A Journey from Education to Ed-Tech

May 13, 2020 | Employment, Graduate Profile | Dev Academy

Words by Alina Siegfried

In her role as a software developer at ed-tech company StoryPark, not a day goes by that Libby Schumacher-Knight doesn’t use the human skills that she learned at Enspiral Dev Academy (EDA).

“Helping others to have a chance to speak, really actively listening to people, giving constructive and kind feedback, getting through really hard times, having difficult conversations with people… Everything that we were taught in Human Skills is useful to me, every day.”

Before she undertook EDA’s 15 week coding course and bootcamp, Libby was a secondary school teacher, teaching physical education and technology. She had always been an avid user of technology and good at helping others use it, and felt drawn to learn more about how software is created.

In 2014, she attended a Rails Girls event, where she first heard about EDA, and then dipped her toes in, by doing an Intro to Programming paper at the University of Canterbury. She enjoyed it, and after attending an Experience Dev Academy event (previously called “A Day in the Life”), where she met Banqer Co-founder Kendall Flutey who had also completed EDA’s course, she was convinced and took the leap.

The course was tough and there were days that she questioned what she was doing, but Libby was reassured by the level of support that the team offered, and the culture of being able to safely say “I don’t know”.

“Both the human skills and the technical content was scaffolded and you’re always building on knowledge – so you’re not thrown in the deep end, and you chalk up some successes along the way.”

Alongside the soft/human skills, and obviously the technical knowledge, Libby has found the Agile techniques and tools she was taught at EDA have come in handy upon entering the software development workforce. Structures and habits such as stand-ups, retrospectives, and kick-offs are now a part of her daily life.

Libby originally started out at Flick Electric as a junior dev within a relatively small team of about 35, moving to Flux Federation after a couple of years — a much bigger company which is a subsidiary of Meridian Energy. She went from 1-2 tech teams to 10-12 teams, each with their own product owner, scrum master, developers, and test analysts. It was a big change, and also offered new opportunities to learn through Flux’s Dev Train programme.

Earlier this year she took a job with StoryPark, which allowed her to build upon her experience in the education sector and combine it with tech to build a product that supports teachers, parents and children.

“It’s important to find a product that you’re really interested in, to get a sense of enjoyment from your work.”

One of the biggest changes in Libby’s work from before she re-trained, was the freedom to structure her day however she likes. Having taken up surfing in a serious way in the last few years, she can plan her work day around when the surf conditions are good, leaving early, starting later or working from home. She gets to spend more time with her wife, and her work is more varied.

“Someone I used to work with asked if I missed the holidays and I was like….no, because I get to take holidays outside of school holidays, and I’m actually getting more time in the weekends and evenings.”

For those that are thinking of getting into software development, Libby warns that you only get out what you put in. She encourages people to attend one of EDA’s events, talk to other graduates, do some research, and spend a bit of time with free online coding resources to get a good sense of what it’s like.

“Continuous learning is a big part of tech – you can’t know everything, and you can’t remember everything either. It is an industry where you’ll always be learning new skills on the job, there’s always going to be different ways of doing things, software will break for numerous reasons, and the tech is constantly evolving.”