On dropping your ego

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

Words by Alina Siegfried | Photos © mxbialostocki

Math tutor Jae Huh was feeling stuck. She had finished her Bachelor’s of Education and was teaching at a private after school programme after being unable to find work in primary schools. Looking ahead at her career prospects, she found herself thinking “I’m not going anywhere with this.” She enjoyed teaching, but was limited in terms of salary increases, and didn’t want to take the path of starting her own teaching business.

After a conversation with her partner, who is a software developer, Jae started to think that a career in tech might be the way to go. She started teaching herself some basic HTML, CSS, and JavaScript from online courses. It began as a hobby, but she enjoyed the problem-solving nature of software development so much that she started looking at more in-depth options.

She had heard a lot of good things about Enspiral Dev Academy (EDA) from people who had completed the 15 week coding course and bootcamp. Other developers also spoke highly of the training that EDA provides and the type of well-rounded graduates that the course produces. She went to an Experience Dev Academy day (previously called “A Day in the Life”), loved the vibe of the physical space, and enjoyed meeting the people:

“I met Don on my visit to the EDA space in Auckland. Although it was a brief introduction, he seemed like a really kind, unique person who would make a really wholesome teacher – this hunch turned out to be true, and it’s one of the reasons why I decided to study there.”

Quitting her job wasn’t easy. After all, Jae had no idea if she would be able to follow the technical teachings, or if she would be able to secure a job after graduating. But she decided to make the leap, gave her notice, and enrolled immediately with EDA.

Jae works at her desk in the Joyous HQ, adorned with balloons for her 2 year anniversary
Jae works at her desk in the Joyous HQ, adorned with balloons for her 2 year anniversary

She found the pace of the course to be challenging, as each day’s training was built on what had been learned the previous day. It was satisfying to be moving at such a quick speed, but also meant that she had to be sure to ask for help when she didn’t understand something.

“When you’re in a situation like that, you have to drop your ego. If you don’t understand, you just have to keep asking questions.”

EDA’s programme focuses on the nurturing of “human skills” – proactive communication, empathy, active listening etc – which was something that surprised Jae. Though initially unsure about why such skills were being taught in a coding bootcamp, they now inform her attitude towards learning and working together in her team at Joyous, the HR tech startup where she landed a full time job.

When Jae joined Joyous, the company consisted only of the co-founders working out of a tiny shed on top of a building in Britomart. A week later their Head of Engineering joined, and the team worked hard at defining their processes and culture, providing an opportunity to hone the human skills she had learned.

“Having worked at Joyous for 2 years, I’ve noticed how important it is not just to produce good code, but to have great human interactions between team members, and try to be the best person I can be – that desire has settled inside me and become a core value. It helps me be a better team member and mentor, the kind of person I am looking up to now.”

Initially she was overwhelmed with how much there was to learn in her new role, about different frameworks, languages, and tools. She intentionally sought out a job that would utilise the same stack that she had learned at EDA – node.js back end and React front end – but since everyone in her company operates as a full stack developer, there was much to learn. Reminding herself that an ethos of lifelong learning was actually the reason she made the switch from teaching in the first place, she has accepted that feeling challenged is all part of the journey.

“It makes me feel like I’m at the front line of the future, working in tech.”

The Joyous team standup
The Joyous team standup

She feels lucky to work in an environment dominated by female software engineers, in what is a predominantly male industry. She has received a lot of encouragement from her partner, and they are now able to support each other, building their career paths, facing challenges, and working their way through new skills. Although she has less experience than him, Jae attributes her partner’s open mindset as being key to them progressing together.

“He would see me coding and sometimes say things like ‘Oh that’s a good idea, I should use that next time’ and it just makes me feel great! He’s an inspiration, and I’m striving to be more like him, both technically and in his open-mindedness.”

Jae suggests that those who are interested in pursuing software development as a career do their research first, as it’s not for everyone. She points to a wide range of online courses now freely available, as a way of exploring whether or not you enjoy coding. Her parting piece of advice for those that do go through the course is to be intentional about going after the kind of job that aligns with you and your values:

“It took me 6 months to get a full-time role. I worked part-time in the interim and turned down a few roles that I knew weren’t right for me. I knew the stack I wanted to work on and the areas I wanted to improve, so I was a little choosey. But hey, life is short, so be a little bit ballsy, and get out there and get what’s best for you.”