Posted on 19/10/2020 by Michael Oliver
Alexandra Nicolau is a QA Engineer based in Birmingham. She talks to Client Server’s Michael Oliver about how a coding boot camp breathed life into her career.
Michael Oliver: Your background isn’t in tech at all – how did this career change happen?
Alexandra Nicolau: It’s been a long journey, to be honest. I have a Masters in Marketing and Management and I absolutely loved working in marketing, but I really wasn’t challenged enough and wasn’t finding my way. I felt that I could contribute more. I volunteered in El Salvador for a few months which was a fantastic experience… but when I came back, I was still unsure about what I wanted to do.
Michael Oliver: Was there something specific that sparked your interest in tech?
Alexandra Nicolau: It was more a combination of things. A lot of my friends work within the tech industry. It was just all around me and something I was interested in. But because I never studied computer science at university, I thought it would be super difficult to get into, especially being a woman.
Michael Oliver: What did you do next?
Alexandra Nicolau: I started looking at coding boot camps to upskill myself. I was one of 500 people to apply, which was narrowed down to about 40. We then went through an interview-type assessment where we had to work in teams to complete a set of challenges. It was incredibly exciting but also nerve-wracking too.
Michael Oliver: And you made it through?
Michael Oliver: And the boot camp led to your first job?
Alexandra Nicolau: It did, yes. The leader of the School of Code boot camp Chris worked hard to secure interviews for us for companies around Birmingham and I was one of five from the cohort who joined The Economist as a QA doing automation.
Michael Oliver: What was it about being a QA that appealed?
Alexandra Nicolau: I've always kind of been interested in acuity in the sense that I've always wanted to break things. My role at The Economist was a quality assurer who also got to write code. It was great because you actually got to contribute to what the customer sees at the end of the day. You get the development experience as well, but you also get a chance to make sure that whatever you deliver, you improve it for the customer. If you have QA experience, you have a business mindset.
Michael Oliver: Is it where you see your career heading?
Alexandra Nicolau: I think my goal ultimately is to move more towards engineering, but I'm incredibly grateful that I worked as a QA because it's broadened my knowledge of different things that I wouldn't have been exposed to if I just would've stuck with engineering.
Michael Oliver: I understand you’ll be starting a new role soon. What do you look for in a tech role?
Alexandra Nicolau: The industry doesn't really matter that much at the end of the day for me, as long as the company can provide an amazing working environment and great career opportunities. To me, that was really massive. The culture is also really important and this is what I'm looking for in another job. We all have different ways of choosing a job and for some people, the industry might be a super important thing. For me, that's not at the top of my list for now, it's just basically career progression and what I can do moving forward.
Michael Oliver: What would you say to any woman thinking about pursuing a career in tech?
Alexandra Nicolau: Absolutely go for it. That would be the first thing I had so many doubts and I always thought “Oh, what if I'm not going to be good enough? What if I'm not going to be smart enough to learn all of these things?” That’s where the imposter syndrome kicks in. But what I found in my job is that a lot of people, women and men, have imposter syndrome, but don’t let that change your mind. Yes, it's a long road. You're going to have so many challenges. I was actually telling my mentor that I couldn’t believe people got paid to do this as a job. I actually can't believe that this is a job that someone has and you get money for it.
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