted to learn about how computers worked, so I just did that in my own time. It’s a lot better now though, and young girls are getting a lot of exposure to it early on – my sister’s interested in it which is really nice.